Saturday, April 12, 2008

What's in a name?

A name is probably the only thing a humble person is proud of. What else does he have?

The Malay saying goes like this,

When a tiger dies, he leaves behind his stripes,
when a man dies, he leaves behind his name(or reputation).

As a teacher I have collected some "fantastic names" and in fact went further by asking for the history of their names. Most said that it has been the fault of the "registrar" of births for spelling their names wrongly. I wonder if the clerks of these esteemed offices should have lessons on sensitivy and spelling in English and Bahasa Malaysia.

Although many people can derive a lot of misplaced laughter when calling out these names, my children and I feel great sorrow that these persons have to carry the burden of "bad names" for the rest of their lives, or until they could afford to have a statutory change of name. Some don't bother as an alias would not erase their original name. Some just keep their IC or Birth Certificate and use a pseudonym or non de plume. It is a pity that someone at the beginning of their life did not consider the happiness of the child - he has to have pride to bear a wonderful name.

Here is a list of names you can come across in Sarawak :

1. Anus - for Agnes
2. Vargina - for Virginia
3. Penes - for Payne
4. Chow Chee Bai - ??
5. Suck Fun - for Suk Feng or Suok Hoon
6. Jetli for Jetti (The Ibans do not have Jetli - many years later, this friend of mine said that he is indeed the original Jet Li)
7. Gorila for Gloria
8. Teemoti - Timothy
9. Robiat, Robat for Robert
10. Laman for Rahman
11. Memet - for Mohamad
12. Mek - for Mick or Mack
13. Senapang - Stephanie
14. Spoon for Alphonso (you find him in Kanowit)
15. Chillies - for Charles
16. Chua Sii Lang - for Chua Su Lan (poor spelling)
17. Lim Sii Meh - for Ling Sze Mei ( fourth sister)
18. Timpang - for Timbang ( Ibans like this name but the spelling was wrong giving the child a bad name)
19. X Bo Hong - for X Bao Fen (her classmates used to chant bohong bohong all the time in primary school)
20. Luxi or Lusi, or Lazy for a simple name Lucy.

21. And the latest - the boy is now applying for a place in the Maktab - his father 19 years ago wanted to name him after Arnold Schwarzanagger ( try spelling that too) but the registrar wrote Schanzer anak J......well Schanzer has to live with his name.

He has often times added Samuel which every on can spell....but ... one of his teachers wrote Sam Mu Er......(called him Wooden Ears...), after which he gave up his Samuel too...Life is not treating him fair. He told me that if and when he takes up his course on Remedial Teaching of English or Bahasa Malaysia, he will teach Spelling.

The list can go on an on. Readers I am sure you can contribute too. The poor illiterate father did not know better.

2 memories:

The Quartet of El Dorado said...

Clerks in the registration of birth offices should by now be more sensitive to different cultural backgrounds of our Sarawakians. Balang should be Balang and NOT Barang, Bettie is a good Iban boy's name and should not be Betty, Joseph is a common Christian and should never be spelt Jusif.
It is too costly and embarrassing for the poor illiterate parents to correct their children's names.

Remember know about 20 years' ago the MIC had to help with an Indian girl called, Diatidakadanama ??????

I Am Sarawakiana said...

If we pay attention to people's names, we would have a story behind it.

Some sad, some hilarious, and some absolutely unbelieveabl.


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