Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Mind your language!

As I speak fluent Malay, I don't have much problem speaking the local Indonesian language which is a close cousin to the Malay we speak back home. However, not all the words are familiar to me and I can often be found gazing at signs, looking rather mystified.

Take, for example, ponsel. What the heck is that??? It looks rather like the word pensel, which is pencil to you and me in Malaysia. But I knew it had nothing to do with pencils because I always saw this word at booths that sold phones and SIM cards. Finally, I realised it was a combination of telepon and selular ie a cellphone!

There were signs that I understood instantly even if the wording looked peculiar to me. For example, on highways you are advised to Kurangkan kecepatan. In Malaysia, a sign that says Kurangkan Laju means you should slow down. Kecepatan to Malaysians is usually used in the context of quickness as in "Come quickly!" and not refering to a speeding vehicle. As I explained to Dear Hubby, "Imagine a public sign in England that said 'Mind your heed, you eejit!'"

Even the menu amuses me. Sop buntut had me giggling away in the hotel pub. It's oxtail soup, which we call sup ekor back home (lit. tail soup). But the Indon name for it is literally "Arse soup" and buntut is not a very erm.. genteel word in daily language for us.

I learnt a new word yesterday from our driver. It's ngobrol, which means "talking to". So... all together now... Are you ngobrol to me?

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