Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tiki Tiki Tembo

... is out latest addiction.

I stumbled on to this really humorous Chinese story at an old book store. This reveals through an amusing story why the Chinese have very short names.

Apparently this was not the tradition long ago in China. The first born sons always had  very long names and the rest had short names. Thus the first born son of this great family gets this name, Tiki Tiki Tembo no-sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo, which means, 'The most wonderful thing on this whole wide world'. And his brother is called Chang.  
The story is about how the brothers play near the well despite their mother's warning and first Chang falls into the well and Tiki Tiki Tembo tells his mom and then finds an old man with a ladder and gets him to rescue his brother. They pump the water out of the boy and in no time he is fine as ever before. After some months of abandoning play near the well, it beckons them once again and this time Tiki Tiki Tembo falls into the well.
Now, Chang has to tell his mother and according to tradition, he should address his older brother respectfully by his full name! So goes Chang to his mother saying, 'Honourable Mother, Tiki Tiki Tembo no-sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo has fallen into the well'. His mother can't hear and he has to repeat it couple of times and he gasps and stutters somehow manages. The episode repeats with the old man with the ladder and by the time they get to Tiki Tiki Tembo no-sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo, there's lot of water to pump out and he takes longer to recover.

So, now we know why the Chinese have short names :)

Pattu finds this really amusing and made me read this continuously for a good 45 mins and I am as out of breath as Chang in the story. So we've been going Tiki Tiki Tembo no-sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo - ing...all day long...


Hema said...

That is a hilarious find! Can you give me details of the book and where you bought it from?


Awesome! thats really going to join the list of one of the Tiki Tiki Tembo no-sa rembo-char bari ruchi-pip peri pembo
I can imagine you daughter would have laughed nicely for that name itself?
Just after I started reading your post and before I got to your story, my crooked mind! yes, it can never think straight was thinking that chinese nowadays have short names because once upon a time they used to have names like "Ding dong bell pussy in the well.. " someone fell in and someone had a tough time explaining the pussy in the well is actually in the well and no one understood!
Looks like my crooked concept was not far off the original story!!! I need to start finding a good copyright lawyer! Just in case.. my 'brilliant' concepts turn out to be world best sellers ;)
Awesome find Uma., really, I'm going to tell this story to my little one today . wish I had a copy of this book myself. where did you get this? which old book store is this?

Uma said...

Hema - the book is... Ammamma's place I guess. Pattu must have carried it. Will mail you the details. I picked it up from Book World on Velachery Bye Pass road

Uma said...

LIFE REFACTORED - Oh yes, she's been laughing ticklishly at the name... :)

Hema said...

Hi..This is Hema who blogs at From your reply I thought you were referring to someone else! I wanted to mail you myself for a few other things and could n't find your mail id anywhere. If possible can you mail me at

Uma said...

Hi Hema - Well, I have a friend by that name too :) . You can mail me at

Kowsalya Subramanian said...

wow. good one. i will search for this in Landmark next time :)