Monday, October 1, 2012

The Malaysian/Indonesian Influence In English Vocabulary

Last week, I met a Holland-born chef, who works in a restaurant in South Africa. Although she was in town only for two days, she managed to have a look around the city. She was amazed to find that Indonesians use the word "polisi" for police.

"South Africans also use 'polisi', derived from Dutch word 'politie'. But I guess it's not a surprise because both South Africa and Indonesia get Dutch influence. It's just interesting to see the usage of Dutch words in different parts of the world," she said.
Besides Dutch, our national language Bahasa Indonesia also gets influences from other European nations, such as British. But a look at the dictionary shows that some English words actually got influences from the Malaya Archipelago (this term is taken from Alfred Wallace's book, and refers to both Malaysia and Indonesia). Below are some examples.

-- Amok
Definition : a murderous frenzy that has traditionally been regarded as occurring especially in Malaysian culture | Origin of amok : Malay amok (Indonesian amuk) | First known use :1665 | Example of amok : The teacher returned to the classroom to find an escaped snake and her students running amok

Definition : a clothing fabric usually of yarn-dyed cotton in plain weave| Origin of gingham : modification of Malay genggang striped cloth | First known use : 1615 | Example of gingham : A red and white gingham cloth

Do you know other English words that are influenced by the South East Asian terms? 

P.S. Thanks to my British boss who pointed these words out :)

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