11 August 2011


In my previous post, I discussed the Malay saying kacang lupa kulit ('a peanut forgetting its skin') to describe someone who abandons their roots. My UBD colleague, Aznah Suhaimi, suggests another expression: lupa daratan ('forget the land') to describe the same concept.

In translating kacang into English, I had a problem: should it be 'peanut' or 'bean'? One can say that Malay has the superordinate (more general term) while English has two hyponyms (more specific terms). Of course, sometimes it is the other way round: English has the superordinate term rice while Malay has three hyponyms, padi, beras, or nasi, depending on whether it is growing in the fields, for sale in a shop, or cooked and ready to be eaten.

When I first found out that kacang could mean either 'peanut' or 'bean', I thought it was crazy. How can one have the same word for these two different things?

But then I thought some more and realised that Malay actually gets it right: a peanut is not a nut at all, it's a legume, which is just a fancy name for a bean. So it is English that gets it wrong, by allowing people to think that peanuts are types of nuts.