‘Land of the Sal: Tree’COLOURFUL ‘FAMILY NAMES’, A PART OF THE GOAN REALITY
This centuries old tradition came up because Catholic
converts might have ended up with identical names, and needed
ways to distinguish themselves from each other, suggests Fr
Nascimento J Mascarenhas, the author of ‘Land of the Sal
Tree’, a just-published book on Saligao.
So, households were given nicknames “that reflected either a
peculiar physical characteristic or a personal trait of the
homeowner”. This led to an abundance of “colourful” family
nicknames, which have also been taken overseas by some who
Some names are unusual — like ‘bot modi’ (broken
toe), ‘kan katro’ (cut ear) or ‘fujao’ (chicken
pox). Some families got described as ‘caulo’
(crow), ‘goro cul’lo’ (white crab) or ‘cauo cul’lo’
‘Pinglo’ (or, blonde) was the nickname given to a household
with light coloured hair. Some families got nicknamed after
animals, birds and fish “presumably because of their
perceived resemblance to their non-human counterparts”.
There was the ‘bokdo’ (goat), ‘tal’lo’ (sardine), ‘combo’
(rooster), ‘bebo’ (toad), ‘manko’ (frog), ‘dukor’ (pig),
‘kolo’ (fox), ‘vagio’ (tiger) and ‘soso’ (rabbit).
Personality traits also played a part in earning families a
nickname. Such as ‘Sourac’ (hot curry), ‘Saibin’ (Blessed
Virgin), ‘Godgoddo’ (thunder) and ‘Kochro’ (trash).
“The deportment of some villagers didn’t go unnoticed either.
There was ‘Dando’ (rod), ‘Raza’ (king), ‘Girgiro’
(propeller), ‘Bodvo’ (angel) and ‘Devchar’ (devil),” notes
Villagers got named after the work they were
involved in — as hatters (Chepekan), florists
(Fulkar or Fulkarn), lawyers (delegad), evil-eye
removers (dishtikan), ginger-man (alekar),
candlemakers (menkar), coconut climbers (madkar),
Then, there was Munkoto (firewood), labelled thus because an
ancestor used a piece of firewood to chase away kids whose
game of marbles disturbed his siesta. There were also some
inexplicable names like Bendro (parasite), Poko (empty) and
Porque (‘why’ in Portuguese).
“A few other nicknames wouldn’t be appropriate to
use in a family-oriented publication. But they
were used quite freely, and without malice, by
villagers,” says the book. It adds that a nickname
was never viewed with derision, but instead was a
prized symbol of a family’s recognition and
acceptance as an entrenched member of the village
The book also describes a range of Saligao village issues of
yesteryears, among which are some quaint and rustic
traditions, customs, folklore and even superstition.
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