Saligao nicknames – swearing by a quaint Goan tradition

by Fr Nascimento Mascarenhas

The people of Goa have always had a fascination for names, and take the naming of their children very seriously. In days gone by it was not unusual for an infant to be given three, four or even more names – after patron saints, forefathers, famous figures from history, and miscellaneous tongue-twisters. In addition to all these given names, later on in life many were lovingly bestowed with one more – a nickname.

At the time of conversion of the locals to Christianity by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century, the convert was given the surname of the person who stood as god-father to that particular batch of converts. This god-father was a Portuguese dignitary such as the Governor, Viceroy, top military official, and so on. Hence during this period there were instances when a man would convert to the Catholic religion and acquire a Portuguese surname. Several months later, his brother would decide to change religions and would also acquire a Portuguese surname, but not necessarily the same as his brother’s. Consequently there were families with different surnames although they were from the same family tree. Also, some Catholics in the village ended up with identical surnames even if they were not related. This, of course, caused identity problems. So the villagers of Saligao, as in other villages of Goa, gave many households a nickname that characterized a feature that was unique to the occupants. Thus we have nicknames given of birds, beasts, and fruits, others named for physical characteristics, still others for personal characteristics, quirks, professions, etc. There were some mischievous ones too. As my friend Mel D’Souza from Sequeiravaddo in Saligao, and now in Canada, says: “There were a few other nicknames that wouldn’t get past the censors in print although they were used quite freely – and without malice – by the villagers. A nickname was never treated with derision; instead it was prized as a symbol of a family’s name recognition and acceptance as an entrenched member of the village community”. The Konkani word for nickname is addnanv.

As I was going through the Saligao Comunidade book titled “ACTAS ou ACCENTOS E OUTROS SERVIÇOS” pertaining to the period 1756-1760, I found that the names of Saligaokars who had to do watch-and-ward duty as soldados (soldiers) were listed according to vangodd (clan). Their nicknames, wherever applicable, were also noted, probably for identification. Let’s check it out:

Francisco de Souza – Honesto (honest); Luis de Souza – Fujão; Tomás de Siqueira – Bonó; Lourenço de Souza – Meiala; Pedro de Souza – Tal’ló; Caetano de Souza  (Bobó); Francisco de Ta’vora – Mead; António de Souza – Buttó; Caetano de Souza – Migal; Diogo de Souza – Barba (beard); António Saldanha – Preto (Black); André Pais – Punido (punished); Alexandre Saldanha – Bapa; Miguel de Souza – Tipri; Lourenço de Souza – Mangró; Sebastião de Souza – Ticar; Thomé de Souza – Colvale (ganvkar of Saligao settled in Colvale); João de Sequeira – Varu; Gabriel de Souza – Pilad. The “de Souzas” mentioned belong to different vangodds and are not related to each other; to avoid confusion they were given Portuguese nicknames.

Over the years, we have become familiar with other nicknames as well. These nicknames were not only colourful but also reflected Saligao’s charming sense of humour. I will not classify them vangodd-wise nor ward-wise. They are listed here at random; each has a bit of history behind them and they need to be studied seriously and scientifically. They are as follows: Master Lawrence; Khôt (Couth); Boló ganvkar; Kuddvichi-bonch (from Kuddôv); Moskôn; Saiba Felip; Hundred Felip; Firngi Lusu; Moiddekar (Moira ganvkar settled in Saligao); Fogó; Patris; Kaulegêr; Lozkar; Mennkar; Pocian; Niklugêr; Rosalinagêr; Kursin; Pêrkar; Pirnikar; Loddôi; Amerikan; Alekar; Mari Vitorigêr; Sourak; Paddkulo; Bibi; Pikó; Delegad; Pedreagêr; Sortikarn Mary; Betteaguer; Kampin; Chonnekarager; Costagêr; Vhoddlegêr; Dakttleguer; Karu titivgêr; Paixinigêr; Mixinkaragêr; Salugêr; Padrikapelanvgêr; Aulumanagêr; Bengalkaragêr; Raza Coutinho; Bendugêr; Ganekaragêr; Goddkaragêr; Chimteagêr; Bekêrigêr; Munkuteagêr; Bautteagêr; Boddveagêr; Deucharagêr; Saibin Mauxegêr; Budugêr; Sonilagêr; Markiger; Souzilagêr; Dobddeaer; Riponager; Ladkó; Bendó; Pompró; Kolo (different from Kolé or Uxellantle Kole – the general nickname for Saligaokars); Sonxiniger; Nagddeagêr; Arxekarmigêr; Porkigêr (from Portuguese Porque); Kharekar; Raza; Kompreagêr; Bokddeagêr; Mankó; Goddgoddó; Jelisagêr; Noniger; Pokó; Sonsó; Papió; Ring-ting; Kornel; Sacro; Tony-Brazileiro; Patris; Aslekar; Joshi; Xennekarn; Bendró; Natalagêr; Bodá; Bukaneagêr; Bit’teagêr; Bolumanxegêr; Mirandigêr; Girkar; Motteagêr; Leanvgêr; Cobeaguer; Moddkeagêr; Vagmaró; Nousó; Sonsó; Bokddi; Chepekarn; Distikarn; Ranó; Ghirghiró; Bebó; Kuló; Kochrekar; Dukormaró; Dandeagêr; Agró; Sacador; Mary-Agbôtt; Salumani; Bainkan’nigêr; Buyanvgêr; Bot-modi; Kan-katró; Dukôr; Fulkarn; Kanló; Pinglló; Kalló-kul’ló; Dovó-kul’ló; Maddkar; Menxeangêr; Ladru; Pat’tivgêr; Munkuto; and, Mistirimgêr. (Please do send me any that I might have missed out, so as to make this list complete).

Such is the power of a nickname that any Saligaokar on any continent will find his roots and contacts and acquaintances by the mere mention of the nickname that has stuck on through the generations. Today, we swear when we are angry; our forefathers had finesse – they gave nicknames instead!


The author is grateful to José Remédios (Tabravaddo, Saligao/Santa Cruz, Mumbai);  Salvador Mascarenhas (Mollebhatt); Albert D’Souza (Sonarbhatt/Mapusa); Adolph Figueiredo (Donvaddo/UK); Alfred D’Cruz (Cruzvaddo/Bandra); and, Mel D’Souza (Arrarim/Canada), for their inputs.

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