TV SMITH's Dua Sen: Blur Sotong Kena Hantam Kau Kau
TV Smith's Dua Sen
TV Smith's Dua Sen. The politically incorrect irregular columnist combines his idiosyncratic observations and tangential commentary into a blog...


by TV Smith

Should we mix it up when it comes to language? Is borrowing from other languages a way of keeping a language alive or will the practice corrupt it beyond recognition? Have a look at TV SMITH’s ( examples of mixed messages, then e-mail us your thoughts at

The current debate on the liberal borrowing of English words by users of the national language may be overdue but it is seldom noted that ‘reverse contamination’ is just as severe. Our own brand of spoken or colloquial English contains just as many ‘loan words’ from the Malay language and other local dialects. However, there may not be as many complaints, in this case, as many of these unique slang terms are handy, precise and often matchless. Here are but a few examples.

Any lubang? – any connections or openings (similar to any jalan)?

Usage: “I heard there’s a new tender, have you got any lubang?”

Blur sotong – a clueless or bungling person.

Usage: “Don’t rely on him to finish the task, he’s a real blur sotong.”

Buat tak tahu – feign ignorance.

Usage: “I asked him about the loan and he buat tak tahu only.”

Cabut – left, disappear or escape depending on context (past tense: cabutted.)

Usage: “The minister cabut already.”

Cannot harap – not dependable.

Usage: “No point turning to him. He cannot harap one.”

Damn chun – accurate, beautiful or desirable depending on context (Hokkien).

Usage: “His prediction turned out to be damn chun.”

Damn jambu – good looking.

Usage: “The new Miss Malaysia is damn jambu.”

Damn leceh – very troublesome.

Usage: “Going shopping with her always damn leceh.”

Damn malu – extreme embarrassment.

Usage: “My credit card transaction got rejected, damn malu man!”

Damn sian – bored or frustrated (Hokkien).

Usage: “This holiday I stayed at home and did nothing. Damn sian.”

Don’t agak agak – Don’t guess or estimate. Be precise.

Usage: “Don’t agak agak or we may end up on the wrong road.”

Gostan – Reverse (began as Malay contraction of the nautical term “go astern”.)

Usage: “Looks like a dead end. Better gostan your car now.”

Hantam kau kau – defeated or beaten (combination of Malay and Hokkien).

Usage: “Our football team got hantam kau kau.”

Kaki – buddy or friend of similar interest.

Usage: “Daniel is my regular fishing kaki.”

Kau tim – settled (Cantonese).

Usage: The damage is quite bad, so I don’t know whether can kau tim with the driver.”

Kena ketuk – fleeced.

Usage: “That fella kena ketuk already. They charged him RM300 for the miserly meal.”

Koyak – gone.

Usage: “My chances with her koyak already.”

Ponteng work – Skip work or become absent (usually without permission).

Usage: “Don’t tell anyone I ponteng work today.”

Real buaya – A person with an ulterior motive or wanton desire.

Usage: “During ‘Ladies Nights’ you can see all the real buayas at the bar.”

Sure habis – imminent and definite trouble or defeat.

Usage: “If your wife sees you with her, sure habis.”

Tahan – withstand or endure.

Usage: “Drive all night where can tahan?”

Tanni – drink or booze (Tamil for water).

Usage: “It’s Friday! Let’s go tanni tonight.”

Tumpang – get a ride or ‘lift’.

Usage: If you’re going back hometown, can I tumpang your car?”

Ulu – backward.

Usage: “That place we went to very ulu.”

Very teruk – bad or severe.

Usage: “The weather today very teruk.”

Wah lau! – Wow! (Hokkien).

Usage: “Wah lau! Like that also can.”

This article also appears in print and online in today's StarMag (The Sunday Star).

© 2004 TV SMITH
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