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NICKNAMES

One of the legacies of our stay in SMSS are the nicknames that many of us carry to this day. Some are apt, some are funny, some are plain silly while others are simply cruel. Scrolling through some that I can recall, I can't help but smile. Kebas, Mentega, Jin, Panjang, Bacin, Joko, Ngojack, Toyong, Toyei, Ngoceng, Botak, Mangkuk, Wak Ijan, Pot, Samek, Ayam, Kambing, Unta, Baby, Begok, Harmon, Ganjare, Andre, Tengar, Sate, Chisel, BJ, Apek, Joko and Cicon, just to name a few. Get my drift? Ever wondered where those names came from? Were there stories or more appropriately, legends behind those colourful names? OK, I think most of those names might not be in the same league as Maverick or Iceman in the movie Top Gun but I'd like to think Goose would be hovering around the same altitude as most of the nicknames that I have dug up.

Some got it from the way they do things. Walk, run, talk or laugh in a particular way and that could make or break your future. I think we know one who was unfortunate enough to have our modern maths teacher mispronounce her name, lo and behold, her nickname is to this very day is a carpentry tool. Thank you, sir, Mr. Morais sir!! Take heart, you are not alone. Mr. Morais was also responsible for the "greatest" joke, the one about the "mentega terbang" or rather the butterfly. I could still see the smug and happy look on his face at our reactions to his joke. Everyone was laughing their heads off, not at his joke really, but at the word mentega which is someone's nickname (Oh, look at that mentega terbang!). Well, Mr. Morais was happy, we were happy and even Saifi was smiling. You can win them all sometimes.

A favourite path is our fathers' and grandfathers' names. Saru and Masrin could attest to this. Some are plain corruption of our names. We had three camels among us, Unta Kassim, Unta Kadir and Unta Mongel. How some of us measure physically could be the cause of our dearth. You're tall, short or a little on the chubby side and you're it. Then there are things that we did not do. The legend goes that one guy woke up late in Form 2 and didn't take a shower in order not to be late. I think to this day he's known as you know what. Some have nicknames that are corruptions of our names, others because of their race or ethnicity - nothing racist here, mostly are guys of Javanese descent that goes by Wak, to mention a few, Wak Ijan, Wak Cingkir and our venerable Wak Tam. Some get it because they came from a particular place (the cruelest of them all because I am a victim of such a route!!!) and others simply because they remind us of someone else. By which we could jump to the conclusion that none of us looked like Richard Gere or John Travolta. That would have been a huge asset to anyone fortunate enough to go around with such a nickname. But there is one George. Now, which George he was named after, let it be George Clooney or George of the Jungle, I can't say. But there is a George as sure as there's a sun, a moon and the stars.

But by far the origins of most of the nicknames are unknown or simply forgotten. They really brought out the creativity in all of us. Explain the origins of the names I mentioned above. We'd be hard-pressed to do so. But I've heard how Salim Pot got his.

Well, did I ever felt insulted with my nicknames? Not really, after a while it even became useful. I mean, when you say Halim to someone, it would need a while to register, even the remark "Halim mana?" would crop up but say it along with my nickname, it would register almost immediately. Oh, Halim tu. Or Kamal Poyeng. Or Mustafa Moreyh. Or Hassan Turing. But then I am not the entire population of the world, some are a little less liberal than I am, which is understandable. But whatever it is, for many of us, our nicknames have stayed with us all these years and will probably be with us for the rest of our lives. That could pose problems with our children and grandchildren.

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