14 October 2015

Words borrowed from English

My Brunei Malay dictionary shows some words with 'Ig', to indicate that they come from English. While the origin of some is obvious (basikal, batri, kompeni, radiu), others can be more puzzling. See if you can guess what the following might be. To help, I'll give you the meaning.

bikium : a machine to clean the floor
guhit : to move forward
gustan : to move backwards
kulbat : a drain
kumpum : to validate
pain : money you have to pay
putbul : a game
waksap : a place to get your car repaired

The answers are as follows:

bikium : vacuum
guhit : go ahead
gustan : go astern
kulbat : culvert
kumpum : confirm
pain : fine
putbul : football
waksap : workshop

Of course, it helps to know that Brunei Malay doesn't have /f/ or /v/, so /p/ and /b/ are used in their place.

Even so, some of the entries are bizarre, For example, kiket ('ticket') is also listed even though Brunei Malay has a /t/.

10 October 2015


In American English, cooties is used as a term of abuse by children, indicating some other child is abnormal in some way. Typical usage might be 'Now you've got cooties.'

Originally, apparently it referred to lice, but now it seems to have become extended to refer to anything abnormal.

One of my students today told me that it comes from the Malay word kutu, meaning 'louse'.

01 October 2015

wezi sar

A friend was negotiating with an Indian grass-cutter for the fellow to come and cut his grass, and he got the following text reply:

Sar tumaru tudy am wezi sar

He eventually worked it out as:

Sir, tomorrow; today am busy, sir.

I have to admit that it left me completely perplexed; but I guess that people who use text messages more frequently than me might have no problem.