Brand Name Synonym Usage in Brunei

When I was little, I love to be around my Mum. And I still do, whenever I get the chance. When at home, the best bet is she’ll be in the kitchen. Back then, when my sister and I, and our own family, were still living with our parents, my mum’s kitchen was more of a family room. It was the centre of the house. Other than the regular cooking activities, the kitchen also served as a dining room, tv room, study room, nursery room, day room and even laundry room.

As always, I have managed to stray away from the topic. Is it any surprise? *HaHa*. Anyway, I remember whilst in the kitchen, my Mum had asked me to get her some bicin from the pantry. Frowning in puzzlement, I asked her, what bicin is. In reply, my mum took a small jar and said, “This is bicin.” I looked inside the jar and exclaimed “Ohhhh! Ajinomoto”. *HeHe*.

In case some of you don’t know, Ajinomoto is the brand-name of an MSG or monosodium glutamate. Therefore, when I said ajinomoto, I meant MSG. I think ajinomoto is widely used in Brunei as a synonym for MSG. Am I right?

This is what I mean by brand-synonyms, for want of a better word to describe it. Names for some items, usually household items, though not exclusively, are being replaced by certain brand-names. And this has been going on for as long as I can remember. I know the elders have been using them and still are. As do their children. And probably even their children’s children.

So where did my mum get the word bicin from? I did ask my Mum. She said she just repeated what she heard when she was little, and she didn’t know where it came from. Anyway, just a few years back, while grocery shopping, I saw a tin labeled Vietsin on a shelf. Curious, I took it, read the writings on the tin, and found that it was MSG. That made me conclude bicin came from Vietsin, an alternative MSG brand. I remember I felt proud with my finding and couldn’t wait to tell my Mum about it. *Haha*

When I was in Form 1, I stayed at the hostel. For many days, I cried during meal times and in bed. I missed my Mum big time. Anyway, whenever any of the girls ran out of laundry detergent, they were most likely to say, “I’m out of omo. Can you spare me some?” Or if its toothpaste, “You got colgate?”

In the 70s, Omo was a popular brand for laundry detergent in Brunei. It is no longer available in Brunei and many other brands have replaced it since. But the name omo remains.

I just googled Omo and guessed what I stumbled on? This rather interesting posting:

“Did you know that during the war when OMO was available in the UK, if bored housewives whose husbands were away fighting displayed a pack of it in their window, any passing male could enter her house for a little, well, shall we say - agitation followed by possible tumbling? This is because OMO was a well known acronym for OLD MAN'S OUT! I kid you not comrades.” No comment.

My maid just text me. Her message reads “Mam sory I 4got 2 tel u pampers iman n irdina already finish….”. What a coincidence. You see, even my Filipino and Indon maids use the brand-name pampers in place of diapers. It must be contagious.

This is actually interesting. I don’t know about others, but when asked, some people who uses the word pampers to mean diapers, actually buy other brands and not Pampers! It’s no secret to all savvy mothers that Pampers used to be the most expensive brand around. Then why is pampers commonly used as a synonym for diapers, and not the other more-affordable brands? I can only deduce that maybe Pampers was the first diapers advertisement aired on Brunei TV.

The usage of brand-synonyms is probably universal. The only difference is in the brand-names used. In the US, for example, when someone asks for kleenex, they mean tissue paper. If they want something photocopied, they are likely to say “Please could you xerox this for me?”

Believe it or not, I was actually planning to write about Nasi Katok, but someone beat me to it (Weekend Borneo Bulletin 8 July 2006). Anyway, after reading Mutilation of Language (Recycled) by The Daily Brunei Resources, I was triggered to write about the brand-synonyms used in Brunei.

[Today's entry is written by guest blogger, Hajah Yati HMA]


SD Mummy said…
and when they ask for camera films, they ask for 'kodak'.

or for sanitary pads, they ask for 'modess'.

thats all i could think of early sunday morning. hehehe.
anakbrunei said…
Nice one, yeah kodak and modess. Although the girls these days tend to use "bisik" as the word to refer to sanitary pad. No points for guessing where that comes from... whisper :)

Correct me if I'm wrong but I've heard polishing a car being referred to as "menyimonis kerita". I'm guessing this comes from the brand of car polish called Simoniz.

The other one is "amarol tayar" which refers to applying a coat of Armour All on the tyres of a car.

If you have a headache, u apply "minyak kapak" (a brand of mentholated oil called Axe Oil) to the sides of your head and if it persists, you may take "penadul", a brand of paracetamol called Panadol.

I remember my grandma used to refer to dishwashing liquid as "tipol". I think there used to be a brand of dishwashing liquid called Teepol.

If there's mozzies in yr house what do u do? Get the "sheltok" and spray of course!

When you're hungry and there's nothing to eat, makan "maggi" saja regardless of the brand of the instant noodles. And to enhance the taste, u add "bicin" at the last moment (not that I condone the use of MSG in ANY food!)
Anonymous said…
Heheh.. loved today's post. When I mixed with foreign students, I learned that what I usually call 'tipex' or 'tip-x' is known as liquid paper. Usually, 'eh minjam tipek'.

And then, selefone tape, we'd call it 'selotep'.

And, when we say 'gustan' for reverse, it is actually a word for 'go stern'.

Or when we say 'iding' (for footballers out there', it is actually another word for 'header' or 'heading'.

Not sure if the above are correct though. Hehe..
Anonymous said…
Dont forget about to use Tumas to keep hot water. That I think come from 'Thermos Flask'. Nowadays any 4x4 are called 'Pajero'. WTF?
Anonymous said…
"bicin" I feel is actually a variation of "be cheng" from the chinese translation of MSG.. My granny calls it that.

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