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I�ve watched the attractive shopkeeper in our neighborhood Indian store cringe and straighten her kurti when a jean-clad matron has the gall to address her as �aunty.� And I identify with her indignant irritation completely.

As an adult woman who has also been called �aunty� one too many times by too many adults who I barely know, I have a bone to pick with what I believe has become a hapless naming practice.

Indian-American children are taught that every adult female is a potential aunty; many carry this presumption to the conclusion that any adult female older than them can be an aunty.

I�m not referring to school children here, but to those I see as adults, the lipsticked and bearded variety, who ought to know better. I don�t have a problem with terms like ammayi, or cheriamma, or edathi, all specific Malayalam words that acknowledge individuals who are close family members and deserve rightful respect in the family�s pecking order.

The gathering was of mixed age, ethnicity, and gender. If your children are younger than mine, or you are the same age as my grown children, but I am meeting you for the first time�I am not your aunty. What happened to Indian grace, hospitality, and our cultural reverence for the wisdom and experience of age?

In the India of my childhood, aunties were privileged and exceptional members of the family.

A visible image, especially one on a flat surface or screen: the picture reflected in the lake; focused the picture on the movie screen.3. A vivid or realistic verbal description: a Shakespearean picture of guilt.b. A person or object bearing a marked resemblance to another: She's the picture of her mother.5. If she is between 10 and 20 years older than you, do you address her by her first name or last name?

But amongst English-speaking Indian Americans, the frequent use of �aunty� or �uncle� is more often an example of lazy speech, or a desire to bump the individual in question into the category of doddering older-other, than it is a thoughtful moniker of respect. I attended an art exhibition in the home of an Indian-American couple a few months back. This was clearly an example of �you�re from an older, other world, and I�m still young, and I want to put some distance between us.� Here are some guidelines for the use of the term �aunty� and to prevent against the kind of encounter I�ve just described.If they were not the sisters of your father or mother, or the wives of your uncles, they were close family friends who had known you since infancy and had a stake or significant interest in your well being.In a culture in which godmothers were unfamiliar, the aunty, like the �aunt� elephant in a matriarchal herd of elephants, took on that distinctive, responsible role and helped our mother defend and protect her calf.The chief circumstances of an event or time; a situation.7. If you�re an Indian American, you�ll probably just call her �aunty.�" "Today, the title �aunty� is so overused and misused that it has lost its position and meaning.Indian-American children are taught that every adult female is a potential aunty; many carry this presumption to the conclusion that any adult female older than them can be an aunty. If she is between 10 and 20 years older than you, do you address her by her first name or last name?

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