Wednesday, March 9, 2011

“Sengit”, “Paling-Palingan Sengit” and “Sengiti Wong-wongan”

To survive as a member of the Kerabat (clan), you had to have a thick skin and learn to take whatever was dished out to you with a pinch of salt.  No one seemed to be beyond reproach, so you had to laugh it off or counter any criticism with a witty repartee.  What you should not do was to sulk in a corner.  The criticisms could even be for your own good; at other times they were just for a lark but it was hard to laugh along if it was at your expense.     
The most common word uttered by my relatives, even those who had moved to KL, Munich or Hawaii, was sengit (annoying).  Sengit (with a stress on the second syllable), paling-palingan sengit (the most annoying) and sengiti wong-wongan (the most annoying person) would be the most apt expression to describe their frustration with a person who had really irked them.  It was so crucial then to earn their approval and make that transition from sengit to senonoh (well-behaved) and genah (well-spoken).  Woe-be-tide if you are a young girl labelled as kenes, mentel or menggelitis (cheeky, unbecoming, cannot sit still) in a dress that was too sentet (short and tight) or too melar (stretched, out of shape).  You would also want to avoid this phrase: “Rumah buruk banyak antu, orang buruk banyak kelaku” (Haunted houses are full of ghosts, ugly people are full of mischief) thrown at you.  And when you had behaved according to their standards of decency, you might just earn rewarding remarks such as utuk-utuk’an (earnest), ngotot (focused) and telaten (meticulous).  But be careful that you were not nguyur-nguyur (tunnel vision) or some one would be quick to say “Aku dah bilang, tapi kau potek” (I’ve told you so, but you are blind) if you did not see where you are heading, physically or metaphorically speaking.  However, it was alright to be rembes (watery-eyed or cry easily), but not banyak rewel (fussy).  To handle a task in a ceplas ceplus (efficient) way was definitely better than to be seen as menggelemer (lazy) or keple (butter fingers), that you might end up cooking a dish that was cemplang (tasteless).  In short, you had to tread carefully between mesom (aloof) and nyerandu (brazen) to get their stamp of approval.
Other ways for young, unmarried girls in 1960s to earn criticisms from senior members of the clan were to bonceng (pillion ride) and menceng (lean sideways) on the scooters or motorcycles of men who were not their relatives.  If you were lucky, your mother would tanyak (confront) who the boy was; if you were not, she would maki (harangue) you and your date as soon as you were within sight.  God bless the boy if he had forgotten to spray cologne or use deodorant because that would give her an excuse to regard him as bacin (smelly like belacan), melantong (stank to high heavens, while she pinched her nose) and a bajingan (lout).  Be sure that you had earlier bought some delicious food that would make her ngiler (salivate), then she would cut short her tirade and membongkok (bend over the food) or meradak (attack the food) while mumbling that you were really kek sim (irritating) so as not to appear mencaisi (easily forgiving).   
In a way, I was glad that I just had to observe common terms of address such as Wak (uncle or aunt) and Yaie (grandfather or grandmother), less common ones like Mbakyu (sister) and Mbok (mother), or rare ones like Kang (brother) which reminded me of the tragic story of Kang, Katok Eh (a brother who changed into a bird and left his trousers behind).

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