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Finches: Glossary

I promised mokie I'd give the secret decoder ring for "Finches". Although I have done my level best to keep the cultural references in it oblique, those of you (there's only two of you, hey!) who have reading copies of the story might find this helpful.

Abang = Lit. elder brother. This is an honorary suffix younger people use for older men younger than one's father (inserted before the name). It's also an affectionate term a wife might use for her husband.

Aisya = The last wife of Muhammad. Was married to him at fourteen, and later became a major reference on Muhammad's life and Islamic customs.

Child Brides = The legal marrying age in Malaysia is 18. However, especially in the more conservative Muslim states in East Peninsular Malaysia, it is still not unusual to see girls as young as fifteen or sixteen being married off. "Finches" is set in Kuala Lumpur, the economic capital and urban heart of Malaysia, where this practice is remarkably less common, but still around.

Family Titles = I've literally translated all the honorary suffixes the characters used for each other in terms of relativity. Most, like "Big Sister", are self-explanatory. Family rank is very important when addressing your elders. All the main cultures in Malaysia have special names for differently ranked members of their families, in their separate languages, so I've personally woken up in the morning and thanked no deity in particular for the English language. The English language enables you to call the fifth uncle on your mother's mother's side "Uncle". However, for this story, you'll notice I've kept the traditional translations of the titles in place to stress the connotations, ie. "Youngest Uncle". (See below for Mother/Mum)

Fire Ants = Common Malaysian pest. Found heavily in our tropical forests, but also in fruit orchards, where the ants help propagate the fruit.

Friday Prayers = It is obligatory for Muslim Men to perform afternoon prayers on Fridays communally. In Malaysia, companies usually give two hour lunch breaks on Friday specifically for this purpose. Muslim women may attend prayers at the mosque if they so wish, but are not obligated to.

Ghani = Rich, Self-Sufficient.

Habib = Beloved

Halal = A Muslim food standard, equal to the Jewish kosher. Unqualified foodstuffs include animals who hunt with their teeth and claws, swine, dogs and amphibians. Alchohol is forbidden under Islam, but depending on the school of thought, some allowances have been made for alchohol in medicinal goods, for example, though arguments persist.

International Islamic University = Major international Islamic university funded and founded by the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). Based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Khatijah = The first wife of Muhammad. Married him with a twenty-year age gap between them (she was fourty). A successful businesswoman, also at the time Muhammad's employer.

Mangoes = A very commonly grown tree in household gardens. Fruits seasonally in Malaysia. Good trees, even individually-owned trees, can sometimes have their fruits booked in advance. Mangoes are a common Malaysian produce, sold through all the normal channels. Malaysians are just nutty eaters.

Mixed Marriages = Mixed marriages, even among the different races within Malaysia, are becoming increasingly common, and thus increasingly less frowned upon. However, racial barriers still do exist, particularly if one of the partners is Muslim, as Malaysia makes it an obligation for the other partner to aslo convert to Islam in such cases. (In Malaysia, the Islamic religion is commonly associated with the Malays, who form the majority of the Muslim population.) Technically, couples avoid the cultural impositions by migration.

Mother/Mum = "Mum" is a direct translation of "Mak", a common and an informal version of "Mother". "Mother" is what I used in place of "Bonda", which is both a formal and old-fashioned version of "Mother" (closer to "Mater"). I've not seen "Bonda" used very much beyond literature and historic references, but it is still in use. The story makes special use of both "Mum" and "Mother", in that Rahim uses "Mum" for his biological mother (implies closeness), and "Mother" for Aisya, who is technically his junior in age, but ranks as his father's second wife.

Nose Bridges = Malaysians, like many Asians, have low nose bridges. One of the idealized features on beautiful women here, therefore, is a high nose bridge.

Patchouli = Patchouli oil is used in halal (kosher) perfumes for its very strong scent, as these perfumes do not use alchohol as the base.

Polygamy = It is legal for a Malaysian Muslim man to marry up to four wives at a time. Although it is frowned upon in the current day, many affluent Muslims still consider it a sign of increased prosperity to take on additional wives. Note that it is also legally possible for Malaysian Muslim women to divorce their husbands. Alimony and upkeep battles seem to rank rather similarly to those overseas, in that they're all uphill battles.

Puteri Islam = Lit. Princesses of Islam. A Malaysian Muslim variant of the Girl Guides. Malaysia does have Girl Guides, however, the Puteri Islam were created as an alternative for ladies who preferred a larger stress on guide activities with Islamic values. In Bahasa Malaysia, children are called "princesses" and "princes" in decorative speech.

Rahim = Merciful. In Bahasa Malaysia though, the word "rahim" is also our word for "womb".

Salam = Peace. Is also a reference to the standard Muslim greetings of "Assalammualaikum" and "Walaikumussalam" meaning "Peace be upon you" and "And upon you is the peace."

Salih = Good, Righteous. Salleh is a common Malaysian name. The word "salih" is used in Bahasa Malaysia as a descriptor with the same meanings as the Arabic, but in practice comes up most often when describing filial children.

Skinheads = Frowned upon in Malaysia. Shaved heads are associated with convicts and drug addicts sent to government rehabilitation centres, but also monks, religious pilgrims and people fulfilling vows.

Songkok = A traditional Malay hat. It's shaped like a rounded diamond, usually made of black velvet or felt, and trimmed with satin. This is commonly worn to the mosque and at special events.

Women's Rights = Women are constitutionally equal to men in Malaysia, and make up 50% of the workforce. We have a Ministry of Women's and Family Affairs, and women have consistently held office as Ministers on the Cabinet since our independence in 1957. As you may have noted from "Finches", however, many cultural traditions still impose upon women's development in Malaysia where legal boundaries have long since been removed.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 1st, 2005 06:10 pm (UTC)
*overanalyzes off a cliff*
Apr. 1st, 2005 06:22 pm (UTC)
*heart* That's my girl!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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