Saturday, 13 April 2013

"K" is for KL, as in Kuala Lumpur, where I now live, and Ketupat, which is nice, too.

Two years and two months ago I moved from the UK, where I'd lived since 1999 and was quite content, to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). Initially, we moved for eight or nine months with the "possibility" that we'd stay longer. We stayed longer.

Until I began scrambling for a "K" word for the blog, I hadn't realised just how common words beginning with the letter K now are in my life. Hmmmmph. How did I miss that? I'd already eliminated Knowledge (too broad), Kindness (I was feeling grumpy) and King (couldn't think of a connection as there's no King in my novel--only a Queen, a Sultan and a Tsar or two.)

Kuala Lumpur Skyline, Wikipedia Commons file
So Kuala Lumpur it is! It turns out that there are many, many words in Malaysia which begin with the letter "K". It's far more Kommon, I'd wager, than "K" in the English language. Why? Because when the older Malay language was transliterated into English and simplified, things were spelled phonetically. Kinda Klever, if you ask me. It eliminated that old quandary for foreigners speaking English: is the "C"  pronounced like a C (as in cinnamon), an S (as in  , or a Ch or something else entirely (as in succinct)?

As a result, "K" became relatively common when the language was converted to English. As I understand it, the nice simple rule is this: If it's a hard "c" (as in car, for instance) it's changed to a "K". It it carries the sound of "ch", it's spelled (spelt) with a "c". Many words carried over from the English (the British were here, recall) and you can see it once you get used to them:

Examples of just a few (like 1/3 of the list I made) of my favourite beginner"K" words:

 Kelip-kelip at Kuala Selangor
  • Kacang is pronounced "ka-chang" (k = k) and (c - ch). It's a bean classification.
  • Kontrak is the word for Contract (spelled in Malay more or less as it is in English)
  • Kereta is the word for car  
  • Kepala is the word for head (could be related to Cephalo, Latin, from Kepalo, Greek?)
  • Keracik is a form of coconut used in cookin (pronounced ker-a-chik, of course)
  • Kari is the Malay word for Curry (couldn't call it churry, could we?)
  • Kiri and Kanan are the words for Left and Right (no, no origin comes to me!)
  • Kawan means 'friend'
  • Kecil means little (not ke-sill, of course, but ke-chil)
  • Kadang-kadang is one of the lovely Malay double words and it means 'sometime'
  • Kelip-kelip is another and it means 'firefly', something they do have here in Malaysia
  • And, finally, Ketupat is one of my absolutely favourite discoveries in Malaysia

Ketupat on sale in the market, above, and as served, right.
Woven leaves hold glutinous rice and coconut milk and are steamed to a wondrous perfection, 
particularly popular during Ramadan. I love it anytime I can get it, particularly served with chicken satay and peanut sauce. Yumm!

Photo, left:
Photo, right: 


  1. I know all those K-words, Cynthia! :)-- and some like Kacang and Kari, are favorites.

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    Damyanti @Daily(w)rite
    Co-host, A to Z Challenge 2013

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    1. I thought you might, Damyanti! I like Kari, but not as much as Ketupat. I am a sucker for Kelapa (can you believe I left that of my list???)

      THANK YOU for the suggestion. I didn't know how to do that but I've figured it out now. I am enjoying how much I am learning about so many things with the Challenge. ;-)

  2. This is fascinating, particularly the subject of your novel. All the best :)

    Four Leaf Clover

  3. Fab, have expanded my Bahasa Malayu hugely now thanks!

  4. I like that kadang-kadang. That's a fun one.