21/01/2018, 6:54 am

Tunafoto: Don’t belittle effort to promote national language

It’s okay to make joke. It’s okay to make fun. Funny people live longer. It’s normal for people to laugh at the term “tunafoto”. Even I myself can’t help but giggled about it. Even if someone prefers “photobomb” over “tunafoto”, I’m fine with it.

But it’s not okay to ridicule and belittle DBP’s effort to promote the national language. You must be an expert on Malay language and linguistics then for being confident enough in making fun of DBP.

An ‘A’ in SPM Bahasa Melayu is not enough for you to speak like a pro. You must be well-versed in classical Malay literature like Sulalatus Salatin, Tuhfat al-Nafis or the syair of Hamzah Fansuri in order for you to challenge the linguistic experts at DBP.

An expert in Malay language and linguistics would not fail to notice the use of “tuna” in classical Malay texts, like the one in “Sejarah Tuanku Batu Badan”:

“Inilah cap Pagaruyung disalin kepada tempat ini sebab sudah tuna tempatnya jadi disalin kepada kitab ini adanya.”

“Tuna-” is an example of Malay affixes or “imbuhan”. It is a euphemistic expression of imperfection or the lack of something. For instance, “tunabudi” means “characterless”, and “tunasusila” means immoral. Other examples of affixes are “tata-“, “maha-“, “pra-“, “pasca-“, “eka-“, “dwi-“, “tri-“, “-wan” and “swa-“. Not all languages have affixes, therefore the Malay language must be as great as the English, if not greater.

So, it is highly advisable for you to keep your ignorance to yourself. What would be your suggestion then, if “tunafoto” is not the right word? Don’t tell me it’s “bom foto”, please.

In Japanese, “photobomb” is known as “utsurikomi” (写り込み). It has nothing to do with bomb though, as the Japanese dislike the term “bomb”. Its meaning is similar to “ghost image” or “background reflections”. Not completely correct, but who cares, if it’s syntactically comprehensible?

In French, “selfie” is called “egoportrait”. The French replaced “self” with “ego”, and “photo” with “portrait”. It sounds much more serious than selfie, but the French like it as long as it doesn’t sound English. Here, Malaysians love English so much and felt annoyed by words like tunafoto or swafoto.

It is truly sad that after 60 years of independence, we are still belittling our own language and heritage. And this happens in the month of October, Bulan Bahasa Kebangsaan.

By ridiculing our roots, we ridicule ourselves.

Betulkan yang biasa, biasakan yang betul.


(kena tulis dalam Inggeris lah, kalau tak orang ingat tak swag, tak hipster, tak urban. Kena cakap Inggeris baru nampak maju dan educated)

Ayman Rashdan Wong

Artikel ini telah disiarkan lebih awal di Facebook Ayman Rashdan Wong.

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