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Saturday, May 03, 2008

Some things are best left in English

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Image taken from, hosting by Photobucket... and sometimes not.
(lots more at

Here's what prompted this post - it was a TV commercial that had the Bahasa Malaysia word "pengion" in it. Initially, Walski thought that it was a misspelling of penguin. But no... the commercial had nothing to do with arctic wild life. Can you guess what the word means? (hint: original word's in English)

Walski will tell you - but not yet.

Like many other languages, Bahasa Malaysia (or Melayu, if you prefer) is a language that continues to evolve. A lot of words have been borrowed from other languages over the years... like almari and mentega (cupboard and butter, respectively) which were borrowed from Portugese many moons ago...

But Walski thinks that some words, terms and phrases are best left in English...

Take for instance the technical word motherboard. One would be tempted to literally translate it into papan ibu - which would probably make an exemplary motherboard a papan ibu mithali. Okay, stale joke... Actually, the correct BM term for it is papan induk. But try going to Low Yat Plaza, and ask for a papan induk, and you're probably better off saying "motherboard". Which, like it or not, everybody understands.

Or how about joystick?
(joystick in BM is not what you think, and more, in the full post)

If you guessed batang gembira - well... close. The correct term is actually kayu ria - which, Walski reckons, almost brings as much joy as a Naza Ria, especially the cucuk-dan-main variety... Oh, another term for joystick is kayu bedik - for reasons best known to Dewan Bahasa.... So, for the time being, Walski probably will stick to the English version...

Being a frequent air traveller, another word that's intrigued Walski for a long time is bagasi, signs for which you'll see at any Malaysian airport. It means baggation baggage, of course... but wouldn't just beg have been sufficient? Or was this word created so that foreign English-speaking tourists don't get the impression that one has to plead for your luggage?

And then you have these brainiac geniuses at Astro who reckon that the viewing audience needs Bahasa Malaysia subtitles - whether they like it or not. Like, for the movie channels, for instance. Instead of giving viewers a choice (yes, there is a way to do this), we are forced to endure these sometimes annoying subtitles.

Particularly when these fucktards get into really super-annoying mode and start translating songs!

Image hosting by PhotobucketAstro membuatkan Leonard Cohen lembut dan bogel...

The screenshot you see above is from the brilliant tribute documentary "Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man", which aired recently on Astro's Star Movies. The line is from the song "Tonight Will Be Fine", covered in the film by Teddy Thompson, which in its original English, reads

"she's the soft naked lady love meant her to be"
(taken from

It actually sounds half-obscene, half-nonsensical when translated into BM. Mistranslated, at that. Why the fuck bother? "Dia gadis lembut yang berbogel dan dia maksudkannya". WTF!

Or translating Bhagavad Gita which Cohen mentions and quotes from as "Bugabeta"? Which also glaringly makes it evident what kind of illiterate numbskulls work at the country's one and only satellite TV monopoly. But that's a whole other rant...

In fact, to Walski, what Astro has done really demeans the lyrical and poetic genius of Leonard Cohen. Whose work, like it or not, is in English.

And in English it should remain...

"Mula-mula kita ambil Manhattan, kemudian kita ambil Berlin..."
(original lyrics)

Yeah, right...

Walski's PENGION footnote: In case you were wondering, the word "pengion" Walski mentioned earlier is the Bahasa Malaysia translation of ionizer, a feature of a particular air conditioner model whose commercial he was referring to... It has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with penguins.