Sunday, 22 November 2009

Double meanings

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.


Snakebite said...

i m from pahang. 'cebuk' means dipper to us. 'buntut' mean the back side of anything like buntut periuk. the same with the kelantanese 'pantat'. they have pantat periuk and pantat kain. there is kampung in temerloh called buntut pulau. and yes, 'kopek' means women's breast in pahang. the other kopek is actually the corruption of kopak

pakmat said...

..and last kopek was born in the gambling circles..last bid of your or die..and that pantat thing? for Kelantanese it means at the bottom..imagine my wilderment, new in K. Kangsar, when someone asked is there anymore rice? and I answered, ado lagi sikit..dok patat the guffaws of our Perak guests..

Lili said...


At my first visit to a great aunt's house in the northern parts of Perak, I was caught in confusion to as what terms she was using. I was a bit "blur" when she asked me to 'rendang' the fish. I thought to myself...'mane ade orang buat rendang ikan...rendang ayam, daging ade le.. besides, it is already close to makan time, rendang would take ages to cook..'
Hehe... to 'rendang' here means 'to fry'!

matahari said...

Even the title of your entry has got 'double meaning' maaa...because the first thing came to my mind was sexual innuendo. Hihihi....Am I blue?

Blue here could means :
1. Otak kuning;
2. Feeling Melancholy; or
3. Warna biru

Sila gunakan di kws yg betul ya...wakaka!!!

nidd said...

Org Johor pun panggil cebuk jugak lah! I ingat lagi the 1st time bergaul dgn org2 dari negeri lain kat fren and i kena gelakkan sebab both of us sebut gobok, gebor and cebuk :D

VersedAnggerik said...


the cardinal rule is, when in doubt, better to use the English word kot? Rather than offend ppl with our words that carry different meaning from theirs!

Oldstock said...


Wah! Pantat periuk... that's a new one for me. I'm trying hard to imagine how it looks like, heheheh...

Oldstock said...

Pak Mat,

Thanks for the insight on the origin of the term last kopek. That makes sense because I've heard of the gambling being referred to as main kopek. Now that would definitely be a phrase that has a deep double meaning!

BTW, on this subject of English phrase and word origins, my favourite website is The Word Detective (link on my sidebar). Would be great if there is a similar site that does it for Malay words and phrases.

Oldstock said...


Rendang maksudnya goreng ke? First time saya dengar ni..

Oldstock said...


I purposely put blue as an example because it's definitely something that will trigger bright minds (such as yours and mine).

Thank you for the various definitions of the colour. The plural word blues would also have additional meanings.

Zendra said...

Oldstock, you may want to ask your men friends about the innocent malay words mangkuk and cincin and what they mean in Japanese hehe. There is this Jap with a nice sense of humour who purposely seeked out a house to rent in Jalan Cincin, Shah Alam. Something for him to write home about.

Oldstock said...


Maybe some other parts of Johor calls the thing as cebuk but not where I come from. Gobok dan gebor tu memang perkataan orang Johor.

Oldstock said...


Would be it okay if I replace `last kopek' with `last peel'? Peel as in the meaning of peeling a fruit... muahaha!

Oldstock said...


I have referred the words you mentioned in my Japanese-English dictionary and errr.... wow, ehem, ooops. Takleh nak tulis kat sini, otherwise I'll have to rate this post as 18SX, heheheh.

But that Jap guy sure has a sense of humour! Ask him to translate cincin dalam mangkuk...muahaha!

3yearshousewife said...

My husband used to laugh at me when I used 'cebuk'and insisted that 'gayung' is more appropriate. I first encountered 'kopek' during my varsity years when Kelantanese friends were laughing their heads off everytime I mentioned 'kopek'. Not any of them are winning for I still use 'cebuk' and 'kopek'.

Tommy Yewfigure said...

Hi Oldstock,

I definitely knows the Malaysian word ‘butuh’, as I used to go around calling friends & foes alike ‘dickheads’{term of endearment ;)} back in my old school days, but can u enlighten me to the Indonesian meaning for it?

Since we r on ‘butuh’, the most innocence mistake (or was it deliberate) a malay newspaper did was to publish the headline “Bhutto digantung” when Ali Bhutto, the then president/PM of Pakistan was hanged back in the 70’s….funny on a sad occasion.

Yes, we always used the word ‘kopek’ for gambling sessions involving cards as in shuffling.


Oldstock said...

Way to go As! I like your style!

I think I'll follow you. I'm going to use the words as I understand them... as and when I please. So no more holding back on the last kopek phrase...muahaha!

Oldstock said...

Hi Tommy,

Eh... tak baik tau you panggil kawan2 you pakai that word, hehehe..

In Bahasa Indonesia, butuh means need or require, as in the following sentence :

Aku membutuhkan cinta mu untuk hidup di dunia ini.

As for the kopek term in card-playing, I would love to know how it got coined.

anneaziz said...

Salam oldstock

Betui! Rendang ikan is goreng ikan, but note it's a verb and not a noun. So don't say ikan rendang in the north or you'll get someone `guffawing' behind you, and it might very well be me!

Sorry others may say that p*nt*t or B*t*h mean different things elsewhr, but no matter where I am, kelantan, indonesia or wherever...i still cannot say those words.

I remember I laughed out loud when my johor friend talked about her gobok air batu.

Oldstock said...


Gobok air batu tu hanya boleh dijumpa di Johor, hahaha... kadang-kadang kita panggil esbox je :-)

Err... boleh tak guna perkataan rendang tu untuk menggoreng bende lain? Let's say, rendang cokodok?

anneaziz said...

Salam oldstock!

Setakat I penah come across, cuma ikan je le...lain tak dak.

Mmmm...cucoq fave kuih semalaysia!

Lili said...

anne, anne....hahaha!
(I'm tossing my head and laughing out loud at your comment here!) Yelah, Oldstock, mane ade rendang cucoq kodok/cekodok! I penah dengo rendang ikan, rendang sayuq... heh!
Nasib baik ada back-up ni.

Oldstock said...


Ok, my next question is : what to the people of north Perak call the rendang daging that we all know as rendang daging that we normally get time raya?