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Di Bawoh Rang Ikang Kering
Random Ramblings of A Retired Retainer

PITIH, PITIH, PITIH

Friday, December 03, 2004

I "fall poor" (jatuh miskin) and of late my thoughts turned to money or the lack of it.

When you do not have enough sex, you tend to be horny. Terengganu or Kelantan people would call you gelenya. Buaya, Kervin or Chief would call you ham sap. When you do not have enough money, the creditors would call you. Those who owe you money won't call or receive your call. People who got themselves in dire cash flow situations like me, if they are from Terengganu would lament "Tadok pitih sekepeng habok!"

I found out that pitih or pitis is not exclusive to Terengganu and Kelantan. I have read postings by Minang people using pitih to mean money. Kepeng is also money. In Bali, Kepeng is the name given to the old Chinese coins with square holes in the middle. Incidentally, the kepeng in Bali is also called pitjes which sounds a lot like pitis. I have also found out that kepeng is used in Maluku too. Isn't that where the late Broery came from?

Let us delve into a bit of history and expand our brain a bit instead of our butt. Prior to 1708, when the Terengganu Sultanate started, people of Terengganu engaged in barter trading. Goods and services were exchanged for other goods or services. People from inland places like Kuala Berang boated downstream to where Kedai Payang is now with jagong, tebaka spe, pisang sala, susu masang, minyok sapi and other produce to exchange them for budu, kerpok ikang tambang, kerpok ikang parrang, callok (rhymes with 'bloke') and other products from the sea. Most of the time, when the value of the goods or services were exchanged for goods or services of equal value, the system worked. Problems rose when goods could not be split up (or is it down) to match the goods or services to be exchanged. You can not exchange part of a live cow for a tempayan of budu. Unless you are exchanging beef, the live cow would be of less value minus the tail or one foot.

Thus, a common currency that can represent the value of the budu or many cows was needed.

In 1708 or 1709 (historians were a bit blurred here so I am going by the Terengganu Museum page and take 1708) the first Sultan of Terengganu, Sultan Zainal Abidin I ordered coins based on Johor coins to be minted. They were octagonal gold coins (the mah) and the kupang, made of tin. The sultan was related to the Johor sultan at that time and Johor had the kupang. Other than the song "Seringgit dua kupang", the word kupang got lost in Terengganu and probably usurped by kepeng.

Around 1870 (should be the in the reign of Sultan Omar, the ninth sultan of Terengganu) the Chinese headmen or Kapitans were also permitted to issue monetary tokens known as Jokoh, for use in their areas of jurisdiction and gambling houses. I cannot get pictures of the jokoh. Would they be like the tin jongkong which was also used as monetary token?

So I can safely surmise that the original value of the first Terengganu gold coin was equal to 50 sen or kupang or kepeng. It stuck despite the ups and down of gold prices. Anything 50 sen in Terengganu is samah (se emas) and anything that is RM 1.50 sen is tiga amah. Strangely, no other increments of 50 sen like RM1 (se riyal) RM2 (2 riyal) or even RM2.50 (2 riyal setengah) are called dua amah, pat amah or lima amah respectively. Go figure.

By the way, people in Terengganu and Kelantan are not in the least concerned whether the ringgit is going to be de-pegged, devalued or whatever. We use riyal not ringgit, what.

Pic of Johor coins here.
Pic of Terengganu coins here
Pic of Japanese coins similar to Chinese kepeng here.

| 1:57 AM :: ::
19 CommentsOldStyle:
  • remind me of pokok duit-duit! (and in need to settle my study loan!) *so sad!*

    ps: i wonder if you can write more about the heritage of the Sultan of Terengganu. one of my uncles told us about the 'tulah' on Johor Sultan during hari raya.. and it's quite interesting though.

    By Blogger part time bride, at 4:25 AM  
  • PokKu, tengkiu very mah for the kelas sejarah. Besides the 'amah' term, I'm sure you are familiar with 'ttengoh 2 riyal' to refer to 'seriyal setengah', or 'ttengoh 2 kelo' to refer to 'sekilo setengah', etc. It simply means 'kurang setengah' from the amount mentioned afterwards. Err... any kelas sejarah for that?
    -Pasirpanjang-

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:38 AM  
  • From 1500-1700, Kelantan & Pattani used gold 'kupang' coins. There were 3 types; kijang, matahari, and with arabic/jawi letters. The kijang is Bank Negara's logo.

    I guess, 'kepeng' (pronounced as: 'care'-'peng', not like 'keping') is what we actually called them, but when the 'ousiders' wrote, they would note is as kupang, similar to Johor's and Kedah's.

    Actually, there are many K'tan words that are similar to Java's. In fact, we found out from Indon maids that they would easily understand Kelantanspeak more than the Msian standard/'kecek kolupo' when they first arrived.

    By Blogger Atok, at 7:09 AM  
  • Pokku:

    Nice history lesson. Lots of youngsters nowadays have less interest abt history. Care to describe more abt tembaka spe? I never heard abt that in my whole life...maybe it is exclusive to Teganung... Is coin is also use for one riyal? hmmm I also wonder abt samah and tigo amah? why we never use 2 amah, 4 amah?...This is my theory ... during those years lots of expensive items are between so riyal and duo riyal and duit riyal in the circulation is not as many as duit amah (emas). so people will use duit amah for 50 sen and 3 duit amah for 1.50 instead of one duit riyal and one duit amah. However, to use duit amah for 2 riyal and beyond will be inconvenient since you have to use 4 duit amah instead of only two if you used duit riyal... anyway it is just my theory... anyone else have any other theory?

    SK

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:24 AM  
  • maybe you should start a book on Terengganu & Kelantan phrases and sell them ( audio ref. for correct pronunciation sold separately ). when it takes off you'll have a durian runtuh !

    By Blogger Chief, at 9:58 AM  
  • agree wif chief. we can get mackzul "Look easy" to be your brand manager,Yasmin to do a "heart tugging" TVC for you, kervin to take some pics, ireneq to interview you for her newspaper, graceshu to review your book, and Buaya69 to be your accountant. ;) just short of a book agent saja. hehehe

    By Blogger Buaya69, at 1:50 PM  
  • when I first berkawan with people from the East Coast I found it so funny when they called the flimsy thin plastic bag, "supik gelenya". How can a plastic be gelenya?

    By Blogger Nectar, at 3:42 PM  
  • i thought sekupang is ten cents?

    By Blogger elisataufik, at 3:48 PM  
  • Kupu-Kupu: The BSN logo is based on the Kelantan "pohon pitis"
    Pasir Panjang: I guess we used all those phrases because we are not so campiang at mathematics.
    Atok: Thanks for the info.
    SK: tebake spe (spare) is sentil tembakau or the local chewing tobacco. I don't know why it is called spe instead of tebaka gonye. Maybe they just put it in the mouth and it look "seppey" there.
    Chief & Buaya: You forgot one important party- the buyer. Even if you guys buy a copy each, it will only sell 50 copies or so.Heheh.
    Nectar: Never heard of "supit gelenya". An idiom?
    Elisa: There are places where 10 cents are called sekupang. Long ago 10 sen would be worth much more, I am sure.

    By Blogger Bustaman, at 5:39 PM  
  • Pokku:

    Many thanks for your explanation of tebaka spe. I am surprised that u never heard abt supik gelenya..Another word used to describe that ordinary plastic bag that make noise is 'supik ghok-ghak' (our family and most KB folks used this). As u know ghok-ghak' is Kelantanese word for flirtatious. Many be it is used since the plastic bag keep making noise when it was moved or being carried.

    SK

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:07 PM  
  • yupz i totally agree, pok ku dont u want to publish books on tengganu phrases..? rest assure you have one buyer already - ME..! hehe

    By Blogger najwa ab patah, at 8:08 PM  
  • Book on K'tan/T'ganu phrases.
    I guess, most non-kelantanese/tganese, have been pronouncing 'our' phrases phonetically incorrect. Hence, it would be hard to compile them into a book, coz to be accurate, phrases need to be written phonetically, but not many people can read phonetic language. Unless, the book comes with audio cd.
    Nevertheless... keep on 'kkecek' and 'bbua'.

    By Blogger Atok, at 8:20 PM  
  • The 'kupang' survives in our northern states, in the form of 10 sen coins, as Elisa had mentioned. I agree that the old 'sekupang' was worth more than today's 10 sen as you said. I went to school with 10-sen pocket money and I can buy one packet of nasi lemak and a drink! We used to have the 'kaepiang' too during the British times, which was the squarish one quarter cent coin. 'Tengah Dua' means one and a half too here.

    By Blogger Kri, at 1:15 AM  
  • I think they use "ti-ga-a-mah" cos "se-ghia-li-ma-pu-loh-sen" is too LONG a syllable. "Dua-ghia" (two syll) instead of "dua-a-mah" (three syll), "sa-mah" instead of "li-ma-pu-poh-sen".

    By Blogger Jane Johan, at 7:52 PM  
  • I think they use "ti-ga-a-mah" cos "se-ghia-li-ma-pu-loh-sen" is too LONG a syllable. "Dua-ghia" (two syll) instead of "dua-a-mah" (three syll), "sa-mah" instead of "li-ma-pu-poh-sen".

    By Blogger Jane Johan, at 7:53 PM  
  • SK, thanks for helping me explain the term "supik gelenya". Pok Ku, I'm sure your readers are more than 50. Not everybody has Internet connection. Your book/tape will sell well, Insya Allah.

    By Blogger Nectar, at 10:45 AM  
  • Hmmm...well Pok Ku...you're scaring me a it there. Let's see, I'm 24 and I'm depressed about money too. I was hoping when I get to your age...if I live that long...I will somehow have money to spend on a daily basis without having to work. Is it really that bad? Please tell me it's not.

    By Blogger Kok Bi, at 12:38 PM  
  • Oh..and also Pok Ku...nok buat guane kalu berasa gelenya tapi tak dok pitih nok kawing?. Sigh.

    By Blogger Kok Bi, at 12:42 PM  
  • Thanks for sharing. My own iste is about coins
    Come visit.

    By Blogger 444555, at 1:33 PM  
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