Monday, 3 November 2014

'Phittey Muh!"

My mother had no formal education. Yet her witticisms, in earthy Punjabi, have become the stuff of legend in the Puri household, and have been gleefully passed down from generation to generation.

Here are a few of her pearls of wit and wisdom.

“Phittey Muh!”
Frankly, I haven’t the slightest idea what this means but, depending upon the severity with which it is spouted/spat out, it could mean anything from a plain `Dogone it!’ to a mildly reproving `What the hell!” to a totally exasperated `Holy shit!’

The expletive can also be personalised to a more pointed “Phittey muh tere ehejey de!” which is, of course, “Phittey muh to someone like you!”

Literal meaning – Ash!
Mummy’s meaning – Bullshit! Nonsense! Balderdash!!
Usage – When we reported completion of any task she had assigned us, she’d inspect our efforts and exclaim “Swaah keeta tu ne, kakh nahin keeta!”

The more forceful version of this was “Swaah sataan chulyaan di!”
Literal translation – Ash from all the seven chulaas!
Mummy’s meaning – TOTAL bullshit! UTTER Nonsense!!
Why should ash be equated to nonsense, and why should it come from precisely seven fireplaces is something only the Wahe guru can explain!

Literal meaning – devourer of your spouse (husband, actually)!
Mummy’s meaning – Idiot! Khota (donkey)!
Used liberally at every slight, even though it totally beats logic, I mean how can a lad of ten actually devour his husband??

“Comkaan nu tusi phooko, agg lao!”
Literal meaning – Burn those comics, set fire to them!
Used when we were buried in books or comics, and refused to surface despite her repeated entreaties.

“Tu keda maklawa lain jane ae?”
Literal meaning – You fancy you’re off to fetch maklawa??
Now I haven’t the slightest idea what a maklawa is (maybe someone more well versed in the nuances of the Punjabi language can educate me), but this was sarcastically intoned every time I tried to `deck up’ before leaving the house.

“Haye haye kar lao tusi pehlan!”
Her reaction whenever her grandkids greeted each other with a `Hi!’ rather than a `Namaste!’

“Gal vi es tarah keeti ae, unth de padh vargi!”
Literal meaning – You words have the wisdom of the fart of a camel!
Pretty self explanatory, I’d say.
A camel? Seriously??

“Chittadan nu goond laa ke bae janda hai!”
Literal meaning – He applies glue to his buttocks before sitting down
Mummy’s reaction to any guest who overstayed his welcome, or refused to leave after a decent interval.

There were plenty more, and while her grand kids will no doubt be ROFLOL reading this post, I’d beseech them to sober up and come up with a sequel.

As for Mummy  herself, I can picture her reaction to someone telling her that her favourite son had written a post on her sayings.

“Hor kee karna si khasma-nu-khane ne!”

What else could I have expected from that idiot, she’d exclaim! 


  1. Read aloud this humorous tribute to your mother riding in a car with my mom-in-law in the back seat, translating the phrases as I read. Laughed heartily at the earthy Punjabi! 'boli'.
    'Muklawa' is the auspicious return of a girl immediately after her marriage, on a first visit to her father's house. Her brother or a close relative would go over to the girl's new home to fetch her.

  2. Harish Jee ...what a blog ...I am happy i stumbled upon this ...what a treasure you have penned ...btw ..Muklawa is the "Fera" in Punjabi weddings :) Vinny covered it ...

  3. Although it's too late to comment, but I found this blog nostalgic ...I could actually relate to this...Thanks

  4. Seriously very nice.... These all words still used in Punjab so commonly that... Even nobody knows the actual meaning.. but... Ammi ji was a great lady...