Fruits in Bahasa Malaysia

No Common Names in English

Durian, rambutan, pulasan and I suspect - cempedak.  Like the word "amok", these fruits have contribute their names to the English vocabulary.

Go Bananas Cooking Bananas

Plantain.  What is its name in Malay language?  Since plantain is a sort of cooking banana ( though we cannot say all bananas are plantain ), it is simply called pisang in Malaysia and Indonesia.  If you are fussy about the names of a specific plantain here's three examples that I manage to find:


Infomusa, Volumes 13-15. International Network for Improvement of Banana and Plantain, Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (Ede, Netherlands), International Development Research Centre (Canada)

Proverbial Odor

It isn't durian.  Of course it isn't durian.  We don't mind the durian, smell, odor and all. 

There are so many fruits naturally endowed with offensive odor in this region.  For example, the bambangan fruit which is a beloved pickle for fried fish.  I only sneaked one fresh bambangan into the house once and was immediately ostracized by the whole household.

The fruit that is used in Malay sayings due to its smell is the horse mango.  Why choose the horse mango?  I can't figure that out.  I think there is a similar saying in Malawian.  I hope folks from Malawian can come forward to tell me.

The odor of horse mango is used to represent very distant family relationship in the saying "bau-bau bacang". Another saying "bacang dibungkus baunya keluar juga" - no matter how you wrap the horse mango, the odor still somehow escapes.  There is no way you can hide a horse mango in a house, every nose smells it.  So it's as good as hiding a secret which has become public knowledge.

Beloved Poison

"Sayang sayang buah kepayang,

Dimakan mabuk dibuang sayang"

I find a few variations of the above saying, paired up with rhyming and rather meaningless/unexplained other two lines to form a stanza.  Litrerally the first line refers to the fondness a person has for the fruit of the kepayang tree.  This fruit of the kepayang tree has its own name - keluak. Not every one likes the fruit of kepayang, it's more of an acquired taste.  The second line describes the dilemma faced by a person who likes to eat kepayang fruit which I have discussed here.

Indonesian language version specifies that the fruit of kepayang is a young fruit.  Another meaning to this saying is adoring an insincere person who could be a beautiful yet dangerous woman. How delicious and it makes better linguistic sense.

Then there's the two word expression "mabuk kepayang", intoxicated by the kepayang which means, lovesick.

References: 1. Kamus Peribahasa Melayu-Inggeris - Edisi Ke-2 By Shamsuddin Ahmad 2. A learner's comprehensive dictionary of Indonesian By Sutanto Atmosumarto

Sarawakian engkalak, I have not found the English common name so far.

Malayanized Color Sense

In some cultures, lovely tanned skin colour can be "olive" tone.  We don't have olive, the closest we have to olive is dabai.  So we say "kuning langsat" or "as yellow as langsat" for beautiful skin between fair as langsat, yes langsat not a typo and charcoal black.  But, doggies fur can also be as yellow as langsat.

Maroon, is said to derive from French word for chestnut.  In the Malay language world, maroon is mangosteen red or the very ripe skin of pulasan fruits.

The Malay translation of Harry Potter mentioned Potter met a dwarf wearing a "kundang" hat.  Kundang is gandaria.  There is a simile as purple or purplish as a gandaria seed.  If you have seen a gandaria seed, you know exactly what tone of purple it is.

Dabai or Chinese olive in Ho Chi Minh, also found in Sarawak.

Poetic Ornament

Buah Kuini buah nona/ Kuini fruit custard apple fruit

Buat inti dalam perahu/ Make filling in the boat

Saya di sini tuan di sana/ I am here sir you are there

Hati di dalam siapa tahu"/ Who knows what's inside the heart?

Caption: Left is bacang, right is kuini

"Buah Dokong manis rasanya,/How sweet the dokong fruit

Bergotong-royong amalan mulia"/Communal work is an honourable practice

note: There seems to be difference between duku, dokong, and langsat.  Duku is similar to langsat but it has thicker skin.  Dokong is said to be the Thai cousin..

"Pokok duku di hujung jalan,/ Duku tree at the end of the road

Patah ditimpa si dahan sena/Broken by a fallen angsana branch

Sesal dahulu memang pendapatan,/It is beneficial to regret beforehand

Sesal kemudian haram tak guna"/It is useless to regret afterwards

" Pohon mengkudu dihinggap merbah,/ The noni tree settled upon by a bulbul

Kita bersatu bina muhibah"/ We are united to create goodwill

"Buah cermai di dalam dulang/ Malay gooseberries in a tray

Tepung digaul minyak sapi/ The flour is mixed with ghee

Anaknya ramai ibunya seorang/ The children are many the mother is one

Bila digesel berapi-api"/ ( They're )  Set on fire when rubbed

( A riddle, answer: matches )

Berkabung untuk MH370 & MH17


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