The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript - Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf, Naga diary four

caption: terms of address
medium: diaries
person: Shankok
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Wakching
date: 20.2.1937
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 12.2.1937-31.3.1937
note: translated from german by Dr Ruth Barnes
person: School of Oriental and African Studies Library, London
text: Soon after Yongang had left Shankok came together with a younger man of the Angban from the Nokanokphong clan. I did several hours of language work with them and in between came upon some interesting sociological matters as well. When I asked Shankok whether his younger brothers sometimes call him by his name he found the mere suggestion ridiculous and suggested that was such a display of disrespect he would give them a thorough beating. They always address him as "ndzei-yong" (older brother). The abbreviation "ashang" instead of Shankok is only used by his morung contemporaries. His mother too calls him Shankok. The idea that his wife might call him Shankok seemed totally unsuitable to him as spouses never call each other by their names. Strangely enough it caused much merriment but also a certain degree of embarrassment (38) when I brought up the formal manner of address used by a wife towards her husband, "men chei-enin". Apparently it is rarely used although Shankok agreed that it is the correct form. He says he usually does not call his wife at all, neither by her name nor her formal address, but uses the exclamation "oi", when he is trying to get her attention. (That however is rarely the case as Yongang mentioned, laughing that Shankok never sleeps with his wife at all.) Also sentences like: "My wife has given birth to a son", cause hilarity and are considered to be slightly shocking. It is characteristic that a man does not speak of his wife as "my wife" but as "the woman of my house". He also does not say: "I have three sons", but "there are three sons in my house".