Etymology of “Uncle”

Etymology: It is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time.

The word “Uncle” was originally coined by native speakers of an island called Britan in the 13th century. They just conceived this word to refer a male member of the family. No way would the native speakers have predicted the indiscriminate and variegated usage of the word “Uncle” in India in the 21st century. Perhaps “Uncle” is one word that has served as an elixir, a tree of knowledge, for the Indian youth.

Buddha had his Bodhi tree to attain enlightenment…but the Indian kids have the word “Uncle” to attain enlightenment.

Let me explain why…When the teenagers world over are confused about their identity (if they are men or kids), the Indian teenagers never face such identity crises. Coz we rely on our neighboring kids to solve the identity problem. We know we are no more kids and we are adults right when the neighbor kids start calling us “Uncle”. Till that day, we were being called as “Anna”, “Bhaiyya”, “Annaiya”,”Cheta” etc. But I got to be honest. It’s never easy to hear being addressed as “Uncle” for the first time. We infact give the kids 5 bucks and tell them not to call us uncle. But we can only postpone the inevitable until the kids realize they find joy in seeing us mad and seething in anger rather than buying candies for 5 rupees. But I got to credit the kids. Though they call the boys as uncle, they are wise to never address a girl as aunty. My sister is still an “akka” though she is 3 years over the “Uncleing/Auntying” age.



The word “Uncle” is also a special word. The reason being, the word can be used to address someone in an affectionate as well as a derogatory term. For example:

Addressing a stranger: “Uncle what’s the time?” – General courteous way

Addressing a Cop: “Uncle what’s the time?” – Soooo derogatory that the cop may arrest you on false charges and make sure you are getting hanged by the neck until dead!!! (And I don’t think there is any KuttiChuvarite youth in the city who wouldn’t have called a Cop as uncle from a distance of atleast 137 metres and ran away before the Cops’ brain realizes what just happened and made an attempt to catch the KuttiChuvarite.)

We will not turn until you stop calling us "Uncle"

We will not turn until you stop calling us "Uncle"

The subtle sarcasm that can be achieved from the word “Uncle” is quite evident for people in Tamil Nadu. To explain to an outsider, “Pimps are called “Uncle”…and so are the cops.”

We love this word so much that we call our First Prime Minister of Independent India as “Uncle” Nehru.

Uncle Nehru

Uncle Nehru

Btw, Wouldn’t it be logical to celebrate Uncle Nehru’s anniversary as “Uncles’ Day” instead of “Childrens’ Day”???

We celebrate Dr. Radhakrishnan’s anniversary as Teachers’ Day since he was a Teacher. So logically speaking, Nehru’s anniversary should be “Uncles Day” since he was an Uncle!!!!

Critical and Original Thinkining apart,  the most favourite Uncle of the whole of India for an entire generation, until a while after the Indian economy opened up, was..

Bole Mere Lips...I Love Uncle Chips!!!

Bole Mere Lips...I Love Uncle Chips!!!

Explore posts in the same categories: Chennai, India, Marana Mokkai, Mokkai

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