30 September 2010


A word that seems to get used rather a lot in Brunei is poklen, to describe someone who is unsophisticated, a kind of 'country bumpkin'. Maybe the Singapore equivalent is a-beng.

There used to be a Wikipedia page which claimed that poklen came from Portland. It stated that most people supported fashionable English football teams such as Chelsea, Manchester United or Liverpool, but others went to the other extreme and supported Portland, the least fashionable team. The trouble with this is that there is no team called Portland. Portsmouth, yes, and one can sympathise with the poor souls who continue to support Portsmouth. But Portland does not exist and never has existed. In other words, the story is a complete myth. (Thankfully, the Wikipedia page has now been removed.)

A more credible explanation was told me by my UBD colleague, Salbrina Sharbawi. She says poklen comes from Falklands, which are rather remote islands in the south Atlantic. The initial /f/ becoming /p/ makes sense, as Malay does not have a /f/, except in a few words borrowed from Arabic such as faham ('to understand') and fikir ('to think').

Does poklen really come from Falklands? We'll probably never know for certain.