On Trengganuspeak and the Spirit of Trengganu

Friday, July 27, 2007

Extremely Words

It is a fact well known among those who have stared at them, face to faceless, that Trengganu ghosts have especially long fingernails, panjang jjenggöng as they will tell you, and then they will end it with a final Eeeeee! plus a shoulder-shrug. The last to signal their note of aversion for having had to behold such a terrible sight. The confrontation would have taken place in the thick of night, gelak gguguk, in a distant place, jauh jjenak.

Jjengöng, gguguk, jjenak are nonce words, standing only for the occasion, never seen again outside the context or hand unheld by the adjectives that they enhance — panjang (long), gelak (dark), jauh (far). On their own they are meaningless, but with the companion adjectives, they enhance. So, dark (gelak), becomes very, very dark (gelak gguguk), long becomes very, very, long (panjang jjengöng), and dark becomes very, very dark (gelak gguguk). These are 'extremely' words.

There are many extremely words that decorate our passage of Trengganuspeak - dekat pèh, tajang landak, tupo gelenyèh, tinggi langgok, basat ttèrè — extremely near, sharp, blunt, high, poor. Basat ttèrè sunggoh lah orang hök dök tahu perkataang-perkataang ning O anök wok! Poor indeed is the person who doesn't know any of these words, O my child!

There's no discernible rule as to how these words come about. In what I've called 'ding-dong' words — warih waröh (kith and kin), sia maja (bad luck) — the rule is easier to grasp as they are mostly rhyming couplets or are joined together by a bond that's alliterative. In their togetherness they embrace all pertaining to the preceding companion word. Thus, Serba serbi, everything and anything, gguling gölèk, rolling and all the motions that result from it, lauk pauk (from standardspeak), all the dishes and everything attending. These are, needless to say, not extremely words, but indicate, merely, the variety of things or acts.

Sometimes the choice of adverb (surprisingly, it is an adverb qualifying an adjective) displays erudition, as in the Trengganuspeak gelak gelemak (pitch dark). Gelemak here is not a nonce, but a word in its own right, coming as it does from the Arabic dzulma' (darkness) as in 'laila dzulma', a very dark night.

These add colour to Trengganuspeak (any 'speak'), and colour itself gives us an array of delight: hitang llegang, very (extremely) black, kuning ssiör, very yellow, putéh selepuk, very white, mèröh mmerang, garish red, and biru hhèrang, very blue. The last one is again an inserted Arabic, hèrang being the Arabic 'hairan' (nonplussed) in the Trengganu tongue. So extremely blue that the beholder is left without powers of speech.

And they enhance taste in our talk: manis lleténg, masang pperik (ppekök), pahit llepang, tawör hhèbèr, cerör berör...sweet, sour, bitter, bland and bland again they are, all extremely.

And here I must pause lest I be accused of giving you banyök ddö'öh* to think about.

*Too much. For the origin of ddö'öh, see blogs, passim.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, July 07, 2007


Döh nök wak guane?! is a palliative for many ills, a branch to grab when on the slide, a phrase underlined by a shrug.

What does it mean? asks Anasalwa who llives in the US of A.. Well, Anasalwa, döh nök wak guane?, whattudu?

In Trengganu, whattudu comes in two degrees: nök wak guane setabok? and nök wak guane setarang? (the döh is optional, it simply means ‘so’) and in each instance I’m at a loss for words as both setabok and setarang are little things, originating, I suspect, from seketil habok (a pinch of dust, a miniscule) and seketil haram (Trengganuspeak, harang), (a pinch of nowt). So, in Trengganuspeak, takdök setabok, takdök setarang, precious little, nothing at all. Here now is that harang (standardspeak, haram) again: Takdök sikik harang! Nothing at all!

Ai, kucing tu, dök léh lepa setabok, habis nye ranggöh ikang panggang! is yet another example of setabok in action. The cat cannot be ignored even a wee jot, it’s now devoured the grilled fish from the plate! It’s lepa what caused it, the act of neglect, which comes from the standardspeak alpa, a word you don’t see very often these days. Perhaps it has gone back to the Sanskrit home town of its birthplace, doing its darndest to reinforce any act of inadvertance or neglect. Would that be the same lepa that Trengganu chefs put in their pulut lepa, a pulut (glutinous rice) so good that it cannot be left unattended? Ranggöh that’s a graphic word, isn’t it, much like pölö’, two words to describe the act of stuffing something into the mouth in a hurry, in desperation, in greed.

In the Old Panggong Capitol in Kampong China (next door to the Setana - Sultana) they played soppy old tunes before the Saturday matinee, with bells ting-a-ling-a-ling and birds that were singing and that’s amore. And there was que sera, sera, what will be will be, that spun round and round on its needle-track every Saturday from an old singing box, the peti nnyanyi. Que sera, sera...what will be, will be. That was probably close to the Trengganuspeak döh nök wak guane!”

Labels: , , ,