A basic course in the Malaysian and Indonesian languages in 64 lessons  ©pgoh13
This course is copyrighted and is not to be reproduced under any circumstances.

  Lesson 56 Bahagian badan (Parts of the body)  

It is important to be able to name the parts of the body in Malay as any sickness or health problem associated with that particular part of the body can simply be expressed by putting the word sakit before it as we will see in the next lesson.
Click to listen  

A second reading (by Muhammad Nor Ismat, a native speaker)

Note that gigi is not pronounced as the title of the 1958 musical film "Gigi" nor as the "gi" in "gin". Instead it is pronounced as the "gi" in "give".

Note that the same Malay word is used for singular or plural. Thus gigi is translated as "tooth" or "teeth" according to the context.
From the word mata (eye) we have the word matahari (hari, as you have seen in Lesson 7, means "day"). So what can matahari mean? Why, "eye of the day", of course, which is the Malay way of referring to the sun!
For the more ambitious among you (or simply lovers of nature) the following are the Malay words for "sunrise" and "sunset":
matahari terbit = sunrise (terbit means "rise")
matahari terbenam = sunset (terbenam means "hidden", "set" or "submerged")
To continue with the word mata. Please don't apply blindly the common rule that the plural in Malay is formed by duplicating the word, as mata-mata means "policeman" (ok, eyes of the people if you like). But mata-mata in Indonesian means "a spy" (perisik in Malaysia).
And what does mata-mata gelap ("dark" policeman) mean? Well, if I were to tell you that in English we don't say "dark eyes" but "private eyes" you would have been able to guess the meaning. Yes, mata-mata gelap is the Malay word for a detective.
Incidentally the plural form of a word in Malay is not needed when it is evident that there are more than one. Compare:
Buku di atas meja itu belum lagi dibaca. (= The book on the table has not been read yet.)
Buku-buku di atas meja itu belum lagi dibaca. (= The books on the table have not been read yet.)
Dia ada banyak buku. (He has many books.) Here since we have the word banyak (pronounced as ba-nyak) meaning "many" it would be wrong to say Dia ada banyak buku-buku. So that is another difference with English. The singular form of a noun (not the plural) is used when plurality is already implied in the context with such words as "many", "several" or "hundreds of", etc.
A number of compound words are formed with the names of the various parts of the body. Among them are:
jam tangan = a wrist-watch (jam means a "clock" while jam loceng means an "alarm clock").
tali leher = a neck-tie (tali means "rope")
cermin mata = spectacles (cermin means a "mirror")
ubat gigi = toothpaste (ubat, as you would know from the previous lesson, means "medicine"). Thus, literally, toothpaste is medicine for the teeth in Malay!
kakitangan = staff, employees (literally translated kakitangan means "feet and hands"). If you like to make use of mnemonics, well just remember that in any office the staff are the ones who have to move their feet about and do things with their hands, certainly not the director!) But this word has a different meaning in Indonesia. There it means a "henchman" or "stooge"! This is a rare example of faux amis in the two almost-similar languages.
Incidentally, your left hand is tangan kiri while your right hand is tangan kanan. Please remember that when you are in Malaysia you must always use your right hand (and never your left) when giving (or passing) something to someone. It is considered impolite to use the left hand when handing over things to someone.
Do you remember what rambut means? (Just glance up if you don't.) Well, someone without any rambut is botak (bald-headed). Thus when you hear Orang itu botak you know it means "That man is bald-headed."
Finally it might be interesting to note that kaki, apart from meaning "foot" or "leg" has also the following meanings:
kaki minum or kaki botol = a drinker (botol is the Malay spelling for "bottle"). By the way the Malay word for alcohol is minuman keras (literally "hard drinks").
kaki gaduh = a quarrelsome chap, someone who will pick up a fight over nothing (bergaduh means "to quarrel")
kaki bohong = a liar (bohong means "to lie"). The usual word for a liar is pembohong
kaki pancing = a fishing enthusiast, an angler (memancing or mamancing ikan means to fish)
kaki judi = a gambler (the usual word for a "gambler" is penjudi while the verb for "gamble" is berjudi.)
kaki perempuan = a womanizer
kaki bola = a football fan (the word for "football" is actually bola sepak as bola alone simply means a "ball".)
While the above expressions have to do with a tendency towards something, the ones that follow have a meaning much to themselves:
kaki lima = pavement ("five-foot-way")
kaki ayam = barefooted (easy, this one! Hens don't wear shoes so someone who is barefooted has a hen's feet!)
Lastly, if you hear a person being mentioned as someone's kaki it simply means that he is his buddy, chum, crony or member (slang).
These various expressions coming from a single word show you how rich and colourful the Malay language can be.

policeman polisi mata-mata
detective detektif/reserse/polisi rahasia mata-mata gelap
necktie dasi tali leher
spectacles kacamata cermin mata
toothpaste pasta gigi ubat gigi
staff staf kakitangan
a drinker (of alcohol) peminum kaki minum

                          Table of Lessons