As you may have read, Facebook has attracted the anger of—and I swear there is no other way to put it—the Chutiya community from Assam by blocking many Facebook profiles which mentioned Chutiya as their last name. This is of course a bit ironic coming from a company who’s CEO’s sister is named Randi (Hindi insult meaning prostitute), but let’s not digress.
For those who don’t know Hindi, Chutiya is an expletive that means fool/idiot but is pretty offensive and insulting. As I noted in Suarez, Evra and Racial Insults, the use of expletives is fairly common among friends and those in the same social hierarchy, but this doesn’t render them toothless or inoffensive. The name of the Chutiya community, however, is apparently pronounced as Sutiya (the initial consonant is not the palatal stop [c] but the voiceless alveolar fricative [s]), so you have another victim of arbitrary romanization.
This mass-blocking is unfortunate, but it is clearly a simple mistake on FB’s part and I am sure that this is not part of any conspiracy against that community, and it definitely doesn’t warrant burning effigies of Facebook (though I am curious as to how that was done—did they burn an effigy of the homepage? or of the logo? or of Zuckerberg?). Facebook merely insists that people use their legal name on their profiles, so once a systematic request is made to FB, I am sure they will remove the block.
Nothing stops anyone from spelling a name the way they want, but it might make sense to tweak the spelling of your name so that it doesn’t clash with well-established words used that you might not want to associate your name with. So, if you stay in a country where a large number of people would associate your name with an expletive, you are still within your right to spell it the way you want, but it might be of pragmatic value for you to spell it differently. This isn’t a question of who is right. The romanization system that we follow in India is so chaotic that it’s often not even possible to define correctness in that domain. Everyone can stick with the names they want, such as Indians with the surname Boob, or the surname Lund (Hindi equivalent of dick/cock), but they are likely to spend their lifetime being on the receiving end of tiresome jokes and jibes.
Oh, by the way, since we are on the topic of the word chutiya, I have something interesting about the meaning of this word. Read on.
I used to assume that chutiya developed as the female counterpart of launda (one who has a lund [penis]) which means guy/dude. I expected that chutiya would mean one who has a vagina, possibly used in a pejorative sense. I assumed that it might have originally been used as an insult for guys who were effeminate/sissy, and that it slowly changed into its current meaning—stupid/foolish.
All was well until someone at IIT claimed that chutiya meant ‘one born out of a vagina’, and that he couldn’t be called chutiya since he was born by Caesarean section. I thought this was hogwash—most expletives of this kind usually assert something offensive, whether it be claims of incest or of promiscuity or be it rude references to next of kin. Being born out of a vagina is the default situation, and I couldn’t figure out how it could be insulting in any way. Surprisingly, however, even Urban Dictionary mentions this meaning. It was all hazy until I decided to look in Platts Dictionary of Urdu, Classical Hindi and English, one of the best works of its kind. Let’s look at what Platts has to say about this word:
H چوتيا चूतिया ćūtiyā [ćūt, q.v.+Prk. इओ=S. इकः], s.m. One who lives on the earnings of his wife’s prostitution; a term of abuse, a blockhead, dolt:—ćūtiyā-paṭait, ćūtiyā-ćakkar, ćūtiyā-ćampaʼī, s.m. A blockhead, a fool:—ćūtiyā-shahīd, s.m. A cully, a dupe;—(slang) a man who kills himself by excess of venery, a martyr to venery.
This makes much more sense to me, and I am prepared to believe it. Chutiya does, in some sense, mean out of the vagina but it doesn’t refer to the process of childbirth, but rather refers to earning out of the [wife’s] vagina.
Languages never cease to be fascinating.
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