Of names and what do you call your older siblings?

I phoned my sister-in-law in PJ and apparently, the situation in Bangkok is so calm, my brother wasn’t even aware of the coup when he woke up to go to work this morning.  Hahaha.  He only sees a lot of tanks around the US Embassy.  So, no  looting, burning or anything like that.  Thank God.

So, which brings me to this curiousity what people calls their abang and kakak, older siblings.  This brother of mine is 12 years older than me.  Yeah, we have two dragons in my home.  I had been calling my two eldest sisters and brothers by their names since I was small.   My father has this ‘English’ style of upbringing, I suppose.

I call my eldest sister-in-law, ‘Ah Soh’ (name for older sis-in-law) and my 2nd sis-in-law by her name.  I call eldest bro-in-law (my sis’s hubby) with a ‘ko’ (older brother) but my 2nd bro-in-law by his surname.

So, it is a rather weird to marry into a family where I have to acknowledge my out-laws  😛 by their titles, like  tua ko, jee ko, tua chee, jee chee (bro #1, bro #2, sis #1, sis#2)  It is so stiffling for me!  But wutodooooo…have to follow my hubby’s style mah.

Ok, for my own kids, they do call the eldest his name with a ko when they were small.  Like my toddler and #3 son, they call the eldest, oi, japro (hehehe, not very official but it means Jeff Ko).  Meanwhile, the 2nd son call the eldest, “Hey, man… (pronounce as marn) or Dude…”  Gee, I don’t know why but that’s how they address  each other.   There is none of the official, traditional, well-mannered way of addressing older siblings for me.

Of course, though there is no hierarchy in the way of addressing them, I expect the young ones to respect the older ones to a certain extend.

So, what’s the normal practice in your home?     Malay families have more or less a standard name like Abang Long, Abang Ngah etc.  Heck, do you get the same kind of cultural shock married to a family with different styles like me?  Usually, those ‘tua mm (tai sam/big sis-in-law), tua chee hoo (tai cheh foo/big bro-in-law) names stucked to my throat when I need to address them.  I am so uncouth, ill mannered and I’m lovin’ it!

28 thoughts on “Of names and what do you call your older siblings?

  1. Let see now, when it was younger, the che che or chi chi was used to described the older female cousins but never my own sisters..jst called them by their names and ko ko for the older male cousins, aunties and uncles are addressed by their titles of mako, 2ko, 3ko, and uncles by pek, nowadays, the cousins lost their honourific title of ko ko or che che but of course respect is still given to the ‘ko’s and ‘pek’ but cousin’s wife are still addressed as “ah so” namely STP’s wife, and that’s my dad’s side of the family, my mom’s side…whoa..tooo huge, ranging from aunties to uncles, to aki and ini (iban for grandfather and grandmom which applies to grand uncles and grand aunties)

  2. hmm, same lah here, the system of addressing in my family is same like yours cos im also hokkien, so we still address each other using special titles.

    the formality is cool, but when comes to big family reunion function, i need to psst psst my mom or gran to ask them how to address that yada yada aunty or that yada yada uncle or that yada yada granny’s sister’s second-daughter’s husband’s son-in law in Hokkien title. mampus la.

    see, complicated innit?

    anyway, useful link for ya’ll about family titles, check this out

  3. My in laws are very the liberal/ cincai sort. So can you believe that I call my FIL- uncle and MIL- auntie just like how I used to before I was married. According to my husband, his father will jump in horror if I call his dad: Pa, dad, father or otherwise. On the other hand, my husband has to call my parents by the proper way, so hubby will either feel uncomfortable or shy when calling my dad: Father, and my mum: Mother (yes literally, as in Father and Mother).

  4. All my sisters address me by my first name (I am the eldest in the family, but I will stop them if they dare call me “Abang” or anything to that effect. Makes my hair stand.)

    – MENJ

  5. For us our family among siblings Senior is abang or kakak and junior by nick name. We call our children by nickname.

    My sister Lyza, is eldest daughter so all niece and nephew call her Mak-long (from Mak Sulong (Eldest)).

    My title as second child is Pak-Ngah (from Pak Tengah (Usually reserved for Second Child)), but, Lyza’s daughter calls me “LAN” because she follow what her mother call me. My daughter calls me “Daddy” so my brother’s son calls me “daddy” and he calls his father “Babah”.

    My brother is to his niece and nephew rightfully Pak-Cik (Usually reserved for second last uncle) but since he says it makes him sound like an old man he called by his niece and nephew Pak-Lang (Usually reserved for i don’t know)

    My youngsest sister is a Mak-Su (Mak Bongsu/ Last) but all Nice and Nephew refer to her as Ah-Choo (baby speak). Bless Her!!

    Our titles depends on how many siblings we have but often the title for Pak/ Mak Long (First Born), Pak/ Mak Ngah (Second Born), Pak/ Mak Cik (Second Last) and Mak/ Pak Su (Youngest) is fixed.

    Long, Ngah, Lang, Andak, Tam, Tih, Cik, Su.

  6. I have two younger brothers.. The youngest one called the second one by his name. But I made sure they call me che che.. else I won’t answer them. N I am not so happy that my bro’s gf never call me che che.. 😛
    Ya, sometimies I got attitude issue. 😛
    Old fashioned lar. Wanna feel got authority ler.. It is an Ego thing I think.. Leo mar..
    Anyway, when my brothers are in ‘fighting cock’ mood they will call me ‘Dog Ming’.

  7. I have a friend from Terengganu where all nephew and niece call their Aunties and Uncles according to what their children call them.

    So once the Aunt or Uncle has a child they have to fix a honourific that has not yet been used by other parents so that their children and nephews and nieces can refer to them without getting confused.

    So there can be only one Baba/ Mama, Pak/ Mak, Pok/ Mok, Daddy/ Mami etc in the clan.

    Whatever works guys!!!

  8. We siblings address each other by name 🙂 Have never been good with all the various titles so, since young I address my aunties and uncles simply as auntie and uncle. Now that I’m married, always get confused with the different titles I have to address hb’s family. Susahnya!

  9. My brother in law (lyza’s Hd) geli (Squeemish/ hair stand on end) to call my mum “MAK” so he calls her “IBU” and she she calls him “Eh!!” and “I – You” only lidat!!

  10. I think we call what ever that is comfortable to the person but a clear line is that as asian we dun call our elders by their names unlike the west, different pplz might have a diffrent say but for me, it is rude to call by their name so the asian way is much more respectable. Cheers!

  11. I’m a loss when it comes to proper titles. We siblings address each other by name, and I call all relatives more than 10 years plder than me uncle or aunty, and the elderly ones, poh poh and gong gong

  12. I’m the eldest, so my siblings called me kakak. Even my parents & little niece called me kakak. I’m also the eldest grandchild, always get more angpows compared to the rest, hehe. 😉

  13. japro? LOL, is dat a brand of toy? me family all proper proper one…no name calling! but my husband’s family call each other by names among siblings.

  14. aiyo..i aso like u. when kena married, i had to call all his aunty/uncle, grandaunty/granduncle..all the special hokkien titles… i tongue tied during CNY..so i just do a feeble ..”uh..hallo..uh..mumble mumble..”…hahah..somehow i get away with it.

  15. We call all those who are older than us, irregardless of generation, Aunty Name, Uncle Name.

    Those of same generation – by 1st name.

    Those with special ‘titles’: grandmother and parents and godparents.


  16. During CNY/my wedding where all the family members gathered, I could not remember who is called what. Frankly, I really dislike the “hierarchy” names and prefer to call people by their names, even your mother in law. It’s friendlier, more informal and less stifling. Some people are so uptight about this, so much so they bristle if you pause, hesitate and go, “Uhhh…” or you call them wrongly, or you don’t call at all because you’re unsure. Why make things so hard for other people? Don’t they want to have people at ease around them? Usually I avoid this kind of family gatherings because of all the title-calling and embarassing moments. If possible, abolish the whole damn thing, the system doesn’t really serve any purpose other than ego-boosting. Respect isn’t in a title, it’s in a feeling towards a person, of how a person sees another. I can call you “Ah so, ah ko” or whatever and still have no respect for you. Anyway, that’s just my 2 cents lah. 🙂

  17. I’m the eldest. My younger brother calls me ‘Fat’, ‘Kid’, ‘Kiddo’. It’s exactly how i used to call him when he was young, now he’s using those nicknames back on me. He calls me ‘ko’ only when he was younger.

  18. oh, now this is fun.. Its always revolving..

    I only have one elder brother. He refers to me as Ah Mun. My canto last name which he is the only left addresing me that way after my grandparents passed away. Parents and relative calls me by wat is written on the birthcert.

    Bro used to be Kor Kor when i was a toddler. “Mummy, Kor Kor bully me!! Ng-wahhh”
    As I grow older, Kor Kor diringkaskan to jus a sole word. Kor @ Bro.

    Then derno since when, I started to address bro as Tai Lou. Like some gangster clan HeHe “M under my Tai Lou’s protection.” “Tai Lou, draw this for me” “Tai Lou help me do my folio plis” “Tai Lou! My karangan talak isi!!”
    lol This way, he can never turn me down.

    Mother when from Mummy-Mum-Ah Mah(which she strongly oppose, Its how the cleaning lady been refer to at her work place) Now.. I’ll tease her with, “My Lou Mou must be PMS-ing” “Lou Mou aint talking to me” “Lou Mou missed a spot on the floor”
    “Lou Mou ah, you bla bla bla”
    This way, people cant curse me thru my mother. Brilliant kan?? Oh ya, my mother’s name is Lilian (small letter) tooooo 🙂

    Dad been Dad all along. The master of the house that talak power one. HeHe

    And those Yee Mah Ku Ceh., long story la. I get them mixed up too when it comes to extended family but sometimes all these title help outsider identify how one is related to another. Lagi lagi with all those Thong Heng Pi-ew Mui.. Lagi pening @_@

  19. K Sin – Wuah, so interesting names. My sons sometime call me ‘Oi’ and I purposely ignore until I hear, ‘Oh mummmyyy’ baru I layan. The big ones call me Emak, Makcik or usually, they just jump straight to the conversation.

    Jlsyhang – Sometimes, when they gaduh, they call each other ‘siao lang’, idiots, moron, etc. Dun care lah, as long as they still call each other.

    SA – I think Americans have done away with all those titles like us. In a way it is good to respect, but sometimes, that can stiffle us too.

    mott – When kahwin time, call never mind lah, got angpow big-big. Othertimes, aiyoh susah hor?

    luxeferi – Some parents here still insist their kids call all the elders. I dem dun like ‘cos I gotta acknowledge like 10-20 kids ‘cos big gathering time, all waiting for my angpow. I prefer to do away with all that, ‘auntie, eat rice, uncle eat rice ritual’. Just wallop lah, haiyor…

    rose – Yeah, modernise things easier hor.

    nyonyapenang – Haiyor, I am the kimpoh, my hubby the kookong which makes my 3 yrs old the ah koo to his 40 years old nephews. LOL. ‘Cos my mil and her 2 daughters beranak same time. Go figure. My mil delivered my atm, her two daughters their own first borns.

    sooi2 – Yeah, that one Japlo. I don’t know how the names evolve until like that oso.

    skyjuice – I think our Chinese titles lagi leceh ‘cos we broke up to the father side and mother side. Father side’s uncles, one type of name, mother’s side uncles, another. Very pening wan.

  20. I’m glad I live in Canada now , when I was a kid my grammy always take me to see someone called “Kim Poh Chor Chor” Anyone kind enuff to translate??? Its somekind of old auntie, I think but not sure where it stands

  21. I’m the eldest. My (middle) sister calls me Ko and my (younger) brother calls me Bernard and calls her Genny.

    p/s Kim Poh Chor Chor is your great-grandaunt (more specifically, your grandmother’s maternal aunt). My son call my Kim Poh that way too.

  22. My situation is the opposite to Lilian. Husband side dun care and my mom insisted that we should address each other by their title especially those elder than us. Her rational was we must know how we are related. I do agree with her because even my husband does not know how this person is related to him since they have been addressing each other by names. Sometimes my MIL had difficulty to tell how this person is related to them.

  23. I’ve referred to my bro, sis, cousins and their wives/husbands by name… as for my aunts and uncles, they all have their respective Hokkien titles on both my mum and dad’s side except those uncle’s wife and aunt’s husband are referred to as “Uncle” or “Aunt” so and so.

  24. LOL… we use names too instead of “gorgor”, “jiejie” etc. As for calling those uncles aunty, aiyooo.. very hard to call, sounded so strange. My uncles and aunties used to complain about us to our parents said that they didn’t teach us manners, eeeeeeeee… geramnya… even my father doesn’t like to call his uncles aunties with their “title”, he sees them just nod only and he just refer or call his siblings their name, he’s the youngest.

    Even my late grandma have to correct me on how to call my aunties or uncles as I always called them “aunty” or “uncle”(my mom teach me one :P) ahahah instead of “dua em”, “ji em” etc.

    My parents really didn’t teach me at all summore my mom isn’t a Chinese, it’s my relatives that tought me. Hahahah…

    Hmm… For me, it’s no big deal. I would prefer my sibling to call me using my name instead of those.

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