Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Uncle This and Auntie That

I was at a friend’s place the other afternoon when her daughter came to her with a message that “Auntie Ruth called earlier to say that she’ll send over the curry chicken later in the evening.”

Me : New caterer ah?.

Fren : Noooo. My SIL lah. She just tried out new recipe lor.

Me : SIL? Which one?

Fren : Nehhh… hubby’s 4th brother’s wife.

Me : Oooh…I see, I see. Everybody also call Uncle Dis & Auntie Dat only ah?

Fren : Eazy la, lidat. Bla….bla….bla….

Well, it’s not impolite or improper to address your relatives as Uncle/Auntie So-and-So but I’m a stickler for some old-fashioned salutation. We Chinese have clearly allocated addresses/salutations for our relatives and therefore can tell from which side of the family that particular relative belong and also which hierarchy/level he or she is at.

Some Hokkien examples:

Jee Koo (M) & Jee Kim(F) = Mom’s 2nd brother & wife

Gor Kor (F) & Gor Tneow(M) = Dad’s 5th sister & husband

Sar Pek (M) & Sar Mm (F) = Dad’s 3rd elder brother & wife

See Ee Poh (M) & See Tneow Kong (M) = 4th Grand aunt & husband (maternal grandma’s 4th sister & husband)
And so on and so forth.

When I was growing up, I too found it a chore and hassle to remember how to address my relatives correctly and moreover, it sounded so ‘uncool’ at that time. But Mom would not have it any other way. Thankfully, she was so patient and slowly taught and explained the significance of it all. I may not know all but am still learning. Now, I too insist that my boys learn and follow and get it right.

I am sure other communities have their own special address for their relatives. Care to enlighten me, anyone?
posted by nyonyapenang at 12:14 AM, |


  At 12:43 AM Blogger angel said:
I suppose this is a culture thing... I believe the Malays & Indians also have specific terms for aunts & uncles. Only Engrish ppl call everyone in the family (well, almost everyone, i think?) by their names, don't even hv Uncle or Auntie... I think...

ps: U say i so fast kambek? Aiyo, nyonya arr, if I had a choice, i still wanna continue horiday lar... :P
  At 1:44 AM Blogger Kenny Ng said:
I still using 'traditional' ways to call all my aunties uncles... we all still using it in my family and I felt it's more polite n more specific coz I got so many aunties uncles ma.
  At 3:52 AM Blogger ikanbilis said:
hmm.. When my grandparents on my dad's side were still alive, the grandchildren calls the old man Tok Man and call our grandma Opah i usually call my relatives auntie and uncle and followed by their nick name, for example auntie S, auntie Y, uncle H and etc. This is commonly used on my father's side. Why? My teory is maybe because many of them who originates from Perak flew to Kay eL and became much more urban rather than Bidor kampong folks. Not really sure why..

on my mother's side, there's mak used. mak chaq happens to be my mum's first(eldest) sister. i call one of my aunt mak Su (bongSu-youngest) and her husband pak Su. I call one of or uncle babah and the rest are pak cik and their wives as mak cik. There is no specific reason why they are being called as that, just maybe my mum taught me to call them that way when I was younger.

Along(eldest), Angah, short form for Tengah(Middle), Achik, short form for Kecik/Kecil (Young) and Usu short form for Bongsu, (Youngest) are tpically being used in a typical Malay family, but except mine.

So, there you go, a brief complicated info that took me 30 minutes to think and type. *giggles*
For my case, my SIL is half Honkie and she teaches my niece to call our side in the cantonese salutation which I don't like. Although I speak Cantonese most of the time that doesn't mean I will forget Hakka. I hate it, and when my mom corrects SIL, she still insists on her cantonese, so I fed up, I told my niece to just call me Aunty Laundryamah!
  At 9:31 AM Anonymous Erika said:
My parents also teach us all those rankings... hard to remember at times.. I remember that during Chinese New Year, when we go visit other relatives, my brother and I would just say, "Mmfffbrabru, gong xi fa cai".. :P Just mumbling rubbish when we dunno what to call the elders..
ikanbilis: thanks for the lesson!

I guess after this generation, most will revert to uncle and auntie; no more traditional!
  At 10:13 AM Blogger ah nel said:
smts i relly confused how to greet them...

thua Phek

Lau Khu

Ar Tio many... :)
I can't remember all of them...just uncle and auntie this and that....don't you think respect comes more from just namecalling?
don't think i like gweilo style lor. my fren married to one, is on 1st name basis with MIL & FIL.

it helps you to understand your family tree better hor? ;)

kam siah, kam siah. you're so sweet and kind to share with us. ;)

you gave up? hahaha....

kids find it hard to remember bcos they don't understand the 'system'. once they are clear on it, then it becomes easy and useful too as they can identify paternal or maternal relatives.

las montanas,
you can help to retain this traditional system mah.

ah nel,
interesting hor? better learn it up; it'll be very useful during your wedding tea ceremony. LOL

certainly not any less respect when we call them Uncle & Auntie. but i'm not into calling your elders on first name basis lor. ;)
  At 12:34 PM Blogger sming said:
Ya I find it quite confusing.. Parents' siblings I am okie. Grandparents also mom side and dad side i can differentiate.. When it go to the grandparent's siblings or cousins level. I pengsan. Sa yi po, kin po.. ????
Second level relatives I just call aunty uncle.. First level is a mix. Gu Gu, Li zhik, kau fu.. aunty uncle also got.. mandarin,english, hokkien and cantonese also got.. (First level= my parents' immediate siblings).
But I do feel the traditional way make me feel closer to the person... :)
  At 1:03 PM Anonymous Jemima said:
My Tua-kor is also my godmother.
But, I always call her Tua-kor. :p
  At 1:40 PM Blogger jazzmint said:
For my case which is cantonese, it goes pretty much like Hokkien also
  At 2:28 PM Anonymous ah pek said:
nowadays children calls everybody uncle or auntie. don't who you are.
For my side, no prob as I can remember all the titles but hub's side, aiyo, so many Yi Ma Ku Cheh. Oso because I don speak Cantonese, so finally call all Aunty & Uncle lah :)
  At 4:38 PM Blogger ikanbilis said:
no problem =) it was my pleasure to share it with everyone since before, no one really cares about it. but its a good thing to learn more about each other's culture. now that's what we should call Malaysia!

anyway.. i call my bus driver Ah Chek and those auntie sell food in my school canteen Ah Ee which sounds more like Ah Yee/Ai Yee. Imagine, from the char kuey teow auntie to the hokkien mee auntie to the wantan mee auntie and the auntie who sells drink, i call all of them the same!

and that title sometimes goes to some teachers as well! =P
  At 4:46 PM Blogger ah nel said:
talk about wedding but i still single...nyonya got any nyonya to intro???

i got 1 colleague here and she nyonya melaka and veli tall... hehe
  At 5:17 PM Blogger AceOne said:
Now 20th century liao lor, call uncle and aunty neh.
very good lesson you have there - level 2 & 'branches', plus different dialects summore.

my fren calls her tua-ee who is her godmom, 'mak-ee'. very unique hor?

so 'koo mar' is dad's elder sis and 'koo cheh' is dad's younger sis, yes?

ah pek,
father's only elder brother is addressed as 'ah pek'. however, if there are many elder brothers then it goes with tua pek, jee pek, sar pek & so on.
so 'ah pek' does not mean 'old man'.
in fact, i think you're still 'yat thiu loong', rite?

big family huh? lidat very interesting lor. ;)

you're polite. ah chek is for dad's younger brother and ah ee is for mom's sister.
so, you see, even for those without blood relations, we still hormat the elders like our parents' own bruders & sistas.

ah nel,
you joking meh? so chun guy like you sure got banyak candidates to choose ler. ;)

you better learn more leh. if not, one fine day when you become richer than bill gates liao hor, suddenly all the uncles & aunties will come and claim to be your taipak/khaufoo/yeema/koocheh. LOL
  At 9:38 PM Blogger savante said:
Really cool! My family's really big on that too. Penangites.. what can I say?
  At 10:57 PM Anonymous Anonymous said:
easier to identify which side they belong to. if i talk to my friends, they say aunt or uncle - which side? haahahah
Chinese way is easier. i am hakka so i greet the traditional way. my cousin's kids just call me ah yee to cut it short and make it easier for them. one of my cousins, their kids born in australia. the wife never teach them how to greet my parents properly. if the wife didnt teach the husband also didnt teach until one day the one of the older cousin came to visit and said, shouldnt it be suk po?
the kids call my parents auntie and uncle.
glad to know that there are many still keeping the 'system' alive. ;)
have an aunt in penang who insists that her gweilo DIL address all the relatives correctly.

that's what i was trying to say. if we don't explain and teach, it'll end up with only 'uncle' and 'auntie', irrespective seniority.
and my young nieces and nephews call me old-fashioned. :(
  At 11:46 PM Blogger sengkor said:
i m still calling my relatives apak, aniong, akoo those salutation. but my cousins are calling my parents aunty and uncle. *puzzled*
that's very good of you. so next time you'll know how to teach your kids lor. ;)
  At 11:39 AM Blogger Bernard said:
I call my relatives by the Chinese salutation, but it's rojak Chinese. Called my paternal GM "Ah Ngen", paternal GF "Ah Yeh" (they're Sinnin), maternal GM "Ah Mah", maternal GF passed away before i was born, otherwise would've called him "Ah Kong". All my uncles and aunties are called by Chinese salutations.

My son calls my brother sok-sok and my sister kor-kor. Still quite traditional. Surprised me too.
you're a sinnin! long time never met one ledi.
  At 6:57 PM Blogger Chen said:
at times i'm confused how to greet certain distanced relatives (the older generations), hahaa... i'm not good with family trees :D
  At 8:48 AM Blogger Bernard said:
I'm sinnin, but dunno how to talk sinnin worr :-P
  At 9:43 PM Anonymous Anonymous said:
Sinnin will be extinct, I myself is one pure sinnin. My children & wife don't speak a word of this dialect. She said our sinnin sounds indecent. Eat crab, your cloth vey beutiful... you got what I mean!!!
We still greet our close relative their salutation, Ah yee and yee cheang, ah kiew & ghee kham, Ah Ngen & Ah yah etc....
But I am lost in using this dialect in the deep sense like vocabulary to express deep thought as I am a yellow bannana. Very pian seh. Even can't remember where our ancestor kampung is called in China. Something like "gau yam choong" Any eye deer on this????
bernard & anonymous,
i used to be able to speak fluent sinnin when i was staying in penang. unfortunately, lost it now.
lemme try :-
**ni hui nai ah?** (where u going?)
**hui hai hee** (see a movie)
**hai lenporng ar kau hee lor**
(see fighting movie @Federal cinema)
**hai yuin hee, hui oo pork**
(after movie, go gambling)