Story of a lost journalist

March 23, 2009

Malayalam of “you”

Filed under: Theory — Cris @ 23:23

Back. Aint that fast?

Its this short thing. Something concerning Malayalam language.

I had once talked in this blog about the difficulty of addressing new people cause of the strange chechi-chettan, uncle-aunty, mr-miss rules that Mallus follow.

Here is a new problem. The Malayalam of you. Is it “nee”, “ningal” or “thaangal”.

Problem is you cant use the same word in every context. When you respect someone ‘nee’ wont be good enough, at least that’s the general rule. ‘Thaangal’ works fine, thought it’s a tad too formal.

Now my understanding is that ningal is the plural of nee. Which means if you want to address more than 2 people you use ningal. And from what I have learnt from home, ningal used for a single person amounts to insult.

So I was pretty shocked when in my office I found everyone calling each other ‘ningal’. I asked today and they said that ningal was considered respectful in many parts of Kerala. That’s strange. Whats insult to some was respect to some others.

I still cant stand that word and please, if you want to respect me call me anything but that!



  1. Yep, I found it shocking too when a friend of mine from Kozhikode addressed a senior person as ‘ningal’. It’s acceptable to use the word in northern Kerala. It follows the same logic as using ‘avar’ to address a lady…pluralisation to show respect.

    Comment by Philip — March 24, 2009 @ 09:54 | Reply

  2. “ningalu alle inspector..Bcom first class”…remember the respect sreenivasan shows to Mohanlal..;-P

    Comment by mathew — March 24, 2009 @ 12:20 | Reply

  3. Maybe there is a tamil influence creeping in some where !

    Comment by Kavi — March 24, 2009 @ 21:10 | Reply

  4. Ningalude oru karyam.. allathenthu parayana..:-)

    Comment by Salil — March 26, 2009 @ 10:18 | Reply

  5. In Ekm:
    ‘Nee’…with friends/equals -> being casual ex:- ne varunundo?
    ‘Nee’…with strangers -> superiority/rude ex:- nee aaraa?
    ‘Thaangal’ will be very sarcastic in any context
    ‘Ningal’ will be polite in all context

    Comment by Gov — March 26, 2009 @ 19:26 | Reply

  6. @Philip, yeah! I cant stand “avar” too. But the argument is there is no other word to address women respectfully – no equivalent for “adheham”

    @mathew, nadodikaatu part 3?

    @Kavi, but Tamil its actually a nice word. They say “neengal”. Err ok when you say it like that, it sounds similar but somehow that does show respect and ningal is just plural for ni!

    @Salil, quoting my last line “I still cant stand that word and please, if you want to respect me, call me anything but that!”. So I suppose you dont wanna respect me sniff sniff sob sob

    @Gov, really? I didnt know that!

    Comment by Cris — March 26, 2009 @ 22:01 | Reply

  7. It can be a bit confusing as it has different connotations in different areas. But just to to be on the safe side I always use ‘ningal’ only when i’m addressing a group of people. If i’m addressing just one person I use their name. If i don’t know their name, well, I kinda do bit of rolling around (urundu kallikkum). I simply omit the ‘you’ (ningal) part. Its awkward but it has worked, a lot of times actually, he,he!

    Comment by M.Rose — March 27, 2009 @ 00:25 | Reply

  8. nee has an exception;
    God is addressed as nee in devotional contexts!

    Comment by Vishnu Kuttan — March 30, 2009 @ 16:30 | Reply

  9. hey, i never quite got the idea of using different mallu words for the same thing.. the 1st sem in coll hostel was so funny.. chukkili/maraala for plain old chilanthivala.. and they used to laugh at me for calling it chilanthivala! 😀 n then there was this dear friend, who wouldn’t share peanuts with me, ‘coz i call it kappalandi n she calls it kadala.. n she was like “kadala nnu paranja tharaam..illel tharoola!”

    Comment by usha — March 30, 2009 @ 22:27 | Reply

  10. Wally, typically in blogs, when you refer to a previous entry, you are expected to link to it.

    Comment by Nish — April 13, 2009 @ 22:51 | Reply

  11. Nice topic…
    I had one fun experience with this nigal

    My pappas family is settled in Wayanad.There Nigal is used to scold others.It’s not a good word…..

    But my Pappas sister in law’s family is settled at thamarassery,there nigal is used to introduce respected person’s…..

    In my cousins marriage his uncle came from thamarassery , he called my chachan (pappas brother) as nigal…my god that was the starting of a cold war b/w two families,chachan took nigal in negative sence….

    Anyway cris……nice topic…..

    your blog is good,but your site 4sometime i can’t open….all firewall systems are saying harmful site!!!!!!!!

    Comment by Preeja — April 16, 2009 @ 10:56 | Reply

  12. Cris, point taken… lol 😉

    Comment by Meenakshi Nair — April 30, 2009 @ 06:22 | Reply

  13. @M.Rose, yeah it works. I have never had a situation to use ningal (or any other word of you in Malayalam) when talking to people I oughta respect. 🙂

    @VK, there should have just one word in all contexts. Sigh.

    @Usha, chilanthivala is not the right word? Where was your hostel anyway? Hehe I liked your friend, she talks like me (Cris ennu vilichaale vili kekku)

    @Nish, uhhh yes. I will do that 🙂

    @Preeja, thanks for visiting :-). I had to shift from 4sometime. And hey ningal is disrespectful in Wayanad? That makes it confusing again. I thought it was respectful in North Kerala?

    @MN, thanks dear 🙂

    Comment by admin — July 15, 2009 @ 03:11 | Reply

  14. ingale njammalu balaale nnaanu bilikkendathu!
    manusenmaaru kinaavilum koodi kaanaatha bishayangalu blogintavuthu kuthiketi, beruthe edangerindaakkaand mundaandu kuthirunnaalee himaare!
    oolukku piraanthaanappa!
    nenne ippo enthootta vilikya? bussolu illappo aalolillya. aalol illappo bussolillyaannu paranjanthi aayillye ithu kannaalee?
    ithenthaanithu? ee penkochina onnum vilikkan pattanillalla!
    alla kunje, ollathu paranjaatte ippam kunjine entho vilikkum?
    hente karthaave enikyengum melaaye! ee kochinithu ennaathinte sookkedaa? ennathaa ippam onnu thanjathi vilkyunne? enna venelum vilichechum pottennu. halla pinne!
    yee pyaarukalilonnum vallya kaaryangalilla ketta appee? bhesha appeennu thanna polappanaayittu vilikyattaa?

    nee ennu vilichaal ninakku sankadam aavum!
    ningal ennu vilichaal thaangal anya aavum!

    ninne njaanenthu vilikkyum?…
    aarum choodaatha poovinte saurabhyamenno? (ithoru pazhaya cinema paattaaney!)

    pinney, adhehathinte sthreelingam aanu vaidehi!
    vaidehide artham ariyo madaammakuttee?
    nee kaashu koduthu upekshicha ninte original sundari peru thanne : SEETHA!

    Comment by muraleemaadhav — December 26, 2009 @ 06:34 | Reply

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