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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.


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