We had a small convenience store; which my mother looked after. Our home was in a tiny 10x10 shop; wooden frame draped with a heavy screen partitioned the "home" and the shop. While my mom was a home maker taking care of me and my infant brother; she also managed the shop.
It was the 80s; we stayed in an industrial estate in North Bangalore which had easily 500+ small and large scale industries. ISRO was coming up; Kirloskar was a big company with 1000+ employees. We catered to cigarettes, beedis, betel leaves and nuts, candies, bananas and such. A small time business you see.
Since it was house cum shop; my mom would leave the shop unsupervised while she attended to home needs like cooking, washing etc. I don't recall if I started school already or was it one of those days when I had a holiday. But I do remember two episodes; one is not related to other. But these two show how language and mannerisms can bring confusions and misunderstanding.
While my mom took care of my brother or was attending to house chores; she would make me sit on a chair in the front of the shop. I had to let her know if someone came over to buy some stuff. I managed the sale once I grew up a year or two :) Anyway one such day; a man walked by to buy a cigarette. I continued sitting and yelled at my mom "Yaaro vanthurukka".
The guy picked up a fight with my mom about how I addressed him without respect(in singular). He understood "vanthurukka" as vanthurukkaN". Notice the subtle difference here. Regular usage in Tamil would be "vanthrukkaR" addressing with respect. "Vanthurukka" is the Brahmin slang which is equivalent to "vanthrukkaR". My mom had to explain the nuances to his guy who was not willing to listen. The episode left me flustered.
The second episode was something similar. There were lot of Malayalee immigrants who set shop in that part of town. Now, it is very normal for a Malayalee to address someone as "Yaey!" which is so offensive to people here. A poor Malayalee who was new in town addressed my mom "Yaey" and guess what? She yelled at him until he ran away :)
What my mom failed to understand was this guy is in a similar position as her when I uttered "Vanthurukka" :-)