Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The Most Difficult Malay Word - Sukachita

When one lives overseas, and before the time of the Internet, there would be 2 ways of looking up a Malay word - ask or look in the dictionary.

I was a MARA scholarship holder for my undergraduate degrees. One day, I received a light blue feather-weight aerogram (air-mail letter) from my future sponsor and employer - Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). The letter was written entirely in Malay except for my address. I read and read, and read, and read, over and over, over and over... there was one word which I did not know - the word 'Sukachita'.

I knew other words  - suka, chita, chinta, but not this superword - sukachita. I went round to ask the other Malay students for the meaning of the word, 'sukachita'. Nobody knew what that word meant. I called up people to ask what the word 'sukachita' meant but nobody knew. So I was left with a letter with a long Malay word which I did not know what it meant, and nobody knew it either. The haunt went on for the rest of my life overseas - about 10-11 years. 

So, what does 'sukachita' mean to you? It is now spelled as 'sukacita'. What is sukachita or sukacita?

Here are the answers...
  1. There is Jalan Sukachita in Singapore. 
  2. There is an old Malay book involving Hikayat Abdullah that uses the word:
  3. It is a word used in the old Malay language, especially in Malay silat involving Hang Tuah:
  4. It is used in a missionary bulletin entitled Messenger/Pesuruh which was written in English and Malay, and used for spreading the Christian mission:
  5. Same as above: [The word 'dukachita' appears in the case of death or obituary.] A lot of Malays subscribed to its lessons called 'Suloh Hidup', without knowing that is was in fact a Christian mission written in old Malay. 
  6. It is a word cited in Sabri Zain's comments on the genesis of the Malay Annals, which covers the times of Hikayat Munshi Abdullah and also Sultan Mahmud of Malacca:
  7. It is a word that even Sir F. A. Swettenham tried to translate or interpret, along with other common words such as these - pregnant = bun-chit, pot-bellied = bun-tut, the buttocks = bun-toh, and many more Malay words at this link on A Manual of the Malay Language (boleh pecah perut gelak): . Scroll and read all the words there, right till the bottom. 
  8. It is a word in Shellabear's book of English-Malay translation of 1916:
  9. It is a word in Project Gutenberg 2008 which is free for recycle:

So, what does 'sukachita' or 'sukacita' mean? It means happy! It is used in the context to convey a happy message, and in doing so, should also make the recipient happy. 

So, why did so many people choose to ignore the most difficult Malay word? The answer is because nobody cares about what Malay words actually mean, especially rare species or words that pop up in unexpected places at unexpected times - eg, overseas and without an English-Malay dictionary, and without Internet or hp, etc (before Internet and mobile technologies). So now you see, technologies we have today, make learning easy, so easy that you can blame your 5 pancaindera if you cannot succeed or fail to learn the meaning of that most difficult Malay word - sukachita or sukacita.

And that was how I learned Malay, by searching how and when people used the words (contextual meanings) and by asking and trying them out myself. Only my Malay teachers knew the Malay words I did not know and you wouldn't believe that I passed MCE Bahasa Malaysia with a Grade 1, just by learning old Malay words my own way, - by searching way back into history. So my level of Malay and practice of Malayness, is very ancient compared to most of you who know modern Malay and practice modern Malayness etiquette. I still prefer the ancient Malay vocabulary as it conveys a better and more flowery message for something as simple as kanchana (gold). There are many levels of the Malay language and it is worth learning them if you have time. When I attended functions at the Istana Balai Besar, a ceremonial palace, a different level of spoken Malay was used for the 2 days. Malay is not difficult but because we choose to ignore it too often, it becomes difficult for us today. But I can pick up the different types of Malay used at palatial functions and Malay conferences. Even Malay weddings have a totally different set of Malay language. Makes Malay language very interesting to learn and re-learn.

I'm keeping all the Malay letters and messages I received. Hopefully, I will be able to compile a second Malay book for myself. I had published a Malay book for teenagers at my cooking blog. It was difficult to write that book in Malay but I managed somehow.