Uncles and aunty’s designations have become popular among the younger generation of South Asians to address their parents’ friends or older contacts.

Instead of calling them by their first or last names, with prefix Mr. or Mrs., the unrelated nephews and nieces develop a kinship with the choice of etiquette that is more personal.

The uncle-auntie entitlement is in vogue in other cultures as well.

But the South Asian youths go a step further. To show more reverence, ‘ji’ pronounced like ‘g’ is attached to address the instantaneous relatives as uncle Ji and auntie-Ji. Perhaps this arrangement establishes a more amiable and closer connection.

The conventional practice of using Mr., Mrs., or madam is not only becoming obsolete in casual encounters, but these appellations create a ritualistic formality. The consensual tie-up among universal “uncles and aunties” and their equally versatile “nephews and nieces” introduce a mood that is more intimate and informal but still courteous.

Within families, the uncle-auntie expression makes an all-in-one entity that can cover all the close relatives from both sides of parents. Otherwise, in Indian culture, children address relatives by designated titles. For example, in Punjabi customs, from the dad’s side, his younger brother is called chacha and his wife Chachi; older brother is Taya, wife Tayi; sister addressed as Bhua; her husband Fufar (quite a mouthful). And from the mom’s side, her brother is Mama and wife Mami; sister Maasi and her husband Masser (a bumpy accent).

All these different monikers of close relatives get covered within the generic uncle and auntie entitlements. Still, the conventional titles of relatives also get covered as a family tradition. But for non-relatives, the uncle and auntie application is more common, convenient and pragmatic.

The practicality of the trend is vivid in the following episode that I noticed while ago:

The young man in a family function, while introducing guests to each other, was often heard, “meet my uncle, meet my auntie.” And when somebody asked him “how many uncles and aunties you have,” the poised “nephew” had to tell the truth. With a smile on his face, he said, “no, they are not my real uncles and aunties, but by addressing them so, I don’t have to remember their names.”

The statement from the young host had merit and adaptability in any social environment.

Besides its social aspect, the uncle and auntie culture has a working assignment also. When it comes to playing smart South Asian young salespeople have a reason to use the viable uncle-auntie technique. They often address their older clients as uncle Ji and auntie-Ji to establish a trustworthy relationship as part of their sales pitch.

The uncle-auntie is a social phenomenon making an impressive entry in the cultural evolution of societies where it is poised to create an informal yet respectable relationship between young and old.

Promod Puri

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