Antah and Geleng

My previous blog on Family Titles in Brunei brought a lot of comments from readers on how family titles are used in their own families throughout Brunei. The official titles of the series of seven for uncles and aunties (tua, anjang, tangah, iring, uda, amit and bungsu) are used differently throughout the different families thus endearing and personalising the titles even more. It's so much better than the usual uncles and aunties that are used in the more western cultures, or the much older sounding 'pa cik' and 'ma cik'.

Let me now go on the more elderly titles of grandparents and beyond. In English, the language tended to be a little bit easier at this level. Grandparents, later on Great-Grandparents, then Great-great Grandparents and you can add on how many greats you want depending on how far back you want to go. It's simple but less creative if you ask me. Though some would argue why bother. Beyond Great Grandparents, a lot of people would have difficulty remembering or knowing who they are anyway. That is a pity as the society in Brunei struggle to remain closeknit and knowing your ancestors may help us be closer to each other. Unfortunately we are finding our relationships with each other going further apart.

What are the Brunei Malay titles? This is the fun bit as whoever he was that invented these titles must have a great sense of humour. We first start off with the usual Grandparents who in Brunei context are called 'nini', you would get nini laki (literally 'grandparent male' or grandfather) or nini bini (literally 'grandparent female' or grandmother). For Great Grandparents, Bruneians use the word 'datu'. This is not to be confused with the Malaysians' usage which uses 'nenek' as the female grandparent and 'datuk' as the male grandparent. So people with Malaysian connections, sometimes get it confused.

After 'datu' comes 'moyang' which is Great-great grandparent. In standard Malay literature we always say 'nenek moyang' to refer to our ancestors but the Brunei Malay literature would say 'datu nini' to refer to our ancestors.

The next two words are the fun bit. You know by the time people ask you, who your 'moyang' or your 'great-great grandparents' are, you would be struggling to give an answer unless someone in your family happens to have a hobby of collecting genealogical lineage of your family. For me, my great-great grandparent, I think I may have the name somewhere. But my Great-great-great Grandparent (the parents of my moyang) is unknown and for most people that's true. So, the Brunei word for Great-great-great Grandparent is ... (drum rolls) ... a typical Brunei word which we say when we don't know something and that word is ... 'antah' (literally I don't know). That's the title. Your Great-great-great Grandparent is 'antah'. And I kid you not.

What comes before 'antah'? The parent of your 'antah' which is your great-great-great-great grandparents is called ... (drum rolls again) ... you know when you don't know something, other than saying 'antah' or I don't know, you would shake your head. Right? The Malay word for shaking your head is 'geleng-geleng'. And that's the word. The title for your great-great-great-great grandparent is 'geleng'. I am not kidding!

I hear lots of laughter and a lot of scepticism here. If you don't believe me, take a look at page 22 on the Kamus Bahasa Melayu Brunei published by Dewan Bahasa and Pustaka Brunei (printed 1991). Better yet, go there and buy the book. It only cost $6.00, and you will learn so much more about the Brunei Malay language than you would know what to do with.

Nini = Grandparent (Nini Laki = Grandfather, Nini Bini = Grandmother)
Datu = Great Grandparent
Moyang = Great-great Grandparent
Antah = Great-great-great Grandparent
Geleng = Great-great-great-great Grandparent


AlaiMidget said…
ha ha ha ha ha ha. Cali, cali. Quite amusing, you never fail to teach me something new every day BR!
Anonymous said…
Happy Birthday Mr Brunei Resources Sir! May the following days and years be filled with happiness and joy. How appropriate that you're an 'Abang Long' to most of us ;-)
Anonymous said…
i always thought moyang was great-grandparent, not great great grandparent.
happy birthday
thank you for the wishes. in standard Malay usage, you are right. moyang is great grandparent. but because in Brunei Malay, datu is used as great grandparent, so moyang gets bumped up one higher; whereas in Malaysia, datuk and nenek are both grandparents.
rose said…
whoaaa.. its actually in the dictionary bah?? mann.... i tot u were just kidding... rupanya ada banar....

and i agree with alaimidget totally....

keep it up....

and happy birthday from me as well...
Unknown said…
great info, been looking for this for quite sometime...almost there but I know NEED to know what comes after 'Geleng' as that's the one that my sons' NEEDs to know :)

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