2024, Volume 21, Issue 1

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Mehvish Riaz
University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan


For citation
Riaz, M. (2024). Socio-Onomastics of Distorted Names: Nicknaming Practices among Punjabi Speakers in Pakistan. Voprosy onomastiki, 21(1), 96–110. https://doi.org/10.15826/vopr_onom.2024.21.1.004

Received on 16 February 2023
Accepted on 8 June 2023

Abstract: Due to hierarchical power relations and the difficulty of confronting others or expressing disdain explicitly in small rural communities, nicknames and spoiled names can be an overt avenue for venting displeasure, ridiculing, expressing social inequality, asserting superiority, conveying judgment, or warning against improper behaviour. The study focuses on how native Punjabi speakers in rural Punjab, Pakistan, distort names to express disdain, rage, affection, or frankness towards people in their presence or absence. Distorted names used both overtly (in the person’s presence) or secretly have been collected through a questionnaire filled in by 22 participants belonging to 22 villages in Punjab, Pakistan. Socio-cultural implications of those names have also been investigated and discussed. The author shows that the boundary between distorted names and nicknames is indistinct. This applies to both their formal features, semantic and pragmatic properties. Speakers not only morphologically distort the formal names but also use the names of castes, animals, physical attributes, and professional titles as address forms or referential expressions. Although distorted names generally offend the referent, they, like nicknames, can be used in both positive and negative contexts. The article describes the main motivational patterns of distorted names, similar to those usually pointed out for nicknames, and focuses mainly on their pragmatic features as noted in the metalinguistic comments of the respondents. Though the use of such naming labels may display quite universal regularities, the socio-cultural situation of the caste-based traditional rural communities of Punjab brings its own specifics to the way distorted names and nicknames are used in the area under study.

Keywords: name distortion; nicknames; linguistic informality; slang; onomastic stigmatization; anthroponymy; caste societies


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