21 May 2010

kompaun / compound

The Malay word kompaun means "an on-the-spot fine", for example an immediate fine for speeding or dumping rubbish illegally. It appears to come from the English word compound, but with a substantial shift in meaning.

According to Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary, one of the meanings of compound is "to agree for a consideration not to prosecute", and presumably this is the origin of the Malay kompaun. However, this must be an archaic use of the word in English, as I have never heard it used in that way.

What is interesting is that the word compound, as in 'prison compound', is probably derived from the Malay word kampung ('village'), though again we note a substantial shift in meaning, as it does not refer to a village when used in 'prison compound'.

So we have compound being borrowed into English from the Malay kampung, and at the same time we have kompaun coming from English compound. Quite a splendid example of bidirectional borrowing!