Mutilation of Language (Recycled)

"TUKANG RIPEE KASUT" was a recent addition to the signboards along Jalan Tutong in the Kilanas/Sengkurong area. The first time I saw it, I had to smile. I am sure the person putting it up is not exactly the most literate Malay speaking person. Someone said that could have been a marketing gimmick and therefore deliberately trying to catch the eyes of thousands of motorists, on the other hand, that someone could genuinely believe that's how it's spelt. I suspect more of the latter.

If you drive along any Brunei roads, you would be bound to see signs especially written up or self painted signs full of spelling errors. No doubt the signs are put up by those trades people hoping to generate business and are not that literate when it comes to standard Malay or even English. The question posed would be - shall we allow this to continue? To which some would reply - why bother? But there are those that feel strongly and point out to another roadsign put by by the Dewan Bahasa people which says "Gunakanlah Bahasa Melayu Bahasa Rasmi Negara".

Languages are funny things anyway. I once remembered a radio program which talks about the evolution of certain words. We take for granted that handkerchief means 'sapu tangan' and that we the Malays or rather the Indo-Malays translated it directly from the English word 'handkerchief'. As you would have known, most of the time, handkerchieves are used to blow your nose, wipe your face but generally never to wipe your hands. In the 19th century, the Malay word for sapu tangan was actually sapu hidong which is probably more accurate because that's what we used it for. But over the years, because of the influence of the English language, we lost sapu hidong to become sapu tangan. So, you can see that if something 'wrong' is used often enough, it becomes something 'right'.

Another interesting word is 'gostan' which means reverse in English. How many can actually tell me what the standard Malay word is? Some may venture 'undur', which is technically correct. But a large number of people prefer gostan. Where does the word come from? This one is more interesting as the right English word is 'go astern' which is a naval term for ships reversing. It's going to take some imagination how such a specialised term manages to become a Malay vernacular word. But it did.

So, if you don't stop those people using 'ripee kasut' now, one day 'ripee kasut' will become a proper word and there will be nothing you can do about it.

[This entry is recycled from on January 17th.]


anakbrunei said…
This is a much discussed and debated topic and it seems to go on everywhere around the world.

I recall many amusing emails I received where mutilation of language from singlish to manglish to indlish brings a smile to one's face.

A couple of automotive examples in Brunei:

Exhaust pipe - Paip Jus
First gear - Speed Satu
Work shop - Woksop/Waksop

Anonymous said…
I find it amusing too. But surely we have to correct them? Otherwise we'll forget that it's actually spelt 'repair' ....
anakbrunei said…
nn7, while I agree with you that we need to correct them on the spelling of repair, since the sign was in malay, shouldn't we also insist that they use "membaiki" instead? :)
rose said…
sometimes they cant help it tho.. maybe becos of their lack of education.. and probably those people does not have educated relatives to point out their errors..

and sometimes we just dont bother because most of the shop in brunei understand the incorrect words/pronounciation more than the correct one :)

like - pelayut. i didnt know the correct word is 'plywood' till im older..

i think we can excuse the uneducated elderly for pronouncing the words incorrectly.. at the same time the young n educated person in the family should also try to help/correct them whenever possible.

p.s: u shud see young kids writing essays using irc/sms shortcuts language nowadays..e.g. D - the, n - end, x - no, mcm baca codes rasanya.. im glad im not an english teacher hihi.I do this as well in my blog tho.. *erks*

psst 'Reeda'- r u one of the #brunei operators in undernet?? u look really really familiar hihi...
Anonymous said…
i was surfing the net the other day and i came across a blog about this. basically photos of letters, posters, signs (one from a government building) with mis-spellings in both english and malay. i cant seem to find it now, but im sure some of your readers have seen it too?
Anonymous said…
oh yes, my bad. Membaiki. hehe =\
p o t a t o said…
haha. like 'Gamin' for government. :p
anakbrunei said…
Rose, yes lar I'm BKiD :)

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