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Giving myself (and you!) a break from lawyer stuff

A recent post by Malapetaka, followed by an onslaught of mis-applied words in emails I recently received, has me thinking about words…

Those spelt differently but pronounced the same: sweet vs suite, for instance

Those spelt the same but pronounced differently: refuse, for instance. reFUSE = to say no, while REHfuse = rubbish.

Other recent misses:

Boarders vs borders

Staff vs stuff

And typos that may change the coherency of a sentence: Quite vs quiet

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Also have a memory of a certain English teacher in secondary school, who one day assigned as homework the task of listing all color-related idioms, metaphors, similes, etc that we could think of.

I think that day I also had tons of other (more important) homework to do…

It just so happened that well before that day, I had bought a “Dictionary of Common Idioms;” so I somehow got my mom to just sit down and copy every entry there was for every color in there, since that was what I would have done anyway if not for having the other homework to also finish

I remember the teacher not having heard many of those I read out (heck, EYE had not heard of many of them myself!!), and at the end of the class she asked if she could keep the list for her own reference! *grin!*

Of course she looked at me funny when she saw the entire list was not in my handwriting ;)

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I’ve never been one for grammar: language, sentence construction etc comes easily to me, and I usually go with what ‘sounds right’. However, English in school was taught from a boring grammar foundation, and I usually never bothered with the lessons themselves, and just did the exercises without having to think too hard. Apart for some tricky sentence agreement, this served me well.

I do remember once in Form One, we were told to go home and look up the meaning of nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, etc for class the next day. I faithfully opened the dictionary and copied what it said into my notes. The next day, I volunteered to ‘explain’ what a pronoun was, and proceeded to regurgitate the dictionary’s definition.

All fine, right? Then the teacher asked for an example of a pronoun, and I was floored! I had no idea! It never occurred to me to try to understand what I was copying or saying. THAT was a lesson for me! I certainly didn’t like to feel like a fool, but a fool I was that day :p

I think that helped put me on the path of making sure I know what I’m saying; to make sure I am able to paraphrase, which indicates understanding vs plain regurgitation.

Wonder when I truly broke free of the memorise & regurgitate mode taught in school…

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I finally got my solid understanding of grammar while studying French @ university. Once you have the conjugation for 1st/2nd/3rd person singular/plural in your head, depending on what tense you should be using, lemmie tell you, grammar becomes less a mystery and much more a necessity!

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While I don’t claim to be an ‘expert’ in Malay, and anything I write will sound pretty kekok (and what I say will be berterabur mixing English & Malay, and sometimes out of nowhere a pseudo-‘utara’ accent appears!), I DO have a good command of the basic rules.

It is really frustrating, therefore, to see blatant mistakes on advertisements, and even on the ‘traffic update signs’ on most highways. The most common: inability to use ‘di’ properly, i.e. whether separate or joined with another word. Another is some weird confusion about ‘dropping’ an ‘extra’ letter ‘k’ if the word ending with a ‘k’ has ‘kan’ added to it.

Confused? Here, let me try to give examples.

Wrong use of ‘di’:
The confusion is probably caused by the fact that ‘di’ can stand alone as a preposition, but it also exists in a ‘prefix/suffix’ combo ‘di … kan’ (or ‘di … i’) embracing a verb.

I cringe to see Star Wars Ep III posters with ‘DIPAWAGAM MEI 2005;’ it’s being used as a preposition to indicate a place, so make it di pawagam. Di sana. Di sini.

‘di’ is usually ‘sambunged’ only when the word ends with ‘kan’ or ‘i’, as part of the combo I mentioned:

dikebumikan (buried) . . . . . . . dihormati (honored) . . . . . . .dilanggar (hit)

Look at ‘dilanggar’: if you are uncertain about whether ‘di’ is jarak or sambung, ask yourself, is the word (in this case ‘langgar’) a place/noun? Chances are, if it is a place, then the ‘di’ is jarak. If it isn’t, then sambung.

Of course, what you really need to do is to understand what the heck you are saying in the first place lah! :D

A similar, but slightly less common, mistake is with ‘ke’ which is also a preposition and therefore jarak/separate, except for instances where usage has made it a verb.

Take these two statements: “Saya nak ke luar” vs “Saya nak keluar”? Both are correct grammatically: you just need to know if you mean ‘I want to go to the outside’ while the other says ‘I want to go out.’

Aaanyway . . . . .

For the ‘double k’:
Look for something like this on the Federal Highway, just after Angkasapuri, on the ‘traffic update sign’: Sila elakan perbuatan potong ‘q’

Is this saying “please avoidance the behaviour of cutting the queue” or “please yard-ise (whatever that means) the behaviour of cutting the queue”??

It should be ELAKKAN… kata dasar= elak + kan = elakkan.
How on earth did that other ‘k’ disappear, and why?

I’ve seen this mistake with other words too… meanings change completely when you say ‘melantikan’ vs ‘melantikkan,’ for example. And what about if you come across “pendepakan”… it is pronounced like it has a double k because the kata dasar is DEPAK so it’s pronounced ‘pen-de-pak-kan’; it is not ‘pen-depa-kan’ which doesn’t make sense: ‘depa’ is a pronoun (indicating 3rd person plural): it's not a verb that can be transformed to a noun or adjective or whatever that 'pe ... an' is :p

Back to ‘elakan’: it’s not a once-off mistake either… on the other side of the board, for traffic from the other direction, is a different message but with the same ‘elakan’ error. (at least they are consistent? D’oh!)

I would hope that whatever messages appear on the screen must first go through some sort of, err, screening process? Perhaps there’s a manual, or work instructions, or other documents stating the ‘allowed’ messages; these messages would then be programmed into the sign.

So, did no-one in that entire process pick up on the fact that this sentence didn’t make sense? Kinda scary, eh? Mother language and all, but no one picks up on this error?

Even scarier: please don’t tell me that not one Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka employee uses the Federal highway? Aren’t these people supposed to be proactively looking out for errors and making sure they are corrected a.s.a.p.?

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Let’s not even get started about what are obviously word-for-word translations from one language to another: Just today I saw Fish Head Curry mistranslated to Kari Ikan Kepala instead of Kari Kepala Ikan.

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These ‘translations’ of Malay to English coming out all wrong, plus a few other phrases, are among my fave samples of Manglish around:

I love you strong!

Are you enjoy(s)?

Can I dancing with you?

I’d like to thank my dying fans…

And uttered with total sincerity by a hopeful job interviewee asked why he wanted to work in that particular company:

“I want to climb your ladder”

Hope u are smiling reading this!! Cheers!


  1. curious to know what is "pendepakan" and if "pendepakkan" exists, what is it?
    btw, "depa" also means fathom, a kind of measurement. "Mendepa" means to block by stretching both arms sideways......i think.


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