Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Barely alive

In some of my responses to social media comments from friends, I often use the Malay idiom nyawa-nyawa ikan to describe the present political career of a certain minister. The phrase has a graphic impact and apply to a condition (life, career or business situation, for example) that is barely alive or in its last gasp of breath before expiring.

As usual, after using such a phrase, I often wonder how it originated. Sad to say, all my online search for Malay word or phrase origins have revealed very little. Apart from telling us what the idiom means, no website has provided information on how, when or who created the phrase. There aren't any websites whose authors or administrators are even willing to offer a theory on how such sayings came to be.

This pales in comparison to websites that offer the etymology of English words and origins of the most popular and common phrases. Malay language and literary scholars still have a long way to go, it seems.

In the absence of such theories, I guess I'll offer one of mine :

Nyawa-nyawa ikan ~ when a fish is caught on a hook and pulled to the river bank or into the perahu, it would flop here and there, gasping for water and struggle for a bit before finally reaching the end. The duration from the time it is taken out of the water and the time it stops moving is not a terribly long one. Some wise wordsmith of old then thought that this situation would aptly describe someone who is in his final throes of survival.

Not a nice situation to be in...

On sale at our local fishmonger at the central market

6 comments:

Andrea said...

Unfortunately, there are some who totally defy the nyawa ikan syndrome. These are the bottom dwellers with elastic mouths which feed by fastening themselves to objects in fast moving waters. They can sting when provoked, are voracious, slimy and can live out of water for hours and even days. Yup! just like the infamous (but utterly yummilicious) ikan keli. LOL.

Anonymous said...

Just to say hi n tq ziarah blog terpinggir cik som. Tak boleh ack. kat alkisah atas sbb2 tertentu, haha. Kemalasan berkarya amat disesali.

Oldstock said...

Hi Andrea,

Hahaha, an excellent metaphor indeed! Ikan keli is one of those fish I cannot make myself to consume. So I'll take your word that it's yummylicious, hehe..

Oldstock said...

Salam Puan CS. Kemalasan berkarya memang tiada ubatnya, hehehe... and I'm speaking from experience, of course :-)

SXBAND said...

Hi Oldstock
I left some comments about Gabriel Mason on your blog Christmas in Kuching.
Can I get in touch with him?
Colin

Oldstock said...

Hi Colin,

I understand that Gabriel now works in Balikpapan in Indonesia. I don't have a mobile number for him. Our communication is mostly via Facebook these days. If you can give me your contact details, I'll send him a message on FB. Drop me a line at my alternative email, fadhil.isma@gmail.com.

Did you comment on the Christmas in Kuching post? I checked but couldn't find it. Anyway, nice of you to drop by. Let me know if I can help in any other way.