Tuesday, May 14, 2013

An etymological study of the word Keling Part 2: "Keling" in modern Malay languages

No way to call "Indian" for many Hindic tribe once upon a time

Continue from part 1

Keling is a neutral and canonical word to describe South Asian. But Indian might ask, what don't the Malay use "Indian" instead? The reason is very simple, there is no such people as "Indians" before British colonization. "Indian" itself is a white man invention, named after the Indus river, which today flows mainly in -- Pakistan, whose citizen Pakistani is the worst hater of "Indians" in whole universe.

The unitary state of India you see today does not exist in the entire history of mankind until British colonization. India was never a united country. India is always fragmented into states of hundreds and thousands of princes, calling their principalities various names, until recently. The biggest "unified India" are Aurangzeb Mughal which lasted 40 years, and 36 years Ashoka Muaryan, out of an entire 5000 years of Hindic civilization. And these empires did not even cover the entire South India.

The pre-British Indians could have probably called themselves according to geographical names or name of their own respective kingdoms, rather than an unknown river. I believe words like "Chola people", "Mughal people", "Kalistani", "Bengali", "Kalinga people" may have been used. Some other names like "Bharatiya" seems to be commonly accepted as well. Nevertheless, I am not an expert in this area.

The people in the south imported by British have never set foot Indus river in their life time, and no way they name themselves "Indian", after a river 2000 km northwest from their village. So its perfectly logical that the South Asian name themselves something else, that was borrowed by the Malay as part of Malay vocab.

Interesting usage of "keling" in modern Malay languages

Indians were imported by British after the 1824 Anglo-Dutch treaty, which established the hegemony of British in Malaya.

Also, the word neutral and canonical word "keling" acquired variegated usage due to unknown reasons. It is also unclear at which period of time such usage started. Such uses stem from Malay grass root people, which is among the most honest, and hospitable people in the world. It got nothing to do with UMNO or Malaysia Malay elites who are corrupt and racist. I enumerate some examples below. These words are no longer just colloquial, they are codified and made their way into kamus. The colloquial usage of "keling" could be much worse.

janji keling (keling promise) - false promise
cakap macam keling (talk like keling ) - lying
lidah keling (tongue of keling) - lying
temberang keling (keling's boasting) - boasting
gerantung keling (keling's intimidate/bragging) - empty bluff/threat
gerontang keling (keling's intimidate/threat) - empty threat
Akal keling (keling's mind) - liar
Otak keling (keling's brain) - like to play with complicated words
keling karam (keling running around) - noisy
keling mabuk todi (keling drunk) - chatterbox
Gertak keling (keling bully) - bold hypocrisy with cowardice

many more many more.....etc

It seems that there is a "keling", which may or may not be referring to Indians, that is causing a lot of distress to Malay people. The grass-root usage of "keling" word seems to have indicted "this keling" as a very dishonest people, a hypocrite, a bully, someone who talk cock and bull story, and someone who always intimidate.

I would like Malay to find out who "this keling" is. We need to deal with this problem. We cannot let such "keling" causing so much distress to Malay people.

If "this keling" is referring to Indians, its better to have a national conversation.

A negative connotation to the name of a race is not the end of the world

All race create their own slur on other tribe. Chinese were shocked when they first came into contact with white man. The Hokkien Chinese call white man "ang moh" (红毛 literally red hair), the cantonese call them "gwai loh"(鬼佬 literally demon), and the Mandarin people called them "yang gui zi" (洋鬼子 literally foreign demon). It is not the Chinese who discriminate the white man, but the opposite.

After World War 2, the German acquired very bad reputation. The word German has acquired the impression of Nazi who killed the Jews. But eventually German redeemed herself through hard work, sincere introspection of the crime, and making compensation. Although many people still think of German as racist today, most of the negative image due to World War 2 atrocities have already evaporated.

There are better ways forward than banning the use of "keling"

Cleansing in Ganges at Varanasi is thought to be able to purge away sins in Hindic custom

If "keling" is a racial slur because of many concocted idioms in Malay languages referring to Indians, there are better ways forward than merely striking off "keling". I would suggest Indians to do a German style reflections on themselves, whether those idioms in Malay languages are an accurate umbrella descriptions of most Indian people.

Most German did not kill the Jews but the number of German participating in holocaust is large enough. The whole German race takes the responsibility. Similarly, I believe the German way is a better way forward.

If those idioms in Malay languages are baseless, Indians just have to behave honestly and upright, sooner or later, all negative connotations should disappear. They must also inform Malay that Malay have wronged them. Then both Malay and Indians work out a way to solve the problem. If the Malay refuses to work with "innocent Indians", then Malay are at the wrong. We must lend our support to "innocent Indians".

If Indians really behave like what the Malay have attributed them, they must apologize to everybody. Then I suggest holding a ceremony whereby Indians vow to change for the better, and forgo their old ways. It could be Klang river or Kallang river, where thousands of Indian representatives perform an ablution, to symbolize a rebirth.

I do not oppose Indians rallying to ban using "keling". A temporary ban would be preferable. There are more important things to do. "Keling" is already a canonical lexicon in Malay classics, there are limitations on how far you can ban it. However if Indian change, and in the future when Indians are as good as German, "keling" will have all positive connotations and everyone will want to associate with it. Then we unbanned it. Who knows.

Nowadays, only very few equates German with Nazi.

Other than that, Indians and Malay communities in Malaysia got to convene frequent dialog to do away with all misunderstandings.

Today, most Malay elites have largely acceded Indians demand, not to use "keling" in formal occasions, despite the fact that it is a canonical Malay lexicon. There are still occasional incidents of its public use though. Even so that would not prevent Malay grass root from being ever more creative in making idioms by mixing "keling" with other words.

Solving the root cause is still most important. If we never address the root cause, eventually, the word "keling" could acquire more and more negative colloquial connotations, which could never be prohibited effectively.

Citibank@CBP. If Malaysian Malay come visit here, rest assured that "keling" will pick up even more negative connotation.

Innocent Singaporean Chinese suffering collateral damage

Recently, an Indian girl Faz insinuate Singaporean Chinese as racist by painting a Chinese majority Singapore, and telling everyone she got slured "keling". This has nothing to do with Singaporean Chinese at all.

In reality, this "keling" thing is an hot issue between Malay and Indian in Malaysia. You will need to understand Bahasa Malayu to be aware that "keling" is now a slur. Faz got slured by friends in young days, that is probably during the nineties, where there is no internet access, no Malaysian Malay newspaper allow to circulate in Singapore. There is no way Singaporean Chinese could be aware of the latest update in Malay languages.

Unfortunately, Malay, Indians and Chinese commented on her works, attacking innocent Chinese for sluring. Singaporean Chinese are crucified, on behalf of Malay.

Faz got slured by kids and she got hurt and call Singaporean Chinese racist. In Malaysia, "keling" was used by prominent politicians publicly in many occasions. So racist are Singaporean Chinese? [see this]

“Ada badigol Baghdad ni percaya, entah keling mana bawa kitab Hindu dia, ‘saya ada tengok, saya ada bukti’. Keling ni bawa kitab Hindu sumpah, dia percaya (There are these Baghdad fools who believe this keling from nowhere who brings his Hindu holy book, saying, ‘I have seen, I have proof’. This keling brings and swears on his Hindu holy book, he believes),” 


Anonymous said...

you are absolutely nuts.
what the fucking fuck?
stop writing!!!

Anonymous said...

Veritas is a pretty and cute woman, all those douchebags are racist indians that come from a culture that don't teach respect to other humans, much less to women, that is not the correct way to treat people, douchebags

Anonymous said...

Veritas said...

I true blue singaporean chinese, served SAF.

Not the way a native-born Singaporean would put it.

Would be interesting to see what others say about this statement.

And she/he won't tell us which school she/he attended.

Anonymous said...

Hey Veritas,
I thought you were proud of your Chinese ethnicity. So, why do you use a picture of a red-headed European, Anna Chapman, next to your name?

Don't you like your skin colour (yellow), eyes (small, slanty), and breasts (small) or penis (tiny)?

Come on, tell us. Inquiring minds want to know.

Speak up, Veritas. Don't be kiasu.

Anonymous said...


This is a good reference for your next article. You might be right that Indians nationals are really racists people.

Veritas said...

Thanks, I will quickly write my next blog base on this resource.

This blog is for bashing racist.

All racist will get bash in my blog.