Thursday, June 24, 2010

Review Thursday: Malay Sayings By C.C. Brown

Malay Sayings
By C.C. Brown
Paperback: 287 pages
Publisher: Graham Brash (Pte.) Ltd ,Singapore; New ed of 2 Revised ed edition (September 1, 1989)
ISBN-10: 9971491540
ISBN-13: 978-9971491543
Price: RM29 (but that was 4 or 5 years ago!)

One of my passions is understanding language.  I am particularly interested in understanding where phrases come from.  This is why I bought this book the moment I spotted it in some dusty little book shop in Kuching some 4 or 5 years ago.

Brown was a lecturer in Malay at the University of London, and as you might expect, the information in this book is laid out neatly and cross referenced with academic precision.

It's a very simple book.  It lists 1200 expressions in Malay with an English translation.  As it's written for English speakers, it starts with:

AN ABSURDITY, (an action or statement that is merely ridiculous)
Mahu-kah orang menghujankan garam-nya? 
Is a man going to put his salt out in the rain?
     For a different but very inmproabbaly interpretation by WEM see RIDICULOUS.

And then lists more absurd phrases.

I love this book because it says so much about traditional local culture and thinking.  However, I have tried to use the odd phrase in conversation with friends and so far I have met just a handful who know these expressions.  Malaysians don't read much, so it's hard to find people who really know the language.

It may not be of use in a practical way, but this book is really worth a look. 

And as I really can't resist, please check out my book Logomania: Where Common Phrases Come From And How To Use Them.   You can buy it online at MPH Malaysia and Times Malaysia, and Kinokuniya too!


Neri said...

It's true, Ellen! I bet I wouldn't know half of the sayings in there. No- maybe 3/4! we just have too many and some really do have obscure meanings.

Naddy said...


Mishkat said...

This sounds like such an interesting book (as does yours!)