I noticed today on Astro TV that the popular local cartoon programme Upin & Ipin has made the transition to English medium and would be aired on The Disney Channel soon. It is quite encouraging to note that a homemade production is progressing to the international stage. But what has an animation series got to do with today's post? I'll get back to that towards the end of this piece. (Image borrowed from Upin & Ipin official website.)
There are many words in everyday use that carry double or even multiple meanings. The English language contain many such words and I guess it is not necessary for me to give examples... but I'd like to anyway. Words like `wind', `set', `pass', `can', `blue', `surf' and `virus' all have multiple meanings. Some of these meanings are closely related but some refer to entirely different things altogether. No wonder many non-native speakers of English find the language confusing.
Take this other example I heard mentioned over a local radio station the other day, where a listener called in to tell the story of his wife withdrawing money at an ATM for the first time. Upon dispensing the cash, the machine asked, `Would you like a payment advice?'. The lady became puzzled and rang up the husband to ask, `Kenapa mesin ATM ni nak bagi saya nasihat...' Lol!
Like any other language, Malay or Bahasa Melayu is also not without its share of double-meaning words.
When I entered boarding school and met students from other parts of the country, I realised that my command and understanding of my own mother tongue is quite limited. I was surprised when a boy from the next room came over and wanted to borrow my `cebok'. All the while, I have understood the word to mean the act of cleaning oneself after doing the `big business' in the toilet. On that day, I learned that the word also means the container that is used to scoop water, which I would call as `gayung'.
`Ketayap' is another word that has two definitions ; a skull-cap worn mostly by elderly Malay men or a type of Malay cake similar to a rolled pancake.
Bahasa Indonesia, while sharing the same root as Bahasa Malaysia, also contain many words that carry a different meaning. `Bisa' in Indonesia means `can' (as in able to do) but in Malaysia it is `poison'. But perhaps nothing can match the stark difference in meaning of the word `butuh'.
Right... now to explain the link of Upin & Ipin that I mentioned at the beginning of this post. This popular animation series about young twin brothers is produced by a firm known as Les' Copaque Production Sdn Bhd. The name of this production company is a play on the phrase of `last kopek', local Malay-English slang meaning the last bit of anything (last effort, last chance, last piece etc.) How this slang came about is unclear but I use it quite freely in daily conversation.
Some years back, I was having lunch at a nasi campur stall with a female colleague who's from Kedah. When I saw the final piece of ikan pari bakar on the plate, I said, `Oh, nasib baik. Ada lagi last kopek ikan pari.'
This prompted my colleague to remark, `Uish! Apa ni sebut pasai kopek!'
Me : `Kenapa?'
Friend : `Hang tau tak apa makna kopek tu?'
Me : `Tau la... kopek tu kan satu perbuatan. Macam kopek buah durian ke, kopek kelapa ke...'
Friend : `Betui la tu... tapi kopek pun ada makna lain. Pasai buah jugak... buah yang ada pada orang pompuan.'
Oops! How was I to know that the word also meant a certain part of the female anatomy? Only then the scary stories of the hantu kopek that catches naughty kids and hide them under her huge mammary glands sort of make sense. I now have to be wary how I use this phrase, especially in front of ladies.
The producers of Upin & Ipin are smart enough to modify their company's name to a French-sounding one. Otherwise they could have run into trouble with sensitive women from Malaysia's northern states.