Ullu ka patha (You are the son of an owl): Obvi­ously in post-Harry Potter times with the populari­tasion of Hedwig and all things owl-like, being re­ferred to as the progeny of these weird, nocturnal bird freaks might not seem that big a deal. It would seem that the big-eyed, sinister Punjabi owls are foolish. It’s worth noting that this phrase is now in­cluded in the urban dictionary.

Theri asi thesi (I am only too aware of both your machiavellian ways and means): It is said that Hindi is the language of commerce, Urdu the lan­guage of love, and Punjabi the language of joke-telling. Punjabi is a highly-onomatapoetic lan­guage and we often end a sentence with a com­pletely made-up word that rhymes with the last word. For example, thesi is meaningless and is added because it rhymes with asi.

Fashion di aag laagi (You have been clearly set alight by your sense of sartorial ‘style’ or when did you become so obsessed with the materialis­tic devotion to fashion?): This is a self-evident in­sult that reflects the shifting priorities between the immigrant generation and those born in the UK. While there was no money for our parents to in­dulge in the frivolity of fashion, they struggle to understand why their children are so interested in such superficiality. This became a far more marked issue during the ‘new romantic’ movement.

Hud dho vud (There is a limit, a limit that you transgressed some time ago): This throwaway phrase of exasperation tends to be an ending to a tirade directed at the junior family member. This phrase is often delivered with a simultaneously throwing of hands skywards.

Tera damaag karaab (Has your conscious mind become instantly addled?): Bearing in mind the predication Indian parents have for education, it is rare for them to question the functionality of their offspring’s mind. This can also be translated as ‘are you mental?’

Teri maa di sirr (your mother’s cranial cavity): Some insults make no sense and that includes this one. Quite why one’s mother’s head evokes such pain is unclear, yet it does.

Gandaa bandar (You are an unclean, unwashed primate): Bad behaviour and high jinks if you will amongst smaller children is often likened to mon­key-like activity; this is said with a smile and great affection. Once the epithet ‘dirty’ is attached and the insult is directed to a teenager, it becomes an altogether darker matter.

Khotay ka baap (You have progeny that are best described as donkeys): Generally speaking, don­keys don’t do well when it comes to insults, and in the Punjab it’s possibly even more acute. Quite when they earned the reputation for being so hate­ful is unclear. This insult throws in a familial refer­ence, just to double down.

Tera bera gurk (May your fully laden ship, upon which your future prosperity is predicated, sink unexpectedly): Probably my most favourite of all insults. Whilst there is no bad language, animal in­ference or family member link, this old school in­sult is more akin to a curse.

Besharm de dhue te aak ugyae te aune kya ki chaahn hoyegi (A fool will attach a thorn-rid-den bush to his posterior and be happy that it provides him shade): This is a more cultured, fa­ble-like insult that reminds me a little of Aesop.

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