Language is a wonderful living thing. Everyday new words come into existence while some existing words evolve new meanings.
The bulk of new words of course, comes from the area of technology. When I was a student, the words `cyberspace', `blogosphere' or even` email' did not exist. Hardware would refer to tools and building materials. There wasn't anything called software yet. Those days, they were called computer programs... the set of instructions written in code that tell the computer exactly what to do.
The rapid development of information technology gave birth to so many new words and terminologies. The speed of such advancement made it hard for the Malay language to keep up. Translators of English technical terms into Malay had a tough time. It is more often easier to make direct translations rather than create new Malay words. Words like disket and e-mel are immediately understood as compared to translations that use existing Malay words.
I remember some years ago reading in the daily Singapore Malay newspaper, the Malay word `softwe'. The proper translation of this word is now `perisian'. I can understand why this translation is chosen because the root word of `perisian' is `isi', meaning `content'. The logic of this being that software is the thing inside the computer that makes it run. Close enough.
`Hardware' is translated as `perkakasan'. Acceptable, I guess... unless you prefer `alatan keras'.
A word that I frequently use nowadays is `softcopy' (or perhaps, more correctly spelt as `soft-copy'). I don't think there's a Malay translation yet.
The world of IT is not the only contributor to new Malay words. There are many words being used by today's younger generation that I never heard when I was a child. When I heard my son first use the word `poyo', I asked him what he meant.
`Poyo tu poyo lah abah... takkan tu pun abah tak tahu,' he replied. I can guess what it means but the word is not in any Malay dictionary. Other new and interesting Malay words that I hear nowadays are `otai' and (my personal favourite) `skodeng'.
What actually prompted me to put up this post is something I saw at Tesco Hypermarket last Sunday. We were having lunch at the foodcourt before doing our shopping. As I collected my plate of fried rice from one of the foodstalls, I noted that the girl did not give me any spoon. When I asked her for it, she pointed to another section of the foodcourt marked `Kutleri'. This word is of course, a direct translation from the English `cutlery', meaning the implements that we use in having our meal... namely forks, spoons and knives. There is no equivalent of this collective noun in Malay... so I guess `kutleri' would have to do.
I have checked both my Kamus Dewan and its online version... `kutleri' does not officially exist yet. I have no doubt most Malaysians would know what the word means although I'm sure there are those of the older generation who would be puzzled. Nonetheless, as the norm goes for all new words, frequent and popular use would soon make it acceptable.
Perhaps one day, it would not sound awkward when I mention to a colleague that, `aku dah e-mel salinan lembut artikel blog itu kepada kau semalam.'