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Pattars- their faces and phrases


This glossary of phrases generally used by pattars or Kerala Iyers of my generation, is a gift to my grand children, American citizens by birth, who might, when they grow up, peer into their past and look for the familiar usages of their grand- pas and grannies (this is only a hope). Neither prepared in an alphabetical order nor exhaustive , this hand -book also contains some narrations adapted purely for the purpose of forceful explanation of the meanings of the words. In that processes, it is natural, that you might come across some faces. If you like them, our progeny will like them better, because these faces will be new to them. As such, those are becoming a rare commodity. After 30 -40 years, they may not be there at all.
Do not allow your hairs grow white, worrying whether my characters are real or fictitious. Just enjoy their company. This is just for FUN
Love and regards,
from New Jersey
അല്‍പ്പം == A person lacking good senses, stupid, stingy, selfish .
pattar to his wife:
എന്ന അല്പ്പം ടീ അവന്‍ ! പത്ത് ചക്രം കടന്‍ കേട്ടാല്‍ പട്ടി കടിച്ച മാതിരി ഓടറാന്‍ -pattar to his wife- what a silly fellow he is ! I asked him for a loan of ten chakram and he runs away, as if he is bitten by a dog. (chakram= a royal currency in the erstwhile Travancore state, which bore a replica of the disc carried by the presiding deity of Thirvanantha puram , Sri.Anantha padmanabha )
Mami to him ;
poyum,poyum neenkal antha pattar kitte poyi kettale ! Athu MAHA alppam allavo?, why did you go and ask him? He is a very stingy fellow!
പോയും പോയും നീങ്കള്‍ അന്ത പട്ടര്‍ കിട്ടെ പോയി കേട്ടെളേ !
അത് മഹാ ആല്‍പം അല്ലവോ ?
അല്പത്തില്‍ അല്‍പ്പം മഹാ അല്‍പ്പം The stingiest of the century.! replies her beloved husband.
അശടു= not selfish or stingy but doesn’t know how to live in this world.
Antha asadukku pozaikka theriyalai dee
അന്ത അശടുക്ക് പോഴൈക്ക തെരിയലൈടീ == mami’s complaint about her son-in-law, a man of incorruptible integrity. i
അവലം = spoiled, not worth mentioning, he or his family is in utter disarray
Antha maamiyodu pon oruu avalam
അന്ത മാമിയോടു പൊണ്ണ്‍ ഒരു അവലം = gossip about the neighbor’s daughter who married a boy from a different caste. that girl is useless.
അരട്ടൈ = talkative but not harmful
Antha arattai ennai pesa vittal thaane?
അന്ത അരട്ടൈ എന്നൈ പേശ വിട്ടാല്‍ താനേ = the talkative mami about her newly acquired sambandhi
He did not allow me to talk
———————————————– Ashaadapoothi
ആഷാടപൂതി= doesn’t know what he talks about
അപ്പാവി = innocent
Appaavi ponnukku aashadapoothi maappillai
അപ്പാവി പൊണ്ണുക്കു ആഷാടപൂതി മാപ്പിള്ളൈ = public opinion on seeing me and Ammalu on the stage, for the first time, on our wedding.
അവസരക്കുടുക്കൈ= always in a hurry, doesn’t think before acting
Comment of some old people in the family when my last son was born in the last quarter of my Government service! .What an irony? where was അവസരം in this case?
Ambo enuu vittoottan
അമ്പോ എന്ന് വിട്ടൂട്ടാന്‍ = left in lurch, acted irresponsibly.
I was traveling in a KSRTC bus and midway, the driver of the bus coming from the opposite direction whispered in the ear of our bus driver and suddenly he declared that he was on strike, asked all the passengers to get down, the other driver also did the same thing and both the drivers, clipping their hands, go happily to have a single ( ie half-a-cup of chaaya or tea). Here my driver had അമ്പോ എന്ന് വിട്ടൂട്ടാന്‍ his passengers.The same with other driver too.
I stop a lorry, plead with him, promise to give him thrice the value of the bus fair, sit in the seat next to the driver, reach Thiruvanthapuram, enjoying his silly jokes about his sexual-adventures, knowing well that those were nothing but a pack of undiluted lies, and making him enjoy three ‘singles’ along with pazham poritchathu ( banana fruits, deep fried in coconut oil) provided at my cost.
on reaching home, with the pride of a lover in the legend, who reaches his wife’s palace, after crossing the turbulent river at midnight, with the support of a dead body assuming that it was a plank, I tell Ammalu with appropriate gestures and poetical words, about the travails of my journey .
” The driver,when heard about the flash- strike ordained by his labor union, അമ്പോ എന്ന് വിട്ടൂട്ടാന്‍, Where ? in a forest area. I walked and walked for miles and mails and reached a town where there were three lodges.I could have taken shelter in one of them. I didn’t do that. Why? I wanted to be with you this evening”
Pleased with my exposition, proud and affection pushing her right hand to grab mine which she wanted to hold for sometime as a mark of gratitude but remembering that her mother is in see-able distance, she pulls her hand back but not the smile on her lips and chides me, ‘enough of this love-show’ porume, porum
പോരുമേ പോരും , while her mind murmurs, ‘not enough’,’not enough’ പോരാത് പോരാത്.

Like a farmer sowing his limited stock of seeds carefully, Ammalu uses her words sparingly but her mild and measured body movements are more vocal, if I may say so, than her words.

‘You liked this sari? ” My question.
A mild monosyllable ‘um’ ഉം,means ‘it is so,so’ The same letter pronounced with clarity means it is OK and when accompanied by a smile on the face, suggests that she simply loves it..Instead of um’ ഉം’ she may sometime, respond with oh or a double oh ,depending on the degree of agreement.

അവന്‍ ഓഹോ ഇന്ന്‌ഇരുക്കാന്‍ = Avan oho innu iruuakn= he lives in luxuosry. പ്രമാദം prmaadam is another expression to extremity “palppayasam Pramadam ‘ പാല്‍പ്പായസം പ്രമാദം is simply great. ‘Athu enna pramadam ?-what is so big about it ? This is not the first time that the couple are fighting like a cat and a rat- eliyum, poochayum aattama എലിയും പൂച്ച യും ആട്ടമ Here pramadam is used to make a disparaging remark.

When my father gets angry he never used to hit us. By rolling his eye balls and staring at us, if he says uhm, he has imparted the severe punishment more painful than twenty slashes. ‘uhm’ followed by the movement of his right fore finger is an order to get inside the house and I am inside it even at the expense of leaving my American girl-friend at the door step.But fortunately for her, it was Ammalu who accompanied me and she was his selection,without even having a chance for me to see her till we landed together on the marriage pandal.

‘Ohv!’ ഓഹ്വ് I left my umbrella in the train!” Don’t worry , it is older than your grandnie. ‘ ഓഹ്വ് I failed in Math.Who ever said that you will clear it?

ഓ പോകട്ടുംഅമ്മാളു Oh, pokattum Ammalu, means leave him; after all, this is not the first time you have found him with another woman.
ഓ അമ്പട കേമ- Oh, ambada kema – don’t leave . He is acting smart; he deserves punishment.The word ‘ambhada’ reminds me its sibling ambadathan, a phrase often used by pattars.The Malyalam equivalent’ athrea ullu ‘ or the Tamil one ‘avalavu than’ or the telugu ‘anthe’ are less lustrous, when compared to our ambadathan, which generally means “that is the end of it’. If Ammalu says that, ” I am leaving for my appa’s house -nan enga appa aathukku poren ambadathan” അമ്പടത്താന്‍ means ambadathan; that is the end of it. Either I have to jump into the well at the back yard of the olavkkode house ( but that will not help as I know swimming ) or go to to Nithyanada’s ashram and ask for a piece of ocher or orange coulour cloth. But neither Nithyananda nor the ‘niguta’ (hidden ) video camera is there now.What is the purpose of going there. I can as well catch the next train to Tvm and continue my travelogue.
Chapter  2.
Before I start today’s upanyasam, let me clarify the doubt of my ‘cyber santhathi’,  Sowbaghyavathy Uma Subu from Abu Dhabi,  who always earn my ‘vayatherichal’ by writing to me what all delicious food she prepared , but not feeding me even once :

“അപ്പാവിപൊണ്ണുക്കുആഷാടപൂതിമാപ്പിള്ളൈMama, What’s that meant for? Pls write in detail”.

Appavi pon is an innocent girl, as I already explained. Ashadapoothi is someone who says ‘ha,ha, hu,hu’ but is a big zero. He doesn’t look smart nor  is he intelligent. He doesn’t know what  he is talking about. Just makes some sound. He is not well-dressed . He is not an idiot or misbehaved but doesn’t impresses  as  an intelligent guy. He is not a bad character. In fact he is a good guy. So much meaning is contained in that single word Ashatapoothi. You can shorten it to ആഷാഢം ‘aashatam’ and also say  അവന്‍ മഹാ  ആഷാഢം ആക്കും “avan maha aashatam aakkum  “

Now, you may ask what is വയത്തെരിച്ചല്‍  vaiatheritherichall ?

   എരിച്ചല്‍ ‘Eritchal’ is burning , as you know . ‘ Vayatheritchal’ is burning in the stomach. Don’t worry – no ulcer or any other disorder. It is in fact, a  mild’ heart burn’ . In the above example it just shows my unhappiness that Uma  talks high about her preparations but doesn’t offer me; It as simple as that.  It is not an ‘eritchal’ at all.
If  Ammalu says  that
എന്‍ വയറു എരിയറതു because our cook ate almost all the kozhakkatais , leaving just one or two  for us,  that again is a minor heartburn . But if she says that ‘envayar eriyarutu’ because she happened to see me smiling  at our neighbor, Ammini amma, who happened to enter  our garden to pick up a handful of coriander leaves, which happened to be not available in her court yard, then it becomes quite a serious matter and a bomb can explode anytime, in my house as well as in my neighbor’s. The  karukappalai chedikku kashtakalam, paavam.  ‘Oru ponnodu vayathu erinchal kottikkinda , nee nanna irukka maattaai ‘ if a mother curses an youngster who is after her daughter, his life is doomed. He will become a husband soon and pay the penalty all the husbands pay for.

‘Enthukku engalai ippadi karichukottareer ? I hear someone asking. കരിട്ച്ചുകൊട്ടറീര്‍ Karitchukottarathu is saying words which are not very pleasing to ears.പൊരിട്ച്ചുകൊട്ടറത് Poritchukottarathu you know surely, if you are a husband, like me. That is  പൊരിച്ചു കൊട്ടറതു or talitchukootarathu, the last stage of cooking where you fry kaduku, molagai, uzunhtu paruppu, in hot oil to add to the sambar. Once I added that to koottu and got the thittu.
My Colombian adventure from Palakkad to TVM continues:

I offered the driver, another ‘single’ , with pazamporitchathu to the driver prompting him to drive fast , but he raised both his hands above his head, coupled the palms and screamed     എന്‍റെ  പരക്കാട്ടില്‍ അമ്മെ ente parakkaattil amme ‘, fidgeted, gave a nice massage to his belly and catapulted to his seat. But the vehicle refused to move an inch. The mao-maoists who attacked us had punctured the wheel tires before flying.

‘Mao-maoists,  who are they ?’ enquired my MIL, who had serious doubt from the beginning about the  percentage of truth in my narration.
‘Mao-maoists are those who, wearing the uniform of Maos out of utter starvation, attack people for some food and run away when their hunger is quenched to some extent ” I clarify , “once they get some food to munch ‘mao,mao’, they escape. But I have fought with real Maoists too ” I boast glancing at my MIL thorough the corner of an eye, “even now I can fight with anyone”

“Sivane ennu lorrykkulle eri paduthukka thane venum” ” ശിവനേഎന്നു ലോറിക്ക് ഉള്ളെ പടുത്ത്ക്ക താനെ വേണും ?–    Mother
How could he have slept inside the lorry, Amma?” It was stinking, illaiya innu? Neenkal chollunkol”,ഇല്ലൈയാ ഇന്ന്‌    നീങ്കള്‍ ചോല്ലു ങ്കോ” Daughter.‘Sivanae ennu’ would have been invented by someone who went to a Siva temple hoping to get some food but was disappointed. He would have slept in a corner of the temple, saying, ‘Siva, Siva ‘ .

‘Innu’, enna innu, ongalaithan
, these words, a husband hear a hundred times.That is how ammalu and all ‘alus’ of her generation used to address their husbands. That was how their grannies and grannies’ grannies would have addressed their honeys. Surprisingly, my DIL, Meghana also calls her husband the same centuries-old way, though she is modern and employed. She is simply following the foot- steps of her mother or  MIL .The belief was that if the wife addresses her husband by name, his longevity would be affected! The real reason could be the boys were named after their grand parents and it was considered disrespectful to use elders’ name by the DIL s. More over our names are too long and they get shortened to Venki, Chuppai etc. and the harmless ‘enna’ becomes handy and polished than the crude Chuppai or Chuppani. I would have ran away from the house if Ammalu had called once Chuppai or Chuppani or Chupprai. Subbudu is less rude.

“Again walked for an hour, caught hold of a bullock cart , then a jutka, then an auto- somehow reached the  pazhavankadi pullair kovil, thanked the God for safely bringing me up to that point and took the short cut to the Sreekanteswaram temple.’Mappillai pulukarano samsayam ‘ MIL whispers behind the door, then soon comes out and proclaims,
” മാപ്പിള്ളയ് പമ്പര വിരുതന്‍ ആക്കുംmappillai is son- in -law ie me, pamparavirudhan= a clever guy.. Pamparam is top,the children play with, which rotates fast when released from the grip of a tight-rope, wrapped around it. Virudhan- a clever or smart man.പുളുകറത് pulukarathu is bluffing. Avan aanai pulukan aaum -means he is pakka -master bluffer. viruthan is also OK. But perattaruthu is harmful unlike pulukarathu – പെരട്ടറത് is cheating.

“ഒമ്മോട് ഉരുട്ടും പെരട്ടും ഇങ്കെ വേണ്ടാ എന്നാ ?” Means, your nasty tricks won’t work here.

I continued my story without giving much importance for her utterance. ” Before I walked  ahead a few yards, I was stopped by a huge form, completely wrapped with a black cloth,head to toe, with only two openings for the eyes.

Ammalu who was humming ഉം, ഉം’‘ so far scrambled to her seat, enmeshed by anxiety,held my shoulders with both her hands and exclaimed, opening her mouth so wide as she would have been forced by her father when she was a kid, for pouring an ounce of Castor-oil for clearing her bowls. ,Enna anyayam ennu!’  എന്ന അന്ന്യായം  ഇന്ന്‌ !

While she was standing thus, her hands firmly on my shoulders, face opposite to mine, sari almost touching my knees, there enters, through the main door, which is always kept open, except at night when one goes to sleep, our neighbor Chami  pattar, raises his voice to a shrieking pitch and exclaims, ഇതെന്ന കൂത്ത്‌?,‘ ithu enna koothu? what is happening here,what am I seeing!, I can’t believe my eyes etc.
‘Koothu’ is a stage play. You would have heard of Chakyar koothu, mono act by Chakyar, theru koothu , street -play etc. it  attracts people. it is something interesting .
‘Ennak koothai kanteer inghe, Eakadasi brahmana! ?’ my MIL protested. ‘Eakadesi brahmanan is one who starves on theഏകാദശി Eakadasi day, for spiritual emancipation.. Nothing wrong in it . But some Brahmins starve just to enjoy the Dwadasi food better the next day in temples etc. ! This may not be true, but that is the intention behind the funny usage here!
‘Pattam pakalilae eppidi Appu on ponnodu kayyaiem pidichikkindu ?” ‘How can ‘Appu’, that is me, sit shamelessly here holding your daughter’s hand ? ”– Chami pattar wonders.
“Appu alla kayyai pidichikkindirukkan. En ponnakkum avan kayyai pidichikkindirukkal. Avan aaru, theriyuma ? ‘Mangalyam thanthuna ennu manikotti thalikettina aambadyanakum.”
This ‘ആമ്പടയാന്‍‘ is a unique title for pattar husbands. ആത്തുക്കാരര്‍ AAthukkararar is a more familiar word used by those in the villages adjoining Tamil Nadu. കണവര്‍ its equivalent in Tamil is not a familiar name among pattars.
”It is not Appu holding my daughter’s hand; it is she holding his hand, for your information and they are a married couple as per the sanction of sastarams” –MIL retorts.
ഇതു കൊന്ജം അന്യായം താന്‍ ‘Ennavanalum paarukkutty ithu konjam anyayam thaan ‘  ന്യായം is justice and അന്യായം is injustice. But here the meaning is less stringent : ‘anyway, this is too much” Pattar says.
When I see couples move around in public places rubbing their body, or scratching the bottoms here in US or in any western countries,  I used to remember this interesting dialogue.
Chami pattars son and daughter- in- law enters; She is pregnant and struggles to climb the steps when her husband gives a helping hand.

 ” വീട്ടുക്ക് വീട് വാശല്‍ പ്പടി താന്‍Veettukku vedu vasal padi than ” ‘There are steps before every house’ is the literal meaning. The inner meaning is ‘such practices are common to all’. Obviously the father was not happy the way his son helped his wife’s hand to climb the steps.-
Pattar asks his son, “what did that idicha pulli pattar tell you?”
Puli is tamarind andഇടിച്ചപുളി idicha puli is well compressed tamarind block. Those who do not reveal their mind easily are called idichapuli
The son keeps mum.

ഒന് വായിലെ എന്നാ കൊഴക്ക ട്ടൈ യാ ‘On vaayilae enna kozakkattai ya ?” meaning is there a kozakkattai or sweet ball in your mouth, which prevents you talking ?
Then pattar’s daughter in law comes forward and talks non-stop.
‘Nee oru ottai patram aakkum’ admonishes her husband. ഓട്ടൈ പാത്രം   Ottaipatram is a vessel with holes, which cannot hold water. Ottai kai is different. The one who is a spend-thrift is an ഓട്ടൈകൈ ottaikkai.

ഓട്ടൈ വായ്   Ottai vai is the one who cannot keep secrets, You tell something to your neighbor with a specific warning to keep it secret, the next moment it has spread all over the village like a wild fire.
ഒന്നോടു കയ്യും ഓട്ടൈ, വായും ഓട്ടൈOnnodu kayyum ottai,  vaayum ottai means you are a spend thrift and a loose talker too.

വെടുക്ക് വെടുക്ക് ‘vedukku vedukkunnu chollathunko’ reacts the DIL.

വെടുക്ക് വെടുക്ക് Vedukku vedukkunnu is speak instantly without thinking. ‘parukkutti nan poren inke ശന്‍ടെ   മന്‍ടെ ഒടെയറതു sandai mandai odaiyaratu- I am leaving; they are quarreling
sandai is quarrel,  mandai is head . Neenkal eppidiyo ponkkal enakku enna innaikku chethal nalaikku pathu.  he curses the kin before leaving. Innakku chethal nalaikku pathu is if I die today tomorrow is the tenth day. This shows his disgust.
ട്ച്ചേ ട്ച്ചേ tche.tche, don’t say that’ MIL consoles him .
ട്ച്ചേ ട്ച്ചേ ,ച്ചു ച്ചു, ച്ചോ ച്ചോ  are sounds to reveals intense feeling, in disgust or wonder. How do you translate such wonderful meaningful words to other languages ?

ട്ച്ചേ ട്ച്ചേ-you should not have done so.
ച്ചോ-who slapped my child! etc
Depending on the situation the above mono syllables may carry different meanings.
You would have observed that most of these phrases are unique usages of kerala Iyers and belong neither to their original Tamil nor to  Malayalam of their adapted land. Like their olan, kalan, avail, erisseri and such food items, these phrases too have their own identity. During my school days , when my friends were mostly Malayalee boys, I did not like these usages.  Now after seeing many places and hearing several dialects, I want them to be  preserved as such as I am anxious to see that our village houses, with sloping tiled roofs, kootam, thinnai etc should also be preserved for the future generations.
I know that I am asking for too much.
Love and regards,
Dec 2, 2011

Comments :
Cyber santhathikku yennodu vahai oru “jai”…….
Naanum antha nalla swabhavam copy pannalam yennu ninakkaren. Yenna sollarel? Anuvatham irukku yennu ninaikkiren 🙂

Mama, you are really brilliant.  You still  living in those wonderful days, simple conversations  you had with Mami, Patti  and all that dear and not dear people you have met in your life isn’t it.  Keep sharing…I am enjoying all those dialogues like ‘Ummodu uruttum Perattum Inga venda, Mappalai Pambara viruthanakkum ellam vasichittu veeda renda polakkaren  inga. 





I was 9 or 11, when my athai came from Kapisthalam, in Tanjore district, to attend my upanayanam.. While she was in her early teens or even earlier, went their, after her wedding and was coming to her pornadham for the first time after several years. She spoke in such a pure Tamil that I could not follow her talk. It was so different from the language I was used to.”Aaaaanaanthooh” she used  to address her brother, whose name was Ananthan. My patti, was so vexed with her usage that she chided her daughter, ” Pitchu, on kongathamizhai Thanjavoorilaeyae vetchukko”. And remember that was exactly the language patti was using before migrating to Palakkad ! Mixing with Malabar Malayalam in Palakkad and ‘thekkan’ bashai in the southern part of Kerala is understandable and perhaps unavoidable too. But subjugating to English to such an extend is in-explainable, especially when every other pattar was not a Government employee or employed under English-speaking men. We were the only group who allowed the intrusion and invasion of English into our mother tongue, right from those days.
Here is an example of our English-eroded Tamil :
“When, when timelae, whatever happeno, athu happanae happen” 
  In Thiruvananthapuram area, my mother’s maternal uncles, who were from Monkombu were talking mostly in ‘thekkan’ Malayalam. 
Now let me share with you a typical Palkkadan patti dialogue, typical gossip: 
“Ammalae, onkittae oru mukyamana kaariyam chollamaranthuponaen ; ippo chappittappothan ormai vandhathu”.

Ammalae, I forgot to tell you one important news; I just remembered after eating.

“Onakku chappattathanae ellam ormai varum, sari sollu”

You will remember only when your belly is full, go ahead

“Namma amminiyodu ponu kulichittu rendumaasam aatcham”

Our Ammini’s daughter is carrying; I think it is the second month.

“Athilae enna athisayam, avalukku kalyanam aayi maasam aaratchu illaya ?”

What is there, she is married since six months.

“Athalla Ammalae, ava aambadayan eppothavathu thaane aathukku varaan ?”

Her husband is not coming home frequently

“Usirulla aambadyan orukka vandhal porumade, paru. ithu theiryaatha onakku ?”

Don’t you know that it is enough if a masculine husband visits her once ( for her to conceive ?)
“Ennavo, amma. Antha pahavanukku velicham. Enakku onnumae theiyallai”.

God alone knows, I am not able to understand anything.

“Unakku onnum thaeriyathukka paru, pathu pethai ?”

Did you deliver ten children without knowing anything ?

 അമ്മാളെ, ഒന്കിട്ടെ ഒരു മുക്കിയമാന കാരിയം ചോല്ല മറന്തുപോനെന്‍; ഇപ്പൊ ചാപ്പിട്ടപ്പോത്താന്‍ ഓര്‍മയ് വന്ത്തു 

ഒനക്ക് ചാപ്പിട്ടാല്‍ത്താനെ ഒര്മഐ വരും ; ശരി ചൊല്ല് .

നമ്മ അമ്മിണിയോടു പൊണ്‍ കുളിട്ച്ചിട്ടു രെണ്ട്‌ മാസം ആട്ചാം 

അതിലെ എന്ന അതിശയം അവള്ക്ക് കല്യാണം ആയി ആറു മാസം ആട്ച്ചെ 

അതല്ല അമ്മാളെ, അവ ആമ്പടയാന്‍ എപ്പോദാവത് താനെ ആത്തുക്ക് വര്രാന്‍

ഉശിരുള്ള ആമ്പടയാന്‍ ഒരുക്കാ വന്താ പോരാതാ , ഇത് തെരിയാതാ നോക്ക് ?

എന്നവോ അമ്മാ എനക്ക് ഒന്നുമേ തെരിയലൈ അന്ത പഹവാനുക്ക് വെളിട്ച്ചം 

ഒനക്ക്‌ ഒന്നും തെരിയാധക്കാ പാറു, പത്തു പെത്തായ് ?

Despite being drenched in poverty and other problems, our elders had a sense of humor which provided  them a warm jacket in their day to day life.


FloridaJan 7, 2012


From: [email protected]
Subject: Re: [Thatha_Patty] Pattars- their faces and phrases part 4
To: [email protected]


2 thoughts on “Pattars- their faces and phrases

  1. interesting and amusing,sir.

  2. Very original and apt Tamil Iyer words.

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