26 August 2010


Here's a rather surprising entry in my Malay-English dictionary:The trouble with this is that, in English, the word handsome in the sense of 'lucrative' really only occurs together with the word profit. It is almost like a fixed phrase, and so glossing the word lumayan as handsome is rather misleading.

Now, one shouldn't make statements like I have just done without first checking one's facts, preferably in a large corpus of modern data. I don't have easy access to one of those, but a quick-and-easy way of checking things is to search for the phrase (in double quotes) in Google. And that gives the following results:
93,800 : handsome profit
15,300 : handsome prize
 6,860 : handsome cost
 4,860 : handsome wage
 2,020 : handsome advantage
This suggests that, although handsome can sometimes occur with other words, handsome profit is by far the most common collocation, so my claim that it is a fixed phrase is partially confirmed.

The trouble with dictionaries is that they don't tend to show collocational information like that. Now, to its credit, my dictionary does offer an example sentence, and indeed, most of the illustrative sentences it gives are incredibly valuable. Even so, I feel that giving the English equivalent of lumayan as handsome is a bit misleading.