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E-Pao! Incident - Rejoinder to What's in a name?

Rejoinder to What's in a name?
Yumnam Kirani Singh

It is interesting to read the opinion of Ranjan Yumnam on the topic "what's in a name" in e-pao's hotspots column. It seems that what he says is true. But is it really so? It needs a meticulous study of our nomenclature. Let us first analyse our nomenclature and the significance of its units. The basic structure of meitei nomenclature consists of three units as follows.

Meitei Full name: Surname Name Gender-Identifier

The first unit "Surname" is the identifier of the clan in which the individual belongs. The second unit "Name" indicates the identifier of the individual in the clan. The third unit "Gender-Identifier" indicates whether the individual identified with the name is a male or female. Let's analyze the significance of our nomenclature.

Rohini Maibam
Maibam Rohini Singh
Maibam Rohini Devi

From the first full name, we don't know whether Rohini is a male or female. In the second and the third full names, there is no confusion about their gender. The second one is male and the third one a female. This is the beautiness of our nomenclature. From the full name we can easily understand the gender of the person concerned. Let's see what may happen if the gender-identifier is removed from our names. Following is a few lines of football match commentary in meiteilon.

" Houjik M. Kiran ga L. Chaoba ga ball asi kanna munnari. Chaobana magi phajaba trick ama sijinaduna ball asi kiran dagi munkhre."

From the above short commentary, we can't understand whether the football match is women's footbal match or men's football match. Because both the names Kiran and Chaoba may be the names of two men or two women. And our language structure is quite independent of gender influence. If the above commentary were in hindi or english, we would be able to know easily whether the match was women's or men's football match. Another intersting example is, in a class there are two students of the same name. One is Longjam Thambal another is Laishram Thambal. Longjam Thambal is male student. Laishram Thambal is female student. Interstingly, a letter came to L. Thambal, the sender's name is not written on the envelope. Who the postman deliver will the letter to, to male thambal or to female thambal?

So if the gender-identifier were in the name, there would have been no such problem. And the third, the most frequently happen problem is to write to somebody whose name is known but not known their gender. I want to write something to the editor of a magazine or a newpaper whose name is Kiran Chaoudhury (known from his megazine say). How will I address the person, Dear Sir or Dear Madam? Might be Dear Sir/Madam, that is something awkward, he might disgust with. So if there were gender identifier in the name, this could have directly address the person as dear sir or Dear madam without any doubt and the person concerned would have been much pleased. This is the role of gender-idenfier in our nomenclature. The role of gender-identifier in the names becomes more and more important in this modern era when the dress style of both sexes are the same.

Those who do not know about the role of gender-identifier in our names always claim that the word singh or devi has nothing to do with our names, it has been added just as a fancy title for decoration. Often outsiders who do not know our nomenclature ask why you add your singh to your names. I told them singh added to our names is gender identifier. I told them about the importance of gender identifier in a name and in our language in general, they appreciated your meitei nomenclature system is more advanced than ours.

Ranjan claims that by writing his full name as Ranjan Yumnam he has got two advantages 1) it announces to the world that I am a Manipuri and 2) nobody confuses me for a Sikh chap. But I will say that that is a false claim. To one who does not know where the Manipur is, and what our surnames are, Ranjan Yumnam is just a name. How can a man from Australia would know that Ranjan Yumnam is from Manipur? No way. The second claim is somewhat relevant which may happen out of ignorance of our nomenclature. But this can be quite clearly avoided. Beacuse our surnames are different from sikh's title. And we always put it in our names. Ranjan gives some intersting extracts

"Dingko Singh silenced the crowd, with his smart bout against Ashok Subban of Sikkim in the featherweight class of the 48th National boxing championship at the YMCA Complex here on Tuesday. "

"Suresh Singh of the CISF got a good start in the flyweight category, as he forced the referee to stop the contest against P. Prakash of Rajasthan in the first round itself." - Hindu on 5th Feb 2002

They might have written out of ignorance of our nomenclature. We should tell them our naming styles. We should make them known that while writing meitei's name, the first part is the surname and is unavoidable. The word singh or devi is just a gender identifier not our surnames. These words should not be confused with the surnames of the Mayangs.

Ranjan is lucky enough to have the name Ranjan. If his name were Kamini he must have known the importance of gender-identifier in his name.

Let's now see the reason why our gender identifiers were chosen as singh for male and devi for females? One of the most probable reasons why it is added to our names as gender idenfier is, might be, to signify that our males are physically, mentally and intellectually no less than any singh of indian mainland. Similar is the case of devi for females. They might have been chosen to signify that our females are no less than a goddess. Whether one can keep this quality associated with our gender-identifier depends on the individual. Also we must show them we are really above them physically, mentally and intellectually.

Now Let's study the order of three identifiers in our names. Why we put our surnames first while writing our names? This is because, we take more importance on our clan welfare than our personal welfare. In other words we are more concern about "Sagei Chophanba yade". Then we think of personal importance. Then comes the importance being a male or female. Let's compare with the Mayang's nomenclature. They put their names first and then their surnames. This indicates that they usually concerned more about personal welfare, just like "Pahele apunko sochna chahiye". This may not be true, just added for fun.

Can we add gender identifier other than the words singh or devi? Of course we can. See the following meitei names Leimajam Kamini Pathou---(male identifier)
Laithangbam Kamini Chanu---(female identifier)

Some people add meitei as male identifier. But the word meitei itself is not justifiable to be used as a male identifer. Because the word meitei has its special meaning irrespective of gender. Meitei denotes the peole whose mother tongue is meiteilon.

Some people who claims themselves to be more meiteinised, often write their names first and then followed by their surnames, such as Ranjan Yumnam, Sanajaoba Nangom, etc. But this style is nothing but a blind copy of mayang system of nomenclature such as Kiran Chaoudhury, Asok gupta etc. We should avoid this. If one wan't to drop the word singh or devi, he/she may add other gender identifier such as pathou or chanu. If one mistakenly thinks that gender identifier is not required he or she may drop altogather without changing the order of names and surnames.

Ranjan Yumnam (Manangnized style of nomenclature)
Yumnam Ranjan (Meitei nomenclature)
Let's not blindly follow the other's style while we have our unique style. We can follow other's style when we are sure that our style has serious drawbacks.

My last words to our yongster is that please add gender identifer of your choice while writing your full names. This will save you from many troubles, as our language structure is gender independent. And don't follow the mayangnised style of Name Surname. Our nomenclature

" Surname Name Gender-identifier" is the best nomenclature for meitei's and meiteilon.


Other Related Articles
# Re-Rejoinder to Whats in a name?
# What's in a name?- a rejoinder
# No Singhs, Devis… please, we are Manipuris
# What's in a name?

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