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|