Monday, August 27, 2007



Sometimes, I get mystified with the loathsome habit of our civil administrators and those in power using terminologies that are disgustingly inappropriate to this country and its culture. An intrusion of English words, more at home in the United States than in the homes of Malaysians.Although, it is not wrong, it still bemused me why those given the task can't find an appropriate local names or if there aren't any, spare some afford, to coin new words in line with the cultural context of this country.

English has evolved from many other languages including those of its ex colonies and has become a lingua franca in many parts of the world.It has not stopped adding new words to its extensive vocabulary.It was never shy to include foreign word if and when circumstances dictates the need to do so.

Malaysia is slow to coin new words. Many new words can be taken from Chinese,Indian or the dialects of other ethnic groups in this country to form part of Bahasa Melayu.The eastern states of Sabah and Sarawak have numerous dailects and languages where some useful words can be added to the Malay vocabulary. Is it necessary to confine ourselves just to English as a source of new words and phrases.I believe we are not short of scholars and academicians who are more than capable of creating new words and phrases to fill the bill.

Go to Putrajaya and you would see local terminology dropped in favour of Americanised version ....'precinct', used mainly in the United States to determine the boundaries of police jurisdiction within a city.In Britain, a precinct would best describe a commercial area in town where cars cannot go or an area surrounding cathedrals or colleges.The use of precinct in Britain is not as popular as in the United States.In Britain, US and Ireland 'counties' are preferred and used to sub-divide big city into different administrative zones. Using 'precinct' for names of road and street, as the case might have been in Putera Jaya, are inappropriate.The closest Bahasa Melayu equivalent of 'precinct' would be 'mukim', a sub-district. Sabah and Sarawak have an even better and shorter version.The simple word 'Lok' can stand for a sub-district, a small town or a kampong.

It is without any doubt that the half-arsed and sombong attitude of those in Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka were the reasons for the slow expansion of the Malay language. Very little is done in term of research and enrichment of the vocabulary by those given the task. The easiest and laziest way is to take English words and just change the spelling.

Many articles have recently appeared in various blogs disputing who should be called the 'First Lady'.One recent article in a very popular blog titled 'Abdullah(and UMNO) insults the Royals, again' by Jamaludin Mohd Rahim raised the issue of who should be the one entitled to be called the'First Lady', the Prime Minister's wife or the Agong's wife. The article's main motive was a personal attack on Abdullah and his wife. Again, do we have to copy another American term which can't even be translated into Bahasa Melayu sensibly.Are we really that dumb and completely incapable of chosing our own mother tongue to address the Prime Minister's wife and the wife of the Agong that we have to copy blindly from the Yanks. What would 'First Lady' be in Bahasa Melayu.... perempuan pertama, wanita pertama, perempuan No.1 or perempuan gembilang terbilang dan temberang ?

Below is an excrept from the vitriol article of Jamaludin Mohd Rahim that appears in Malaysia Today. It's Badawai's bashing. It's so petty, so crappy and so disgusting. An unworthy article belittling the Prime Minister over a commemorative stamp and an attempt to pit the royals against him.How low can you get?

As the preparations were being made for the wedding of Abdullah and Jeanne, Kamal Khalid, the supremo in charge of all matters in the spin machine of the government, receives a phone call from an anxious national newspaper editor.

“How do you want to play this?” asked the editor, a middle-aged hack who had risen up the ranks by toadying to former kingmaker and arch-spin-doctor Kalimullah Hassan.

Kamal Khalid replied, “What do you mean?”

“Well, this can backfire. The people might take kindly to Jeanne or they may hate her. If they love her, we can laugh all the way to the bank, or at least the next election. If they hate her and think she’s some kind of manipulative controller, the PM will look like ‘dayus’”.

“We must build up her reputation,” said Kamal. “After all, she’s the First Lady of Malaysia.”

The editor took a deep sigh. “Actually she’s not. There’s no such thing as a First Lady. In fact, even if there is, then that would probably be the Agong’s wife.”

Kamal laughed and retorted, “The Agong’s wife? She has no power. The Agong is not elected. The Head of Government is the PM. So the First Lady is the PM’s wife. The Agong’s wife has no role other than ceremonial. She can cut ribbons, but that’s it.”

“But the wife of the PM also has no official function. She also cuts ribbons.”

“No way,” said Kamal. “Definitely Datin Endon was much more useful than that. So we have to play the same game.”

“Will the Agong get offended?”

“Who cares?” Kamal snapped back.

We all know the famous 'first lady' of America is the President's wife. The term 'first lady' is not exclusively use on the wife of the President but are also given to any woman who has contributed immensely to their professions and the nation. For instance, Ruth Loredo, the famous pianist was called 'First Lady of the Piano" for her landmark recording of the complete solo works of Rachmaninoff and the sonatas of Scriabin. Lynda Lee Potter, was called the 'First Lady of Fleet Street'.She worked for the Daily Mail and died in 2004. She was the best columnist ever on Fleet Street and none has surpassed her yet.

We have never used the title before, so what's the hullabaloo for ? Are you ashamed of your own mother tongue ?

No comments: