09 September 2009

Pioitan- (friendly name to call each other)

I've always been amused by this very thing. Dusuns, especially my parents' generation (and the generations before) have this practice of having a special name they use between either two friends or a group of friends. The names are normally hilarious in nature, having been born under hilarious situations. Or it could be one that reminds people of an exceptional event they decide to commit to their memories forever. For example, my Dad and one of his friends call each other 'katangki' (root=tangki 'water tank') due to whatever funny situation that took place when they were dealing with some water tanks.

My late grandmother and one of her neighbours called each other 'ganakau' (root=takau 'thief'). I suspect the nickname must have started when they were discussing someone who stole something. It must have been either very funny or very annoying that they decided to remind themselves of the event forever by choosing it to be their nickname. The funniest thing about that was it became a family nickname. All my grandmothers' daughters and granddaughters including yours truly followed suit in calling the neighbour 'ganakau'. Even now that my grandmother is gone, we still call 'ganakau' that. And 'ganakau's' daughters/granddaughters still refer to my late grandmother as 'ganakau' too.

This practice, I think, owes its existence to the Dusuns' reluctance to address people by their real names. Somehow it is considered impolite to call a person directly by their name, especially when the person is older than oneself.(I remember when I was young it was almost a crime to say my grandparents' names out loud. My grandfather used to threaten us the grandchildren that our knees were going to turn yellow if we ever said his name at all!)
Hence, we often hear 'i kuo' (=so and so) as a term of reference, rather than the real name of a person.

I'd have thought that this 'pioitan' practice is outdated, but surprise, surprise, I just discovered that one of my younger brothers who is in his 30s and his best friend (also a cousin of mine) actually call each other 'kalado' (root=chili). Hmm...the culture is very much alive it seems.

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