Half eel, half snake, all mad

Just about the only politicians who fear for the nation and for the national religion/myth and language as much as the French are the Malaysians. A couple of days back, Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Rais Yatim said that Malaysians were destroying Bahasa Melayu by using it in a rojak manner, mixing it up with other languages, particularly English. Most Malaysians, said Dr Rais, were guilty of this adulteration (favourite word), speaking a “half-eel, half-snake” language.

This – and the banning of songs with linguistically unclean words by the state broadcasters – suggests that people like Dr Rais are almost as far gone in the deranged paranoia stakes as their ex-leader, Mahathir Mohamad. Mahathir indeed immediately called for an academic study to determine the extent of the contamination.

If these madmen want to be taken seriously as such, then the first thing they need to do is abolish standard Malay, whose vocabulary is an extraordinary mixture of borrowings from Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian, Portuguese, English, whatever. And the first word that needs to go is bendera, the loan word used to describe that glorious rag which flies from so many buildings, the Malaysian star-and-crescent-and-stripes. Wonder where that design came from…

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