The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

miscellaneous papers, notebooks and letters on Nagas by Ursula Graham Bower, 1937-1947

caption: use of personal names
medium: notes
ethnicgroup: Zemi
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1937-1946
person: private collection
text: Personal names
text: The use of these is very restricted, as it implies parental or near-parental relationship in the speaker. They are used only 1) by parents, friends or relatives to young children; 2) by the same to young unmarried people and married people with no children; 3) by very senior persons to married men they know very well, and who are of the same generation as their own sons. It is impolite from a contemporary.
text: Speaking own name
text: Few men, and as far as I know, no women, will speak their own personal names. No-one will if anyone standing by can do it for them.
text: Forbidden names
text: No one will speak the names of their own parents except the catcher of a mithan, who shouts the names of his father and grandfather as he runs. Husbands and wives do not speak each other's personal names. Similarly pairs of lovers do not speak each other's names, but use a cicumlocution. Grandparents' names are not taboo.
text: Names in use
text: All married persons with children are known as "Father of -" or "Mother of -" one of their children, almost always the eldest under marriageable age. Thus "Paokiempeo" = "Father of Paokiembu" and his wife "Paokiempui". Frequently elderly persons are referred to in a similar style, e.g. "Paokiempai" = "Grandmother of Paokiembu". Former lovers use this form of title if possible; if one or both be unmarried, terms such as "Daughter of so-and-so", "So-and-so's son" must be used instead.
text: Amakpeo = brother-in-law
text: This is not used "for shame" to the actual brother-in-law but may be used in the way of chaff to his cousins and relatives of the same clan, who stand - but much more distantly - in the same relationship to the speaker. Third persons may use the term when explaining relationships, etc: e.g. "Who's he?" "Oh, so-and-so's brother-in-law."
text: General terms
text: Among contemporaries speaking directly to each other, or conversing the terms "Mulu" (between men of opposite clans) or "Aza", which is general, and cane be used when the man addressed is of the speaker's clan, or if the speaker does not know the man's name.
text: When calling somebody from a distance, out of a crowd, etc., the personal name (to the unmarried) or the polite form [ending] in -peo, -pui, is used.
text: Friends of the same clan almost always, and friends of different clans occasionally, use the relationship terms "asi", "akima", according to whether the speaker is older or younger than the person addressed. It is a polite and affectionate term and denotes close association.
text: Polite forms
text: Elderly persons are addressed as "apao", "apai" irrespective of clan; it is a respectful and polite form of address. "Apeo", "apui" indicates a much closer and more intimate relationship, approximating to real parenthood.