Di Bawoh Rang Ikang Kering
Random Ramblings of A Retired Retainer


Monday, June 20, 2005
Olden Malays used their hands (and arms) a lot to measure things. We have trees whose girth are sepemeluk and depth measured in depa. I imagined a fisherman (the juruselam or diver) being horizontal underwater with arms outstretched gauging the depth of the deep blue sea. Lengths or width of smaller things are measured by the fingers. So, something is 3 jari or 4 jari. Even the Arabs used this method once. Please read "The Perfumed Garden".

When measuring land area, we came across words like sepelaung which literally means "one holler". If the holler stood at one end of the land and hollered loudly, his holler can be heard by someone at the farther edge of the land. This can only work if the hollerer has a good chest and is not suffering from bronchitis or asthma. Do not use Darth Vader. Use Dolly Parton instead. For bigger area, they use saujana mata memandang which probably means "as far as the eye can see". This presupposes that you have good eyesight. Shortsighted people like me will of course be shortchanged.

Sometimes, Malays of old tended to be humble and would say that their land is only sekangkang kera - as wide as when a monkey spread his legs. I suppose they meant male monkeys because I am not sure you can get Miss Monkey to spread her legs to measure your land even if you bought her dinner and drinks.

I wish to thank readers who commented on the last post, especially Ustaz Mat who corrected me on the time of matahari segalah. I was off by 2 hours. Now, be thankful that we have the metric system and the timepieces to use as measuring aids. I wanted to end this piece with a story of how confused a Mat Salleh was when measured by a Chinese tailor for a 24 hour suit. I changed my mind.