On Trengganuspeak and the Spirit of Trengganu

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Mat Sprong Ngilla Sapa Ddarak, III

Earlier episodes: I, II.

Ddarak macang-macang geröh buleh jjadi: nyiör buleh jatoh ddebök atah ppala bila dok tengöh jjalang, kaki buleh ssembak akör kayu, betis buleh ketik llipang atau patuk dulör, kalu kerengga, semuk gata tu mmalah nök kata je.

Bila bunyi seeeer! keluar dari belakang rök pohong kedudok ddalang gelak, suara kasör jereköh tubek tiba-tiba, lepah tu bbunyi pulök bising bbangör. Mat Sprong nnocak derah-derah dari tempat dia dok ccacang, seluör dia ngeccik sikik kena pacör.

“Ba’ape yang mung dök jjuruh sangak ning? Mung dök napök ke aku dok ccakong belakang ning?” Suara serök keluör dari balik pohong kedudok, hök daungnya kena ngeccik bau hacing pperök tu keluar sorang tua paka kaing batik lepah sela sepinggang; Mat cepak-cepak angkat balik zip seluör. Cik Kaleh suloh denge lampu picik.

“Eh, Pök Soh, mitök maaf bbanyök, ambe dök buleh tahang sangat takdi, dah ketek-ketek benör,” kata Mat.

“Mak, ddarak ning mung kena uting mmölek sikik, jangang dok pacör ikut dang je!” Pök Soh kilah kaing mmolek, muka penöh tanda tanya.

Mat ppaling ke Cik Kaleh. “Ninglah hök aku dok cerita kat mung tu, hök nama Pök Soh tu,” dia kata.

“Takdi aku dok derumöh kering mölek-mölek ada, keluör sekejak je, hujang dök ribot dök habih basöh jjerok!” Kata Pök Soh lagi, selamba.

“Mitök maaflah Pök Soh, ambe denge Leh ning mari nök jjupa Pök Soh jugök, nök tanya pasa ngilla tu.” jawak Mat, ssipu-sipu.

Pök Soh jjalang dulu balik ke rumöh, Mat denge Cik Kaleh ikut dari belakang, muka Cik Kaleh kkeruk sebab dök buleh tahang nök suka.

Sapa ttanga, Pök Soh ambek air dari ppayang, jiruh kaing ssahang dia. “Guana aku nak cerita kat bining aku ning, mesti dia tömöh aku kecing ttikör,” dia kata sambil dia retak kaing dia ke udara.

“Mung katalah, döh nök geröh, nök wak guane!” sapok Mat.

* * *

Cik Kaleh denge Mat dudok bbawöh lapu pang. Pök Soh keluör paka kaing baru, batik Wang Mang dari Ttanjong Pata. Dia bawök naik jari dia ke muka sambil kkeruk hidong; dia nasihat Mat: “Laing kali kalu mung nök kecing ddalang rök janganglah makang peta!”

Mat denge Cik kaleh dök tahang, terus suka kik-kik!; bini Pök Soh keluör dari belakang tabir. Pulok lepa, ggenang, tepong bukus ssusong atah pinggang, ttepi talang ada dua gelas kopi o.

Tiba-tiba dari ddalang gelak, jauh dari belöh matahari naik keluör bunyi hök buat Cik Kaleh naik seria.

“Oook, ook! Ooooooooooo....” bbunying lagi.

Mat Sprong döh ddebör dak-dak, tapi dia cuba wak dök je, tangang kanang dia pegang bungkus kecik lleher, azimat hök dia dapat dari Tok Bbageh masa di negeri Sekebong Bunga. Semangak dia naik sikik, mata dia dok keleh ke tepung bungkus denge kuih ggenang.

“Ggininglah Mak, “ kata Pök Soh. “Mung dengör bunying setang tu takdi. Tulah hök wak Mök Soh mung dök jjuruh aröh tu, tidor dök lelak, mandi dök basöh, makang pong dök, minung pong nök kata dök kena.”

Mök Soh lenggök ke atah, leher dia kkeduk, muka ceköng sebab kurang tidor. “Ggininglah kita le ning, bila lelak mata je bbunying setang tu dari belakang rök balik atah kubor tu.”

“Oook, ook! Ooooooooooo....” bunyi tu mari balik, macang orang gila dok ngilla, macang anjing lekak ccelöh pagör.

“Gi Soh, ambek kelepèr aku cceloh pitu tu,” kata Mök Soh ke laki dia. Pök Soh ikut selalu, dök banyök soal.

“Höh Mak, ambek ni, mung buak belanja,” kata Mök Soh.

“Dök payöh, natilah dulu,” kata Mat. Dia tarik tangang dari pitis hök Mök Soh hulor tu.

Bila dia tengök peranga Mat, Pök Soh ambek pitis tu dari tangang bini dia. “Ambeklah Mak, kang mung nök buat belanja dulu,” dia kata sambil tangang dia masuk kköcek seluör Mat. Pah tu dia ciung jari dia dua-tiga kali.

* * *

Jjalang balik Cik Kaleh göhek teksi dia ikut Jalang Paya Bunga, pötöng ikut Jalang Ceröng Lanjut, dök lalu ikut jerak Cina. Mat dok nnengung bbawöh hood, mata dia kelik-kelik dok ikut angang-angang di ppala.

“Ba’ape tadi mung Mak?” tanya Cik Kaleh bila teksi lalu bbawöh cahaya lapu kuning Jalang Pejabak Jang Besör.

“Ba’ape Leh?” jawab Mat, kkejut, bangung dari khayal.

“Takdi mung buak macang lebai, tak mboh pitis hök Mok Soh beri.”

“Kenalah ggitu, Leh. Kerja mata gelak ning dökleh lah buak löklak sangak, macang göhek teksi,” kata Mat. Cik Kaleh cerlöng sapa ppinör mata.

Kemudiang dia ccakak balik. “Mak, takdi aku tengök jalor kaing Pök Soh tu.”

Mat dök kata apa. Mata dia dok sölör bayang-bayang balik pohong ru.

“Aku tengök jalor patat kaing hök kena kecing mung tu, ada tiga jalor kuning, dua ija, tiga kuning,” kata Cik Kaleh.

“Apa kena ngenne denge apa-apa ni, Leh?” tanya Mat.

“Döklah, aku ingak mölek nombor tu kalu aku gi tikang ekör.”

Noteh: Cerita ning rekaang semata-mata. Kalu ada orang atau tepak hök sama macang ddalang ning, tu kebetolang je.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Growing Up In Trengganu #793, 616

Sometimes, late afternoon, we’d walk to the water's edge — ujong tanjong — and watch the dots in the horizon or the payangs coming in with the catch. There were barges bobbing up and down in the busy waters, the rivermouth that put the kuala in Kuala Trengganu. And Cik Jusoh the beachcomber walked past us with twigs and sticks in his hands, picked as they were washed on to the shore.

Cik Soh as we called him, was in mufti which was unlike the clothes that he wore to the mosque. In the former he had a coil of rag on his head and a tattered sarong around the waist, the kaing ssahang that Trengganu males hung on the nail stuck in the wall, or on the wire stretched taut across the verandah as an all-purpose clothes hanger. The ssahang was casual wear for days when we couldn’t be bothered with the sarong and shirt and the songkok at a jaunty angle. It was a one piece item of apparel that covered your parts from the navel down to just below the knee. The head piece was another rag, rolled like a snake of faded batik that coiled placidly over the brow.

In his foraging work Cik Soh struck an interesting pose, his trunk bent slightly forward, and his hands crossed at the wrists behind his back. In this manner he held two driftwoods or three in his hands that were kept away from his body or clothes because Cik Soh, in his eccentricity, had a clinical dread of the unclean parts of his body, like his feet, or the dust of common people. He kept himself to himself and parts of himself from himself, and rarely spoke to other people for fear of being touched. Standing now against the setting sun, with his hands pulled to his back, he was a big, dark praying-mantis silhouette figure.

The day’s end pushed our Tanjong people to the water, to earn their keep from the incoming payang boats or to sit and enjoy the buzz of work. Driftwood provided fuel for domestic fires and children threw sticks and dug holes and chased crabs that waved then bolted to their tiny holes as the waves came back, sending the kids back to the sandy mounds, zig-zagging between adults on their haunches, their sarongs loosened at the waist then pulled to the top. “Jjalang mmolek bila gi ppata,” they used to warn the freewheeling novitiates, “Tread carefully when you’re on the beach” for those burqaed squatting men (and sometimes women) were using the beach as one big toilet in the open air.

We’d find a safe place to sit when the light began to fade and sometimes we spoke to a woman who waved a hurricane lamp to a dot of light at sea. As if by magic the beam of light would twinkle back, and she’d wave again with a contented chuckle. Her husband was pilot on the ship that was coming into the kuala with trade from the godowns of Singapore. We had many men in Trengganu who wore their job descriptions with their names, one such that I can still remember is Pak Ali Pailét, but in this instance I’m not sure if it was he.

The beach was a blessing to us and a fear. On some nights when the moon pulled in the tides, our Tamil shopkeepers pulled their sarongs up to a decent level for them to wade in and rescue merchandise from the water. In his youth, Father said, he used to squeeze lime juice on his freshly shorn head to get the extra head-chilling oomph from the sea breeze blowing on-shore. We had heaps of twigs and the buah rengas coming in when the sea was rough, as the waves lapped in with a mighty roar. There were dead cows and lengths of rope and the gömök seed that we used for kör in children’s games, and long tendrils called rumput jjulok that had a pulpy core that we dipped in ink before shaping into pretty flowers. A crowd gathered one day in the back corner of the market to leer at a dead body that was washed into the teluk. And then a boat came adrift one day, blown by the monsoon winds from the distant shores of Sulawesi. With it came a mighty man we called Bachök who liked us and stayed to father a son called Mat who went to school with my brother. When, in his old age, Bachök expressed a wish to go back to the shore from where he blew into our midst, the hold of Kampung Tanjong was already so firm on him that he stayed on to be laid finally to rest in the earth of Kuala Trengganu.

The shore that Bachök came to is no more, washed out in bits and drabs into the sea by the changing flows and pulls of the water. Ujung Tanjong as we knew it is now submerged like some lost kingdoms under the sea, and sometimes I even wonder if people still do the squat on the sandy dunes of our pantai.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

12. How to...röcöh, cöcöh, rödök

‘Oh’ to be in Trengganu when the sutong* meets the ccandak** people!

But that’s not the oh that we’re interested in here.

A true Trengganuian will know where to place his or her ‘oh’ when push comes to shove, when it’s time to röcöh or cöcöh . This is the öH that goes up the nose like the wasabe on your sushi, not that usual glottal burst of outgoing air.

But first let’s rödök our way into this whole quagmire, armed with the knowledge that no one rödöks without meaning to hurt. It is the course of the jouster, coming at you with a long rod, albeit blunted with a pineapple, but a hurtful act nevertheless — throwing you off your horse, sweeping you clean off your verandah, face flat on earth and all that, nursing a deep wound in your anterior. Sorry about that, life wasn’t all roses in days when these words held sway.

There are things you should not rödök though, not with a barge-pole. A hornet’s nest is one, a person bigger than you is another (unless you’re absolutely certain that’ll spell ‘finis’ for him for the while). The rödökers in those times of alfresco warfare were the spear wielders, the long kris bearers and anyone who could grab a sharp stick that happened to be nearby. Now you’ll gather from these acts that to rödök one has to be in control of the piercing implement throughout, because the implement has to be guided by the hand towards the intended object, and then pushed into the same with the might of your soul. Needless to say, you’ll need a long, preferably sharp, object, such as the said spear, or a galöh. A galöh in peacetime is used to pluck fruits from a tall tree, and that’s galah in standardspeak or in the hands of posh people.

For reasons best known to the arbiters if this kind of protruding activity, you can only rödök with a long stick, but not with a toothpick or your finger. So a poke in the eye is cöcöh, with the nasal terminal. You’ll have to speak to a Trengganuer to know how that’s done, the nasal part I mean, as it’s difficult to know it without an utterer. If, when you’ve meet a Trengganuer, you poke your finger in his/her eye, s/he will — if anging dia molek — say, “La, ba’ape pulök yang mung cöcöh mata aku tu?” which, roughly translated, means, “Now, why on earth did you poke my eye for?” Cöcöh like röcöh is nasal terminalled, and is an act of well-meaning people.

That is the way it is in the monsoon land of Trengganu, it is in the winds that is the direction of our temper. Kalu anging dia mölek, if s/he is well disposed, or, literally, “If his/her wind’s favourable.”

Sometimes when mother bakes a cake, she’d pull the steaming cake from the kerosene tin oven and poke the cake with a lidi to see if it’s ready. The lidi is, by definition, a thin stick, but too thin to be an implement of rödök, so a cöcöh it will be, with a lidi. Tied together in a bunch of fifty or sixty, the single lidi turns into a collective noun, which is also a lidi, but the latter is a broom, used to brush the detritus from the floor. If the latter is used to hit the floor it gives an enchanting sound, a swashbuckling like effect , used perhaps by the wife of a wayward husband who comes home at an indecent hour. The sound of a bunch of lidi hitting the floor is also much feared by cats, and is a signal for them to keep away from the grilled mackerel.

The single lidi comes from the spine of the coconut leaf, and is the single most useful item in kampong life. Shortened and sharpened, it is used to staple together the punnet made from the coconut leaf that holds our tepung pelita. In Makyong or Rodat (I’m not sure which now) that used to be performed on a stage built on oil barrels on Padang Malaya, a tarted up lady would appear with a lidi in her hand and a tiara on her head. She’d sing a lillting ditty and then use the bunched lidi to whack the picaresque character, normally a man under a semutar. Errr, errr, errr.... she would go (for such was the tone of her ditty) and then Whack! Whack! Whack!, the lidi would land on the male character.

She was entitled to do so, I’m sure, for there came just mild protestations from the male. She was, after all, the Leading Lidi.

* squid
** Multiple hooks for catching squids. Musing ccandak sutong. Squid catching season.

NOTE: All acts mentioned in this blog may be dangerous and where required, have been done under controlled conditions or between consenting adults. Please do not try them at home.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

The G-Spot of Trengganu

It is hard not to form the impression that Trengganuspeak is a language in a hurry, eager to impress with little time for linguistic frills. It is the language of working people eager to push the boats out to sea, or of ladies rushing off to market with baskets of fruits or trays of pulok lepa in banana leaf wrappers still steaming from the fire. Anthony Burgess once said that the standardspeak sentence “Seratus orang-orang perang” evokes the noise and image of swashbuckling warriors marching to war. Now hear these Trengganuspeak sentences: ”Hoh, budök ning, aku debök kang baru tau!” Or this description of someone who’s taken flight, “Dia lari sapa kecik ppala!” Both debök [first sentence] and kecik [second sentence] have glottal stop endings, making the former — debo’ — sound just like the thump in the back that it’s meant to be, for it is indeed an onomatopoeia. The second word, keci’ describes so aptly with sound that visual effect of a fleeing person’s head becoming smaller as he makes more distance from his static beholder. He ran until his head began to diminish in the distance, says the speaker.

The prominent characteristics of Trengganuspeak are undoubtedly its tendency to transform terminal Ns and Ms into a hard ‘g’ — makan/makang, baham/bahang, bulan/bulang, malam/malang; and its fondness for contractions: the standardspeak pisang-pisang or mempisang becomes ppisang, bergolek [standardspeak] becomes ggolek, and di pasar [standardspeak] becomes ppasör. You can read more about these shaddah (gemination) words in my earlier blogs Stressed Out Words and Best Foot Forward.

The kecek-Kecek in my blog title is, I must admit, a nod to Standardspeak. It is meant to convey the idea of a light conversation, a soirèe maybe. This at least is the meaning that my worthy commenters [see Comments below] are agreed upon, but applying the device of Trengganuspeak makes the word even more varied and interesting. Kkecek on its own for instance may be just a contraction of the longer standardspeak version, kecek-kecek, with the meaning unaltered. But kecek with the ungeminated ‘k’ can mean ‘persuade’ or, in its extreme form, ‘bamboozle’. When a child is stubborn, a friend will be asked to "Gi gök mung kecek dia sikik", go and persuade him a bit, will you? But a seasoned politician will come not to kecek but to nggecek, to bamboozle.

In a comment many moons ago someone asked what the word kecek-kecek is doing in a page on Trengganuspeak, suggesting that it is more widely used in Kelantan than Trengganu. Perhaps I should concede here that my blood has been coloured in part by the red-dye ssumba (Standardspeak kesumba) that seems to thrive in the sandy earth of my paternal grandparents’, in Besut, on the Kelantan-Trengganu border. But then again, kecek-kecek is used with the same meaning even in those far flung islands of Indonesia where, in some of its even remoter parts, they also transform their ‘m’ or ’n’ endings into the guttural Trengganuspeak ‘g’.

What do you think? Please come in with your comments, which I value greatly.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

To the Furthest Isles

At the dinner table with some very pleasant company last week, someone said something about Malay cakes that made me think of it as a perfect metaphor for the languages of the Nusantara. Malay cakes, said my perceptive fellow-diner, took a variety of shapes but they all tasted much the same. Now, this could be attributed to the preponderance of tepung or rice flour in our kuihs though three of my favourites, gula Melaka, asam gumpal (Trengganuspeak, asang gupa) and jala mas (jjala mah in Trengganuspeak and jjalö mah in the Kelantan lingo) bear not a trace of flour, not rice nor the other.

But what about our Nusantara languages that spread from the Philippines to the further reaches of Merauke?

When I began this blog many years ago I was fascinated by the title word kecek-kecek that I had to email a complete stranger in Indonesia to ask how they used the word and what it meant for them. To my astonishment it meant much the same as it did in Trengganu and Kelantan with perhaps a little extra pinch of salt added in some other quarters to give it the extra zing. And then there’s sa’ah which was Grik to me until my fellow blogger Tokasid pointed out [see, Comments, below] that in that region of Perak (Grik) it does much the same as se’eh does to Trengganu. And that brings me now to another fellow blogger, the handsome Clark Gable of Mermaid Isle (Pulau Duyong) that is quieter and much saner than the hub of Kuala Trengganu that is across the river. In his Comments [see below] Clark Gable said, inter alia,
"Ade kawang kite gi ke Papua New Guniea dengor banyok perkataang Ganu dlg percakapang hariang die ...mungking jugok dulu org dr situ stak bahase Ganu..guane gamok?"

"A friend of mine went to Papua New Guinea where he heard many Trengganuspeak words in their daily it possible that they were the originators of Trengganuspeak..what do you think?"
In the winter of 1998 I caught the train to the university town of Oxford to meet a man named Stephen Oppenheimer, a doctor turned author whose brother R I used to know when I was holding another job in this fair isle. Stephen had just written a book called "Eden in the East" which gave me not a few shocks and more than a kick in the nether area from what he had to say about migration, genes and the languages of Southeast Asia. I shall cut the story short though and not take you through the hour long journey to the Dreaming Spires. This is what Stephen Oppenheimer says in his book: that great floods had transformed our part of the landmass into a long, thin peninsula while pushing out Sumatra adrift along with other bits of the broken jewels that jut out from the waters of the Nusantara. These calamities (there were more than one Flood) caused outward (not inward) migration to the furthest reaches of Austronesia as well as up north along the great rivers to Indo-China.

This may perhaps explain why in Papua New Guinea the word for breast is susu which is Malay for milk but we cannot take too much from there. What’s more interesting is that Oppenheimer, a medical researcher who went to Papua new Guinea to study the mtDNA picture in the blood samples, had this to say:
"The smallest group, found on the south coast of New Guinea, has one maternal clam...This may have originated among the Austro-Asiatic-speaking Aboriginals of the Malay peninsula and then radiated out to Sabah, India, Tibet, Vietnam, Korea and Siberia. Maternal clan 9 is also present on the south coast of New Guinea among both Austronesian and non-Austronesian speakers. Again, the nearest Old World cousin is a Malay mtDNA type from the Malay peninsula. A further five cousins are found among peninsular Malays and among Sabahans from Borneo. All these later links...suggest old immigrations that have become intimately mixed throughout the New Guinea coast and low-lying hinterland."
Now, when I see Mök Long Ttimöh with her face luminous in Bedök Muntöh Belok (lit. "Eel’s vomit face powder") just before bed, I know that that is the mother of the tradition that has spread almost intact to the further isles.

Oppenheimer, S., "Eden in the East - The Drowned Continent of Southeast Asia"; Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1998. ISBN 0-297-81816-3

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