Recently a 40-year-old woman in UP assaulted a younger woman for addressing her as "aunty", Words can work as powerful weapons that boomerang upon you. In these days when lynching and beheading are the flavours of the season, one can't be too careful According to a survey that was never conducted, 99% of people bristle q when they are addressed as "Uncle" or "Aunty" by anyone over three., The incident reminded me of an old post that I am recycling here. I love recycling, it is good for environment, even social media environment. One of the most misused English words in India is “Uncle”. Some would even say Uncle (pronounced often as uncal, unkel and according to unsubstantiated claims even as ankle) is THE most misused word in the English language for over the years. it has broken free from the kinship it is supposed to denote and is running amok. Originally, only the offspring of your friends or relations addressed you as uncle Many prefer to be called uncle only by minor children of kin and pals and opt to be the bhaiyya- brother- of older kids. A friend of mine in fact complained that being called “uncle” by anyone older than five made him feel like an eighty-year-old though he was just forty. This pal of mine suffers from an ailment that no psychiatrist has so far bothered to diagnose-unclephobia or fear of being addressed as uncle. This should not be misconstrued as fear of visits by unwanted uncles, who show no inclination to will their property to you and leave for the Happy Other World to meet their dear departed uncles.. My unclephobic friend welcomes visits by uncles, because, he says, it makes him feel like a nephew, or a lot younger than his actual years. But even people a lot saner than my friend blanch when the U-word is hurled at them, not only because the pretty young things they have been ogling at make them crumble into dust with a “Hi uncle”. Shakespeare’s Duke of York in King Richard II probably belonged to this category. He quipped “Uncle me no uncle” when his adult nephew addressed him as uncle. (Yes, it is Uncle me no uncle and not Uncle?. Me no uncle!!!!. Devotees of Fowler’s English Usage may protest that only non-whites in comic books who addressed their fellow beings as Bwana or Effendi would have used such expressions both of which are incorrect, but well, I suppose it is too late to complain to Shakespeare). Forget the Bard of Avon and let us return to 21st century. India, which badly needs a draconian law to curb the criminal misuse of the U-word. Say, how about 10 years in prison with at least half of each day devoted to copying down the meanings of “ Uncle” found in the dictionary? Do I sound too angry? Well, what can you expect when “Uncle” has become a widely-(mis)used substitute for “Sir” and “Mr. So-and-so”? How would you react when the people of your own age address you as uncle? Take the case of this guy I ran into few days ago in my apartment complex. He looked as if he was on a vacation from an old age home.. “Uncle., where is flat number 141” he asked as soon as he saw me. “Go straight and turn left, aunty” I quipped partly in amusement and half in anger. “ Bechara, paagal ya andha hai. Mujhe aunty kehta hai”(Poor chap..He is either crazy or blind, He is calling me aunty) he muttered and went away. And there was this pizzawallah .who tried to rope me in as a customer for his restaurant with a phone call.(The way he wooed me , he might have been bribed by a rival pizza delivery chain to ruin the place where he worked). “Unkel, you like pijja?” he asked as soon as I took his call. “It is pizza and I am not your uncle” I responded angrily. “You’re right unkel, it is pijja, not pijja” I banged down the receiver. God knows how many customers he had lost for his chain with his misuse of uncle and mispronunciation of pijja, sorry, pizza. But the unkindest cut of them all came when I was spending a month at our vacation home in Tamil Nadu. A lady in the neighborhood had the habit of making my wife squirm in her seat by addressing her as “anti” (what she meant was aunty). though she was much older than both of us.. For a long, I was lucky to be ignored by her. But earlier this year, my jinx caught up with me. This time I had gone alone on vacation and as I was sitting in the portico one day, reading a book, the lady’s head popped up behind the gate. “ Is anti there?” she asked me. “Anti? We are all pro here” I said making a go at a silly joke. “What did you say…..UNCLE?” Visions of being hauled up before a court for throttling an innocent, unsuspecting woman flashed in my mind. I gave up the homicidal idea because of the sheer impossibility of executing it. You see the woman’s neck was half the size of a banyan tree’s trunk. It was not for nothing that we had nicknamed her Badagala (big neck)..