Is ‘kuncitara’ really the official Malay translation for ‘lockdown’? Not so fast, says DBP

·2-min read
File picture shows pedestrians walking past graffiti reading ‘Lockdown 3: The Nightmare after Christmas’ painted on a boarded up restaurant in Manchester, England, February 15, 2021. — Reuters pic
File picture shows pedestrians walking past graffiti reading ‘Lockdown 3: The Nightmare after Christmas’ painted on a boarded up restaurant in Manchester, England, February 15, 2021. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, May 30 — “Kuncitara” has recently been used by some to denote “lockdown” in Malay, yet the gatekeeper of the Malay language and vocabulary — Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) — has thrown shade on the matter.

Yesterday, Twitter user @syazwanismd, who identifies herself as Dr Syazwani Samad, made a post expressing glee at the fact she had learned the new word, gaining over 9,000 retweets and 15,000 likes.

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In another post, she also pointed out that there was a “cerpen” — or “short story” — released last year titled “Kuncitara”.

The short story was written by Saiful Ghazali and reportedly had a theme revolving around the challenges faced by the financially poor during the previous Covid-19 related lockdown — officially known as the first movement control order (MCO).

Today, another Twitter user, @imaninazhr, asked DBP if usage of the word was indeed official.

DBP promptly replied, saying, “for your information, DBP has never issued a Malay term that matches ‘kuncitara’ for lockdown”, (Untuk makluman, DBP tidak pernah mengeluarkan padanan istilah bahasa Melayu kuncitara untuk lockdown)

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While there is no direct translation, it is understood that ‘kuncitara’ is a portmanteau of the word ‘kunci’ (lock) and ‘sementara’ (temporary).

Thus far, official government communication in Malay has used the English word ‘lockdown’ when referring to its movement restriction policy in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, as have most mainstream Malay media.

This comes as the government, in response to a record breaking rise in Covid-19 cases recently, announced a nationwide lockdown that will come into effect tomorrow and last until June 14.

Yesterday, 9,020 new Covid-19 cases were recorded in the country, along with 98 deaths due to the disease.

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