Manglishing the language

Back in 2006, it was reported that Malaysia planned to fine people who mangled the national language on posters and signs.

Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Rais Yatim warned that billboards and posters showing “mutated” forms of Malay would lead to those responsible being fined, if they had already received a warning.

The aim was to make sure that “the national language was not sidelined in any way”.

Most Malaysians speak Malay, or Bahasa Malaysia, but many also speak English – which results in Manglish, a mishmash of the two languages.

The Malaysian government wanted to root out English words used in Malay and replace them with Malay substitutes. Mr Rais said a national language unit would be established to reduce the extent of Manglish.

A police chief said he would like to see commonly used terms such as ‘touch n go’ and ‘boulevard’ replaced with Malay words. Seeking to ban ‘boulevard’ is a nice irony, given that the French have long sought to eradicate English terms from French. (There’s an opportunity here for some linguistic scholar looking for a topic – a comparative study of Manglish and franglais.)

Serial offenders

I haven’t been able to get an update about this linguistic cleansing campaign, but the notion of fining people for mangling the language is an attractive one.

After all, if the language police had been operating in the US during George Bush’s time, he would probably have ended up in jail as a serial offender.

Closer to home, Bertie Ahern would (at least in theory) have suffered the same fate, and we might have been spared some of the financial mess we’re in.

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