Monday, July 04, 2005

Most-Abused Word in the Malay Language?

Let's first begin this session by declaring that, you know, I'm not exactly the world's best practitioner of Malay. Despite being born Malay. At least I'm better at it than my parents.

Okay. It's about a word. A Malay one. Ceria.

This has been bothering me for years — a single word used so often that people take its existence for granted. I mean, you see it in government and Malayo-corporate mission statements. You see it in advertisements. Youth movements designed to capture the Malay mind use it to a nauseating degree.

Occasionally our artistes are called it. Sometimes the foreign ones, too, especially the happy, perky ones. Siti Nurhaliza sometimes. You know, that kind of thing.

And yet, all these years, I still have no idea what it means, exactly.

I mean, okay, you know what it means, right? Think ceria, and think a procession of perky, happy, cheerful and sunny dispositions walking down the aisle. These are the New Malaysians — without a care in the world, cheerful, perky, with nary a care in the world.

I'm pretty sure that's what it means. That's why I have my trusty old friend here, Kamus Dewan (edisi 1994). Together we'll sort out this mess.

And when the sorting out happened, we were kind of disappointed. I mean, I read the definition to my mother and sister:

“It isn't cheerful?”

“You're kidding me. Aren't there other definitions?”

“That's messed up.”

Seriously. Look into my dictionary, and not a single happy, perky, zesty and active word in it. You know what it says? My dad didn't believe me either when I read it to him:

“What rubbish. Are you sure?”

Positive. Not a single word of it.

Here's the definition:

ceria I sl tidak bernoda, bersih, suci, murni; menceriakan membersihkan, memurnikan, menyucikan.

I don't get it. I think my Kamus Dewan is broken.

Though actually, it makes a sinister kind of sense.

Blogger Jordan F. MacVay said...

Hehe..funny stuff. Being a mat salleh yang tak pandai cakap Melayu, I wasn't aware of the inconsistency.
My Hippocrene Standard Dictionary (whatever the heck that means) says the word is from Sanskrit and means clear, pure, and also fidelity.

I dunno, though...could it sometimes be used in the sense in which it's so often abused? I think Siti's voice is kind of clear and pure, kan? Then again, I suppose pure in that sense and pure as in suci would not quite translate the same way. Entah lah. I'll stop rambling now.

8:11 AM  
Blogger T-Boy said...

I spoke to an aunt of mine, who did translations. Later editions of Kamus Dewan included the ‘cheerful, peppy’ definition into ceria II.

Okay, fine. But my edition's ceria II and ceria III aren't even adjectives, they're a noun (invocation made during a coronation) and an adjective (to teach, usually written menceriakan).

Those two terms are shrunk, I think, in my aunt's dictionary, into ceria IV, I think. I don't know… I'm going to have to check the latest editions.

It sort of disturbs me that Dewan Bahasa can do that. Sure, language changes quickly, but never that quick, does it?

8:18 AM  
Blogger T-Boy said...

And don't get me started on prihatin. It's not at all what it is in Kamus Dewan 1994.

8:19 AM  
Blogger Najah said...

Sounds like the scandal a couple years back on some big banners that used the word "kecapaian" as oppposed to "pencapaian".

9:30 AM  
Blogger T-Boy said...

You know, Jordan, you've got to lend me this book of yours. Etymology for Malay words? Double bonus.

1:36 PM  

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