Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Goanese by any name

A Goanese by any name

No self respecting Goan anywhere in the world will tolerate being
referred to as a 'Goanese'. Yet an Internet search for "Goanese" in
my favourite Search Engine, Google (, gave me about
one thousand six hundred links!

Of course most of these were from online recipe compilations, or
menus at restaurants, or ill researched travel sites where Goanese is
often wrongly used as an adjective instead of Goan. For example a
respectable online site like Lonely Planet (
states "Calangute isn't one of the best Goanese beaches: there are
hardly any palms..." Surprisingly Goanese as a synonym for the
Konkani language also featured on many sites (eg. And yes, of course, Goanese to describe the
natives of Goa!

This error isn't recent though. Till a few decades back Goans were
often referred to as Goanese in British records and as Mesticos and
Canarans in Portuguese records in East Africa. In the Portuguese
language the word for Goans is: "Goeses" (plural) and "Goes"
(singular) or 'Goesa' (female). Alternative Portuguese terms
are "goano" (male) and "goana" (female),

Even the Encyclopaedia Brittanica 1995
( states "Many Goanese bear
Portuguese names and are partly of Portuguese descent as a result of
intermarriage between early Portuguese settlers and the local
inhabitants." Besides being linguistically inaccurate, the other fact
of the matter is that the Portuguese surnames came by during mass
conversions, when the presiding Portuguese officer gave the recently
baptised the legacy of his name.

"Welcome to Goa, the land of taverns, feni, carnival, churches and
carefree Goanese", said the controversial Surajkund brochure released
by the Haryana Government and reported on by Sandesh Prabhudesai
( Further back The Catholic
Encyclopaedia of 1907 (
states "In 1720, on political grounds, the Goanese clergy were
expelled by the Government..."
Perhaps the longest ever argument on, and dissection of, the term
Goanese was held on The Goan Forum ( A
wonderful read I would highly recommended to anyone wishing to know
more about this term.

To condense: Perhaps not as derogatory as 'nigger' or 'Paki', but
Goanese still rankles. Jorge de Abreu Noronha points out that,
linguistically, it would be OK if someone called a Goan a Goese, but
not Goan + ese = Goanese.

The argument being that only names which have 'n', 'm' or 't'
preceding the terminal 'a' get converted to 'ese'. For example China -
Chinese, Burma - Burmese. But Sri Lanka - Sri Lankan, Arabia -
Arabian, India -Indian (not Indianese!), Jamaica - Jamaican, Russia -
Russian, Croatia -Croatian, Australia - Australian....

An interesting anecdote: In March 1984 Canada based Goan writer Ben
Antao, and his Italian wife, had the privilege of being introduced to
Pierre Trudeau, the late Prime Minister of Canada, as being from Goa.
Mr. Trudeau asked Antao, "Is your wife a Goanese too?" To which he
replied "No, she's not a Goan; she's Italian."


Goan = Goan origin?

My last column on Goan Fiction Writers made many upright readers
criticise my inclusion of Heta Pandit. Their argument was 'She is not
a Goan". When I explained that she definitely was a Goan as compared
to say another writer, who was born and raised in Africa, is
currently a citizen of USA, and has never lived in Goa. "But he is of
Goan origin' or "He has Goan blood" is the common refrain. Fair
enough. But my article was on Goan Writers and not on Writers of Goan
Origin. There is a difference.

Regardless, in the interest of these hair splitters let me give an

Edward Carneiro was born and raised in Canada. His father was born in
Karachi and lived most of his life in Uganda. Edward's mother is of
Sicilian origin. His paternal grandparents were born and raised in
Karachi. His paternal great grandparents had left Goa for Mumbai and
then migrated to Karachi. Edward has never been to Goa and shows no
interest in doing so. Neither he or his parents can speak Konkani.
They attend the Uganda-Montreal Goans Ball every year (and partake of
Continental fare, as the venue does not allow outside Goan catering!).

Rajan Narayan has been the editor of O Heraldo since its English
His work for the improvement of Goa and Goans is well documented. As
well as his many adverse trysts with violence and corruption. Till
date his fiery editorial keeps crooked politicians in check. Rajan
Narayan has lived and worked in Goa, for the betterment of Goans, for
close to two decades.

Edward Carneiro is easily accepted as a Goan, but Rajan Narayan is
considered a non-Goan. One is of Goan origin. One is not. I wonder
who is more Goan?

The 19th August 2002 issue of Outlook Magazine (
polled thousands of respondents all over India to vote for the
greatest Indian of post-Independence India. Mother Theresa won hands
down. Her Albanian origins did not matter. Her life and her work for
so many years, in India and for Indians, is what made her the
greatest Indian.


WEBQUEST was my monthly column in Goa Today magazine. This is the
second installment which appeared in the December 2002 issue.

Cecil Pinto Nov 26, 2003

- Forwarded by

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