Marked by strange but true names

Marked by strange but true names

Baby names are getting more colourful these days as Hollywood celebrities try to outdo each other by giving their children outrageous names. In Malaysia, names mean something and can change one's destiny, even if they aren't always flattering.

Prior to GE13, the Election Commission (EC) came under heavy fire for allowing names of animals, vegetables and famous people in its roll of 12.8 million voters.

But according to EC chief Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof, Timun (cucumber), Kangkung (water convolvulus), Harimau (tiger), Kuda (horse), Atas Jalan (on the road), Tepi Jalan (roadside), Machine Gun, Boeing, Elvis Presley, Reagan and A. Ramlie bin Jefridin (Ramlie and Jefridin are both top Malay pop singers in the 1960s) are real people and "very much Malaysian".

Defending the commission against allegations that it had made up names for non-existent voters in the electoral roll, Abdul Aziz referred to National Registration Department (NRD) records to prove that they are real voters with unusual names mainly from the interior areas of Sabah and Sarawak.

Among the more peculiar names reported in our midst are Ubat anak Nyamuk (insecticide), Betik bin Kobis, Hairan binti Duakali, Samalia Cuba (countries Somalia and Cuba), Mogumbirak, Tigabelas (thirteen), Ponyrace, Rothmans and Benson (cigarette brands) and Jamban (a colleague actually met a man whose name was inspired by the loo).

Though funny, such names would seldom turn heads in East Malaysia, former Penampang MP Philip Lasimbang, of Kadazan descent, points out.

In his constituency comprising mainly Kadazans, baby names reflect character or physical attributes in the native language, Kadazandusun.

"Most older Kadazan parents don't speak English and Malay so their kids had names like Bugiad (always crying) and Gamato (big eyes).

"There was a person who ended up with 'No Name' as his name because his parents did not know how to fill in the birth certificate document.

"It's also a norm for the Kadazan community to give their children nicknames which sometimes end up on the birth certificate.

"These days, the Kadazan community here are predominantly Christians so most have English names which are suggested by priests," he shares.

He says younger parents are now trying to preserve the native language by giving their children Kadazandusun names.

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