14 June 2012


The Malay for long-sighted is rabun dekat (lit. 'blind close') and for short-sighted it is rabun jauh (lit. 'blind far').

I wonder how much confusion this causes, given that the Malay word dekat ('near') is associated with what in English we call 'long-sighted' (or what Americans call 'near-sighted'), and the Malay word jauh ('distant') is associated with the English 'short-sighted'.

I imagine that dominant Malay speakers would find the English terms quite confusing, and similarly people who learn the English words first would be bemused by their Malay equivalents, especially since rabun doesn't seem to occur much outside of these two phrases. (The basic word for 'blind' in Malay seems to be buta, not rabun.)

My Malay-English dictionary glosses rabun as 'poor', which isn't very helpful. In contrast, the excellent on-line Pusat Rujukan Persuratan Melayu offers 'blind' as a translation, which is a bit better. Perhaps 'poor-sighted' or 'half-blind' might be the best gloss for rabun.