- The beauty of the slang is in the way it keeps changing by the day, and how the people of Chennai keep upgrading it.
I am a completely, unabashedly, certified Chennai native. And, an eternal lover of the city, which is known for its rich cultural heritage, with a mix of traditional and modern influences.
Some of the key highlights of the city include the famous Marina beach, which stretches for almost 9 miles along the Bay of Bengal and is one of the longest urban beaches in the world. The Kapaleeswarar Temple, which is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, built in the 7th century in the Dravidian architectural style, and the Fort St. George, a British fortress that served as the first settlement of the East India Company in India.
Among the other amazing diverse parts of the city, let me now delve deep into the most characteristic feature of my beloved city, the lingo.
Chennai, mostly known as Madras, is a city in southern India and the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu. The predominant local language spoken in Chennai is Tamil, but the local slang or colloquial language spoken in Chennai is known as “Madras Bashai” or “Chennai Tamil.”
This a free-for-all, cut to the chase and direct, no-holds-barred slang, so it combines word suffixes and grammar rules of several languages like Urdu, Hindi, Malayalam and other regional languages to make new words. Pretty much a linguistic heaven or hell, depending on how you look at it.
The beauty of the slang is in the way it keeps changing by the day, and how the people of Chennai keep upgrading. It is very typical of the city. For example, the words that we used when we were kids are so passé now. Keeping up with the latest slang is really a tough job.
Also, interestingly, one thing I have also noticed over the years is how movies have a big influence on language. So, after every movie is released, there is always a new array of slang words that come out.
There are way too many, but here are the ones that I like the most:
Aapu adchichu (ஆப்பு அடிச்சு) — To result in failure.
Aaf-Paayil (ஆஃப் பாயில்) — Half-boiled egg, basically a mixed-up, confused person.
Aattaya poadrathu (ஆட்டய போடறது) — To steal.
Alva kudukradhu — Act of deceiving, chicanery or cheating.
Allakai (அல்லக்கை) — A weak person who lives in the shadow of a stronger person.
Bulb vangadardhu — Act of embarrassment.
Bondy — Unrecoverable failure.
Bandha — Stylish.
Bejaar — Nuisance.
Blade podaradhu, Arukkardhu — Being mind-numbingly boring.
Dil — Chutzpah, guts.
Dhool — Well done.
Dubakoor, Golpa, Mangaa, Sontu,Baeku — All variations of being idiotic, silly etc.
Free a vidu — to take matters easily.
Galatta — Chaos/celebrations.
Gethu — To have an attitude.
Jujube – small/unimportant
Kalaaikkaradhu — To make fun of someone, or to belittle someone.
OB adikaradhu- To waste time
Peter Vudardhu, votta kappal la vandha madiri — Someone who speaks English or pretends to be Westernized, to be pretentious.
Mokkai — Not-so-bright moment.
For anyone new to the city, it can take a while to get the strange words and the fast-paced slang thrown around. But once you get the hang of it, trust me you won’t forget it for life.
Jayashree Srikanth lived in the United States for 16 years, then moved to Bangalore with her husband and two daughters. She is a proud homeschooler of a special needs kid, who has a successful art career now and has won several awards including carrying the torch for the Rio Paralympics, in 2015. Her younger daughter is studying Neuroscience and Psychology at UCLA. Social work, writing, and traveling are her passionate hobbies.