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The Other under the bed

There are a few words in English that come from the Malay language:
amuck: from ‘amok’
orang-utan: from ‘orang utan’ (‘man of the forest’)
rattan: from ‘rotan’

Actually, there’s a list on Wikipedia which has more than I expected – most seem to relate to names of flora and fauna native to the region. This makes sense when you think that the earliest source of many of these would have been through Malaka.
One I didn’t expect is ‘ketchup’, from ‘kicap’.

In French there is ‘ananas’ – from ‘nenas’ (pineapple), I suppose.

Anyway, I read recently somewhere (can’t remember where I’m afraid – in some local publication I think) that ‘bogeyman’ came from “Bugis’. The Bugis are an ethnic Malay group: they were frequently demonised as bloodthirsty pirates by the European colonials, but this was probably mostly because some of them came into conflict with the Europeans as a result of the latter’s desire to dominate the region. The word ‘pirate’ (as opposed to ‘privateer’ for example) then was much like the word ‘terrorist’ (compared to ‘freedom fighter’, guerrilla, etc.) nowadays I think, used to tag anyone resisting imperial dominance. Like most Malay groups, they were good at navigating the seas, and willing to fight to defend their area of influence and/or claim new areas.

However, the Online Etymology Dictionary states its source as the Middle English (i.e. High Medieval) word bugge, meaning a “frightening spectre”. Though Wikipedia also make a reference to the Bugis connection .

The Old English source makes more sense to me, but it would be interesting if the Bugis connection were to prove true – a good example of the ‘Other’ in the archetypal orientalist mode.

The search for the lost mountain

Here are a couple of shots of Turkey from the air (unfortunately, I haven’t just been on holiday there – these were taken last year while flying to London).
While we were flying over Turkey I spotted a mountain and thought that I might be Mt. Ararat – the highest mountain in Turkey, and thought by some to be the place where Noah’s Ark landed.
It looked very majestic, rising out of low lands into a snow covered cone, an old volcano now wrinkled with age…

also interesting, is the way in which there is a lot more snow on one side than the other, I suspect this is because the lake on the other side somehow makes it warmer

From further away, you can see that it dominates the area…

Anyway, to find out what it really is, I tried Google Earth – Mt. Ararat looks like this:
Continue reading "The search for the lost mountain"

A couple of poems

Well, Une fois n'est pas coutume ('Once is not customary') as the French say, so here's a couple of poems I wrote recently. One darker, and the other more hopeful :-)


shooting the hours
with a liquid gun
blasting the minutes
with a mind-ray stun
the tiredness crumbles
the particle waves
sitting in silence
in a lonely bedsit

blazing the memories
in thermal hate
scared to realise
the childhood fate

the walls have holes
light rays spill in
focusing spectral colours
on a lonely heartache

Dec 07


forgiveness is
a heavy soul
a hammer of steel
a weight of gold
a spear of hope
a ray of light
the light of love

Sep 07

To give credit where it is due: these were inspired (more or less) by Christopher Moon, whose workshops I have attended, and who has opened my mind to new ways of understanding myself.