Di Bawoh Rang Ikang Kering
Random Ramblings of A Retired Retainer


Friday, July 01, 2005
My face is still red from my ignorance as stated in my yesterday's post.
Being from Terengganu, with Terengganuspeak as my mother tongue, all other languages are foreign to me. This includes Bahasa Malaysia. But I learn and I am still learning.

A language can sometimes be surprising (or shocking) to "outsiders". Hence akutakretiomputeh finds it strange when our Indonesian friends use pantat to mean bottoms. In Terengganuspeak, patat (or pantat in the standard pronounciation) does not even mean any part of the human anatomy, masculine, feminine or neuter. It does mean the bottom part though. So we talk about patat kain (the hem) or patat kuali (the underside of the wok) or patat lege (the bottom of the barrel, where this writer was scraped from.)

When we were living in Kota Bharu, Kelantan, our next door neighbour was a young man from Perak. When his mother came to visit him, my father warned my mother not to use the word patat when conversing with the neighbour's mother.He didnt want my mother to commit any faux pas. That's when I learned that patat could be a vulgar word to non-Trengganu speakers.

Years later, my late friend Dato' Aziz Wok ( from Chemor, Perak) visited Kota Bharu and wanted to have a drink at one of the warongs. The young girl minding the stall politely asked my friend what was his pleasure:
Dato' Aziz : Apa ada?
Girl : Mace mace ado...
Dato' Aziz: Cuba beritau.
Girl : (Rattling of names of drinks, very fast) Kopi, teh, teh alio, coke, pepsi, patat kuning, patat ija...
Dato' Aziz nearly had a heart attack. He didnt know that the girl was talking about green Fanta and Yellow Fanta.

Lest you think I am fixated on one word, let us move on to other words that might create some confusion. Atok mentioned membutuhi which means "to need" in Indonesia. Over there, you do not use pusing to ask the taxi driver to go around the block. You might give him (or yourself) a headache. Pusing is not to turn around as in Malaysia but it means 'headache". Your Indonesian host will get a headache too if you insist on going back to the hotel to watch gusti. He would probably wonder why on earth you would want to watch a Javanese nobleman unless he knows you meant WWF or TNA. If your host invites you to partake the famous sup bontot, flinch not. It is not made of the ass of anything. It is oxtail soup.

All modern languages are dynamic. Meanings change over time. "Gay" now is not the same as it was before. So is "high", "cool", "laid" or a plethora of other words. When I was doing my teaching practise in a secondary school in PJ, I was trying to teach BM grammar. "Sifat" drew a lot of snickers and giggles from the mainly Chinese pupils. I am glad the word has been changed to adjektif now.