On Trengganuspeak and the Spirit of Trengganu

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Brave New World

On Seeing That Terengganu Has A New MB
[For starters, go here: Video]

Bila mung bbalöh denge orang Pah ddalang Dèwang
Mung napök betol macang anök Teganung hanelang,
Bèkèng denge mmusang, mung dok ddiri ccacang
Yang di Pertua dök kata apa, gamök oh dia hèrang
Orang Pah bila tèngok mmata mung dok cerlöng
Basöh jjerok seluör dalang, rasa macang nök nnölöng
Mung kata dia peranga macang sètang, pé’é nnatang
Géng-géng mung pong tepok meja ddegung ddegang
Sokong mung anok Teganung betollah anök jatang
Bila aku tengok tu aku teringak masa sekölöh
Lepah nngaji petang-petang masok rök ajök ggöcöh
Aku suka mung hidop balik warisang kita hök lama
Orang le ning dök panda döh nök wak ggitu serema.
Mung kata dia paka sökök tapi peranga macang Sètang
Mung kata dia kata je gèntelmèng tapi dia dök setarang
Lepah tu mung ajök orang Pah ggöcöh lluör Dèwang
Aku pong tepok tangang tèngok mung anök jatang
Tapi filem habih derah ddö'öh, dök sapa penghabisang.
Gamök öh mung gi cari rumöh dia di Wakah Ppelang
Gi tago denge batu, kalu dia ada pong döh kena tang,
Orang apa macang ggining, ajök ggöcöh tak mboh setarang
Dia gi nnusuk derumöh Haji Hadi di cerök bandör Marang.
Ggitulah hök kita nök sangak di Teganu kita jamang le ning
Kita hidopkang tabèak lama, dök payöh tertib terning
Ggömö gguling bating, ddegung degang bbira dinding
Naik semangak tèngök mung lèk-lèk macang pahlawang
Kalulah dulu mung yang kita hantör gi ke negeri Pahang
Tentu Teganu menang, Tong Teja jadi bining Panji Alang:
Tapi döh nök wak guana nök kata setarang!

Pah tu bila negeri Teganung bising bbangör takdök menteri
Kami pong rama-rama beratang tengök laporang hök di TV
Aku kkejuk tèngök mung paka sökök, surak watikah pong diberi
Yay, mölèk döh mung pulök jadi orang besör ddalang nègeri
Bila bbahah di Dèwang habih lah orang Pah tembör lari
Sebab mung bèkèng, gèntelmèng, paka sökök pulök le ni.

Further Reading:
Adab al-Mufrad, esp. XV & DV

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Political Animal

NatangEveryone knows and Aristotle reputedly said, that man is a political animal. These are people who have read Aristotle's Politics and used their dab hands to translate their feelings onto a length of material that now carries that pull-quote from Aristotle: Natang. I would’ve spelt it differently myself to give it its full Trengganuspeak fervour, nnatang which, as you know, is our version of the standardspeak binatang, a word that translates as ‘animal’. So we know now that there are two things here on display, animus and animal in one banner.

When I first saw this photo (that has just been sent to me) I was as puzzled as anybody. Is Natang the man signing his own name on his political banner, or is the word directed at another, someone who, in this sordid piece of rag, is the object of their anger, the Natang/Animal?

In Terengganu nnatang is an everyday word used for convenience or in jest to refer to something you just can’t be bothered to name. Mana lah benda nnatang tu? Aku dok cari nngate. Where is that wretched thing? I’ve searched for it everywhere. But if, as is probably the case here, that ‘Natang’ is someone who has caused these Terengganu Aristotelian scholars much anger, then there is something really serious here. This is Terengganu politics at work today, a group of political desperados calling another an inappropriate name, without any sense of tertib terning, falling into the realm of dök jjuruh haröh, and carrying more than just a bit of nanör. And if my informant is right about who the despicable word is directed at, then I would say that this is an even more despicable act that is described in both Standard and Trengganuspeak, only we pronounce it kurang hajör, a phrase that describes their behaviour as beneath contempt, and indicative of the way that they have been brought up, and the mildest that can be said about that is ‘very badly’.

In my blogs I have steered clear of party politics, though I have many times expressed concern at the way Trengganu — and Kuala Terengganu especially — is being developed solely for the tourists and the Michelle Yeohs of this world. When GUiT was launched in Kuala Terengganu last December, we called it our Monsoon Cuppa at the Kedai Pök Löh Yunang as a celebration of the ordinary people. The name of the event took a dig at that other circus in town that was totally useless for the town and even less useful for the common people. We mentioned Aristotle earlier, so just in case these neo-Aristotelains of Kuala Terengganu city want to invoke his name in defence of their use of that unfortunate epithet, then I will say in defence of Aristotle [“I don’t need it,” – Aristotle] that the classical Greek word zoon in his zoon politikon does not really translate as ‘animal’ but ‘living being’; and politikon isn’t really politics( in the sense of UMNO or PAS or DAP or BN) but it was ‘society’ that he was referring to.

But this is what politics (in brackets above) has done to people and, even more sadly, to the people of Terengganu. It has made them — I regret to say — kurang hajör, in the sense of being uneducated or untutored at its mildest, and of being badly brought up, which is the worst indictment in Malay society.

Soon after I came back from Terengganu, in early March, I went to visit an old friend who was ailing in a hospital here. Some of you may remember him as Ustaz Jais, fromer leader of the youth wing of PAS and son-in-law of former PAS stalwart and Kelantan Menteri Besar Datuk Mohammad Asri. It was just before the Malaysian elections, so, just before I left I whispered in his ear, “I suppose you’ll be praying for a PAS victory in Terengganu.”

“No,” he replied calmly. “I’m praying that God will give victory to the righteous.” So I too am praying as my friend did for Terengganu — my Trengganu — now.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Second Person Accusative

A day shadowed by grey foreboding, baying dogs and cats hunched in electric shocks of fur, mewling at some ghostly presence in the air. A storm cloud over the head, with the cerlöng of the mother's eye piercing the skin and soul of the wrongdoer.

Cerlöng is an old Trengganuspeak word, old in the sense that it was learnt as soon as one moved past the stage of toddlerhood and was just becoming conscious of this adult world. It was a look transmitted behind the backs of perfect strangers, between polite words in gracious company, in waiting rooms, or in conditions where unseemly words could only be expressed in blankets of pretend harmony from an elder to a child: No, you've had one piece of cake too many already! No, they're not amused by your antics even if they pretend to be tickled silly! No, you stop it now or...

Mung ning is the sequel to all that, the cerlöng Mk II. This is the “hey-you” accusative of the adult world, applied to the person probably who's well past his or her twenty-first birthday (perhaps earlier if you're the type to sprout bristles before Gillette's call if you're a boy; if you're a girl and are somewhat similarly hirsute in your upper lip, then you probably have Greek ancestors). Some may tone it down a little by using the gentler mu, not mung, but it's balance that gives Trengganuspeak its quality, so mung and ning go hand-in-hand like Freemasons and their trowel. Then comes mung ning gök which could be the hat, not thrown into the ring, but cast from a distance, to the hook on your wall. And it's the sound of gök that turns the pointing finger into just a friendly tickle. If the act continues, and the taunted child starts to holler, maybe it's time for another friendly fire, ”Mung ning gök èh!” spoken with prolonged terminals, with upwardly lilting gööök that's dropped with the exhaled èh! But the real mung ning! is enough to send the shivers, especially if issued from adult lips, and the more potent is he if his moustache is a handlebar, and his semutar's weather-worn, and he's trembling and fidgeting in the digitals.

“Mung ning...aku döh kata döh tu!” The last five words — with two past tense indicators (döh) for effect — simply mean “I've told you so”. But the mung ning phrase adds the indictment of the Grand Jury: Yes, you, I mean YOU! Do not, unless you're standing by the exit door, add anything more to the discourse; just be like dad and keep mum for a while.

“Mung ning ddö'öh lalu!” “Mung ning dök jjuruh haröh!” “Mung ning dök patok ddö'öh!” are different expressions of the same misdemeanour, for which, if you're caught in the act or in flagrante delicto as some would say, you'd be wise to tembör celubu to an area with no extradition treaty.

Make a dash for it, as they!


Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Kerengga Tree

The kerengga tree stood as tall as the house, its fingers grasping the sky. In the morning it trapped light that glistened on its broad leaves, and it made the kerenggas luminescent in their queue to their daily chore of examining jambus and exchanging gossip in the Besut language of the kerengga. As they did this, their antennae waved in search of encroaching enemies that they bit ferociously in the hands or in parts too delicate to tell.

kerenggaKerenggas (Oecophylla smaragdina ) lived in funnel-shaped leaves glued with kerengga glue. They feasted on the juice of the jambu and slept soundly in their nests even when the rain lashed onto this sleepy hollow of Kampung Raja. At the break of the next day's morn we did not see kerenggas strewn into the sodden grass but they were happily queueing up to go about their kerengga ways, carrying shreds of leaves, antennae waving and light shining through their translucent redness and their bird-like heads and dew-drop tummies that were bloating with the fermenting juice of the jambu.

The kerengga had always been there, in the tree with wood so mottled and marked by the feet of young climbers. The kerengga tree bore jambu or the water apple (S. aqueum) that was green or rose red in colour, the latter aptly named the jambu mawar, but in Besut they loved its rose red tint so much they called it the jambu penawar or the healing jambu. kerengga treeBut our grandfather's kerengga tree bore the green jambu air, just pulp and water in a fruit whose shape would have described the classic Malay nose, had the Malays not preferred to compare theirs to the jasmine flower. On the jambu strutted the biting ants that bit and reeked of formic acid when crushed by an irate kerengga tree climber. We sometimes sat between the tree's branches on the stem that leant backwards, and pretended that we were driving a car. It was the kerengga tree that welcomed us when we arrived from a day's travel from Kuala Trengganu, in an uncle's car, or a taxi that Father hired in Jerteh after we'd disembarked from the Trengganu Bus Company. On many afternoons Father and his brothers and perhaps a distant uncle sat on the covered porch — the anjung — that unfurled above the steps, before the folding-door that opened to the main hall. The morning sun shone brightly through the leaves of the kerengga tree but conversazione time was in the shade on the anjung after asar; and in the nights, with the gentle breeze singing through the leaves when the moondrops painted a ghostly sheen on the jambus, the light and the wind lulled the kerengga to sleep as we formed a semi-circle around Ayöh Ngöh, who was Father's younger brother. The pressure lamp hissed brightly overhead and the Kampung Raja air was quiter in its night than in its day, so we welcomed Ayöh Ngöh's homespun story of his unlikely super hero named Pök Wè.

Pök Wè as he appeared to us in between the rustlings of the nocturnal leaves of the kerengga tree was a picaresque character, teeth reddened by years of siréh-chewing, a kain pelikat for his daily wear, with a Malay baju as his top armour and a ppiöh lembèk worn at a jaunty angle. On casual days I imagined him to be coiling his semutar cloth around his head as he rushed to his daily errands, or to chase after a straying buffalo. On Fridays he'd probably put on his baju kot made from khaki material, brass-buttoned, as worn by the peons in government offices during colonial days. Needless to say, Pök Wè lived by his wits and his wind, and the latter we celebrated with a loud cheer as Ayöh Ngöh spun it from the top of his head, with a merry glint in his eye, of how Pök Wè repelled one or several enemies with the blast of his ketok singgang, a resounding fart basted in some home-cooked brew.

I never figured out what Ayöh Ngöh did in his daily life,kerengga but I could have believed it if he was the real life Pök Wè. He turned up at Grandfather's (his father's) house daily, close to dusk, sometimes in his neat haji's turban and his crisply laundered baju and kain pelikat. A few times we saw him in the market in Jerteh, in the khaki uniform of the trading inspector; he read kitabs and the Utusan Melayu, and had a way of dismissing wayward men and their peccadilloes as if they were comic-strip characters in his daily paper.

And then the light would dim in the lamp above and Ayöh Ngöh would rise and lower its pressure even further to douse out the light completely, and the hall would fade into the semi-darkness of our sleeping hour. Well, I must go now, he'd say as he put Pök Wè to sleep, and then, impervious to our pleadings, he'd open one folding part of the door, and twirl his ppiöh a little on the anjong, and then he'd hem a little under the kerengga tree as he headed for the gate to cycle home to his house by the river.

With thanks:
1. The beautiful kerengga courtesy of A. San Juan, here
2. The kerengga tree photo courtesy of Möh.

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