If your name was Muhammad and you happened to live in Muar town any time in the early sixties, and your house was beside a big public water tank, you would surely be known as ‘Mat Tangki’. If your house was next to the railway line, then there would be every possibility your friends would call you ‘Mat Railway’. Your behaviour could earn you a title as well. If you walked quite like a monkey, obviously they would call you ‘Mat Monyet’ or ‘Mat Monkey’ or even ‘Mat Kera’. Almost ninety percent of my friends in Muar town received their bestowment of titles attributed to what they liked, where they lived, their behaviour and anything what they normally did. In this article I would like to share with you these names and how some of them earned their respective titles. There were many others whom I knew not how they earned their titles and so I will just mention their names as a remembrance.

I can always begin with anyone of my many friends and as I’ve mentioned earlier, ninety percent of them carry their respective titles to their names and so I will tell you these names as and when my memory catches up with me.

The most common name during my time is Muhammad and Malays normally call this name in short as ‘Mat’. There were many ‘Mats’ such as ‘Mat Kucing’, ‘Mat Kancil’, ‘Mat Ketetel’, ‘Mat Chin Peng’, ‘Mat Engkuek’, ‘Mat Keledai’, ‘Mat Siput’, ‘Mat Cowboy’, ‘Mat Hj. Bakhil’, ‘Mat Bocheng’, ‘Mat Ceking’ ‘Mat Koteng’ ‘Mat Kambing’ and many more I can’t remember.

Mak Ketetel was my uncle and when he started talking, his hands would be moving vigorously to emphasize on the subject. If he talked about something very tall, he would stand up with his right hand up high. From a far distance, he could be seen just like John Travolta did the ‘Saturday Night Jive’. When he walked, it was just like those African Americans walked along the ghetto. Muarian Malays referred this sort of behaviour as ‘ketetel’.

Mat Chin Peng surely looked very Chinese, Mat Keledai sang like a donkey and Mat Siput walked too slow.

Mat Bocheng is my uncle whose father was assassinated by the communist when he was a baby. He was then staying with my great grandmother in Parit Bakar. My great grandmother adopted a Chinese lad named Chen but we called him Pak Hussein. When Mat was a baby, he hardly had any hair and so Pak Hussein called him ‘Bo Cheng’ which in his dialect means ‘no hair’.

Mat Cowboy was a legend of his own. Every Muarian Malays of my time surely knew Mat Cowboy because he always wore a cowboy hat. Most of his sons inherited that ‘cowboy’ name to theirs. We have Hamid Cowboy (arwah), Rashid Cowboy (arwah) and Lokman Cowboy (arwah). There is one son who did not have that title and he is Mat Ceking and I don’t know how he got that different title.

Mat Hj.Bakhil got his title immediately after the P.Ramlee’s movie of Labu dan Labi and apparently he was a stingy fellow. On the contrary, he has a younger brother who was so spendthrift that earned him the title of Man Jolly.

Ishak in short is ‘Sahak’ and we have three Sahaks… ‘Sahak Doktor’, ‘Sahak Dresser’ and ‘Sahak Bai’. Sahak Doktor is the son of Dr.Hamzah Hj. Taib, apparently the first Malay doctor in the state of Johor and Dr. Hamzah was my grandpa’s younger brother. It was on one Talent Time show that Sahak wore his father’s overcoat that gained him the titile ‘Doctor’ and so he became known as ‘Sahak Doktor’. Within our fraternity, we have two Sahak and we decided to call the younger Sahak as ‘Sahak Dresser’. ‘Sahak Bai’ is the first cousin of ‘Sahak Doktor’ and I don’t know how he got that ‘Bai’ title.

Ibrahim is ‘Yem’ and we have ‘Yem Smart’, ‘Yem Potet’  ‘Yem Tunggal’ and Yem Hamid. Yem Smart was always smart of course. I don’t know how Yem Potet got his title but I do know how Yem Tunggal got his. There were two big kwini trees at the front compound of his house. Beside these two trees was the tembok of his house and there was an inscription written on it. It was written as ‘Kwini Tunggal’. Both Yem Potet and Yem Tunggal were my immediate neighbours and whenever we got together with the two of them around, we would all sing “Yem Potet Yem Tunggal, Jangan Petik nanti tanggal”. My uncle Yem is simply known as Yem Hamid.

Jaafar’s hair looked like the one belonged to Ringo Starr and so we called him ‘Jaafar Beatle’.

There were three Awang within our fraternity namely ‘Awang Yours’, ‘Awang Bonchoi’ (arwah) and ‘Awang Sepekong’. The first Awang sang the song called ‘Yours’ in one Talent Time show and since then he became known as ‘Awang Yours’. I don’t know how Awang Bonchoi and Awang Sepekong got their titles.

My very close friend Mustaffa (arwah) was known by most Muarians of my time as ‘Mustaffa Cliff Richard’ not because he looked like Cliff or sang like Cliff, it was just because he has a small picture of Cliff Richard pasted inside the cover of his bicycle’s license. Those days each bicycle had to pay $2.00 license on a yearly basis.

Kamal’s eyes were quite big to us and so we was known as ‘Kamal Mata Lembu’.

We had four Yusof in our group. In Muar town, Usop is the short form for Yusof. We had ‘Usop Sepuloh Sen’, ‘Usop Tenuk’, ‘Usop Keng’ (arwah) and ‘Usop Lanun’. The first Yusof always complained that he had only ten cents in his pocket and so he had to be ‘Usop Sepuloh Sen’. The second Yusof danced so straight ahead like a tapir and obviously we had to refer him as ‘Usop Tenuk’. The third Usop was a thin guy and we called him ‘Usop Kerengga’ (pronounced by Muarians as ‘Kengga’) and later decided to have the title in short and so it was ‘ Usop Keng’ and the fourth Yusof rode his bicycle like a pirate and obviously he must be called ‘Usop Lanun’, sometimes he is also known as Usop Teksi that’s because his bicycle looked like those used by the becas (trishaws).

There are three Aziz and they are ‘Ajis Mak Enggor’, ‘Ajis Friday’ and ‘Ajis Hamid’. Ajis Mak Enggor is my cousin whose grandmother was Mak Enggor (my grandmother as well). Because he was so attached to her, he became known as Ajis Mak Enggor. My brother Farouk was likewise very attached to my grandmother but we can’t call him Farouk Mak Enggor because that title had been taken by Ajis and so he became known as Farouk Tok Enggor.

Ajis Friday got his title because he was quite dark just like Friday of Robinson Crusoe. My uncle Aziz is simply known as Ajis Hamid.

We have quite a number of Abdullah, in short Dollah. We have Dollah Pagoh, Dollah Seben, Dollah Monkey, Dollah Seribu, Dollah Satay and few other Dollahs.

During my father’s time, the sub-district of Pagoh was considered quite far and so anything depicting very ‘kampung’ were always referred to as ‘Pagoh’. According to my late father, Dollah Pagoh who was his childhood friend was seen wearing his baju Melayu tucked in. So he was teased by his close friends “kau ni pakai baju melayu masuk kedalam, macam dari Pagoh lah” (you wear your baju melayu tucked in, just like Pagoh). Since then he became known as Dollah Pagoh. In retaliation, Dollah Pagoh observed my father’s style of talking just like a monkey and so he called my father Dollah Monkey. My father was a gentleman and he had no problem being referred by his contemporaries as Dollah Monkey. Once I met my father’s old friend and he referred me to his wife “Din ni anak Dollah Monkey”.

Dollah Seribu was my neighbour and his father was once the Penghulu of Pagoh. When he got his first job, he told us he bought a lot of things and each costing a thousand dollars (those days the ringgit was still known as Malaysian Dollars). In fact everything cost a thousand dollars and since then we all decided that he should be known as Dollah Seribu. Once the Malaysian Dollar depreciated to 85 cents and for that period we called him Dollah Lapan Ratus Lima Puloh. Ask my Muar contemporaries and they will surely vouch its truthfulness.

I don’t think Dollah Satay’s title need any explanation.

A short neck depicts that of a tortoise and Othman’s neck is rather short and so he is known as Othman Tortoise. We have another whose neck is quite short but can’t be given the same title, therefore it is only right his name should be Mustaffa Kura-Kura.

My close friend Mohamed Mahmood is known among Muarians as ‘Atan Kitang’ that’s because while he was half naked swimming near the Tanjung river, his friends noticed some black spots at his back. This black spots depict that of Ikan Kitang. He had two elder brothers namely Dollah Lekuk and Rahim Cerut.

Omar was a gangster, I mean a real gangster and so obviously he was known as Omar gangster.

I don’t know from where Bakar Gagap (Dat0) got his title because throughout my friendship with him I don’t seem to notice that he is ‘gagap’. Maybe he might have some speech impediment during his younger days. Hmmm, he has a younger brother we all call Abu Juling (Tan Sri) and I think the title is self-explanatory.

There was a respected Imam during my time named Abdul Rahman. During his pilgrimage to Mecca, the ship he was on board wrecked and he survived by holding on to a wooden plank. The ship was known as ‘Tronoh’ and since that incident, he became known as Imam Tronoh.

My grand uncle Abdul Rahman Hj Taib had his eyes looked very sleepy and so he became known as Rahman Kuyu.

Another Rahman was a relative of mine and according to some of my uncles, Rahman during his childhood days was quite naughty and always played truant and thus he became known as Rahman Temberang.

Hashim was quite dark and became known as Hashim Keling but I don’t know how his younger brother Mustafa got the title Tapa Timun.

I don’t know why my uncle Suleiman is known as Leman Tambi.

Yaacob was also quite dark but he was known as Akob Kicap.

Another uncle of mine Ahmad (Dato) studied in Hong Kong and he became known as Mat Hong Kong. The same goes to Hj.Noah Berut (Tan Sri Hj.Noah Omar). He was once studying in Beirut.

Yahaya was a bit off in some of his thinking and we called him Yahaya Crack.

In a movie (can’t remember the name) I watched with my friends Halim, Yem and Zin, there is this leader of a street gang called the Zipper and looks quite like Zin. On the way home my friend Halim suggested Zin be known as Zin Zipper.

Names of famous actors and singers too were added to those who had great admiration upon their idols. We have Hassan Kit Carson, Amir Makson Chubby Checker, Latif Frankie Avalon, Razak Paul Anka and Halim Bond.

Women too are not being spared and we had quite a number of them. You wouldn’t ask me how Yam Tetek Besar got that title would you? Midah’s eyes looked very Chinese and she became known as Midah Mata Sepet. Zamrah was quite fun loving during her teens that eventually earned her the title of Zamrah Kacra (refer my article on ‘Some peculiar words of Muarian Malays). Minah was always grumpy and so she was called Minah Bonyok. Just because Faridah’s father had a car bearing the number eleven, she was being called Faridah JB sebelas.

Zaleha looked like a boy and she became known as Leha Tomboy. We also have Jah Kedi, Kintan Kontek, Gayah Black Panther, Mak Gayah Robensen and Pon Kicap.

These are some of the titles given to those ‘deserved’ the titles and I believe there are still some I have missed out. No matter what names they are being called, some funny, some embarrassing and some most honoured, Muarian Malays of my time have no problem with these titles they had been bestowed. As a matter of fact, they acknowledged that the titles they earned gave them a unique position in the society they belonged to and will be remembered for a very long time.

Me? Yes I do have mine but it varies. My grandmother Mak Enggor called me Chibol because she admired a member of the Johor Royal family Tengku Archibald and decided to name me after him. Most of my aunties and some very close relatives call me Kodin. My close relative Shahroldin Ali (Dato) till this day call me Kodin. But among my Malay friends, I am known as Din Kolah.

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  1. harith says:

    Another interesting facet of our life in the past! You are right…many of the prefixes to the names are meant for easy link to our memory of someone…some linked to their kind of work and some associated to physical features or behavior of a person.. that may irritate and that we try not to say it out in the presence of the said person.
    Back from where I was we have names like Pak Man Poreh (who works with the Forestry Dept) or Kak Timah Kolet Bas (who works as a bus fare COLLECTor) and we have even one who we refer to as Pak Bakaq Taik (he drives the municipal sewer truck.
    I have a neighbour whose house is just a stone’s throw from my house…we called hime Pak Kukoq or Pak Kukor and he was also the Imam of our mosque…he makes the wooden Kukor Nyior or the coconut grater – the kind that we have to sit on it and also the Rehal…he has this special skills and using very simple tools for his trade…and for 20 sen he will help us slaughter a chicken or two and few hours later a plate of chicken curry awaits him! Until now I don’t know his real name…his name is plain Pak Kukor!

    • Hahaha….I like Pak Man Poreh and Pak Bakaq Taik. And these are names we will always remember for the rest of our lives.

      Pak Kukor must be efficient in his skill.

      Thank you for your contribution. I was laughing reading this when my wife asked why I was laughing?

  2. Lolong G Mali says:

    In addition to your integrant list of friendly titles:

    The late Amir Mak Som, Sahak Panot (from Parit Pinang Seribu),  Boyak ( Parit Kurma), Ishak Dong (parit Prupok), Mat Postman (parit Prupok), Latif Ketam (parit Kadhi), Salleh Congo ( parit Kadhi), Mat Engus (jalan Daud), late Kadir Boyan (parit Kadhi), Razak Kambing (parit Prupok), Aris Gajah (parit Prupok),late Abu workshop (parit Kadhi),  Onn Tambi, Montel, Wak Sadin, Don, Bob, Boy and many more.

    The irony of naming names, we tend to miss out on the opportunity to know their real birth names.

    Some of the friendly titles given were amended over time. For an example, Bakar Gagab, now he is bearer of the title ‘Bakar King’. No idea who gave him the royal title. As long as no one wishes to ask, what king? it is allowable and still acceptably befriended. Atan kitang is now bear the title of Atan Tahu. From Kitang to Tahu is perhaps a translation of change in character, status or merely citation over time.

    Shahruddin is his registration given name is spelt. Now he is called Shah Du ban. It sounds synonym with names of towering and artistic geniuses of the high Renaissance period. They were:  Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti and Raffaello Sanzio.

    Shah Du Ban, the name sounds great though. It is perhaps to be in association with acclaimed name like Shah Jahan or Shahanshah which means the king of kings. Shah is a title given to the kings and lords in old Persia and India. It has the connotation of command and power. In the end, I be better off to address him as Din. By addressing him Shah Du Ban does not reflex that he is one of my best friends who is still soundly in respiration.

    The friendly title listed could go on identifying  from dash to dawn. And I bet, lot more titles given of hilarious connotation are missing from our radar memorial faculty.

    Me! I was indeed fortunate. I have never been bestowed by any identity of friendly title. Like Salleh Uzir, he remains by his given name though Uzir is not his father, I was told. Mahmud Sulaiman remains by his given name as far as I know.

    As mention in your posting about Yahaya Crack, Yahya was my classmate buddy in standard four, Ismail school. He sat beside me and really pain in the ass fellow. I really meant it but we were best of friends. He maybe was a bit off academically and with strange behavior at time. But he bears an artistic mind. He is not a realist painter but some of his paintings reflect the mode of reality in the midst of his ‘cracked’ gesture.

    • Some of the names you mentioned are my close friends:

      I meet Atan Kitang almost every week at Warong Uncle Don while Bakar Gagap perhaps once in two months. Their title amendments are quite recent indicating that you must be equally close to them.

      Onn Tambi, Shah de bunt, Salleh Uzir, Mahmood Suleiman are all my close friends…we have common friends.

      Do we know each other? Care to unveil your nom de plum?

  3. Lolong G Mali says:

    I will disclose myself when we bump in to each other again. By the way, I love your stories with much empathy.

  4. Mohamed Mahmood says:

    Bro Din, Shah nama pendek dari Saharrudin atau Din Kucing. Bunt nama pendek atuk nya yg bernama Buntat atau Buntal. Yg aku kenal dan biasa Hassan Lolong budak Jalan Daud.

  5. lau pei pei says:

    Din, I like the name Atan kitang and how it was bestowed on him, he must be running naked in muar !! and it is also funny that there was a change of title to Atan Tahu,was it that he know sells tahu ??

    • Hahahaha…Pei pei, tahu in this case is ‘to know”. Because in every conversation, Atan seems to know all the subject we are taking about, so they decided to also call him Atan Tahu (Atan who knows everything). He is my good friend until today.

      • Halida De Ste Croix says:

        My grandad who lived at Jalan Daud name is Ismail Hitam. He was a very-very strict man, he even walked straight( tegak). People used to say to my auntie that he got electrocuted that’s why he walked liked a robot. He was called Pak Mail karan( tegak). Most of us rather starving than eat with him during dinner when kerang is on the menu. We must open the kerang by one hand only. We are not allowed to speak , if we want to pick up the fish we cannot ‘cekut’ but take the whole fish and put on the plate that was beside us. Up till now whenever I got the chance to eat kerang backhome, I’m quite expert!. That’s what I think my grandad taught me.

  6. Harith says:

    Halida de ste Croix aka Halida Hj Daud…the world is not that big actually…maybe yes 25 years ago!

  7. Harith says:

    Where do I begin? (the starting lyrics of a song by Andy Williams in a film of the yesteryear starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw) or should I start with ‘Once upon a time…’ (sounds more like the opening sentence of a fairy tale)!
    Yes, I can relate mine…things that happened even 45 years ago…but it is much better to let bygone be bygone as it will not change anything

    But some people have this uncanny ability to skip or erase some key events of a certain period of time of their life…they don’t even remember or recognise people they have met in the past or get acquainted to along the way…maybe they have personal reasons for that or maybe that’s their natural character

    I too have some memory lapse at times like not remembering the name of people quite familiar to me that I have to be thick skin to openly ask..”Very sorry, it has been a very long time and I appreciate if you don’t mind refreshing me of your name please or where we once met? But I will surely not forget people who left a mark in our life once before.

    By the way I can imagine how Yam Tetek Besar looks like. It’s self explanatory! Good day to you Abg Din

  8. Faarhad says:

    Hmmm…never thought I would see some of my late uncles names’ mentioned and surely my late dad’s name mentioned too… arwah Hamid Cowboy…. Al-Fatihah to all of those who have left us in this world…

    • Salam Faarad. Your arwah father was a close friend of mine. We used to party together, although he was my senior. The last time we spend together was at a party held at the Tanjung Muar Club in 1967. Once the two of us went to Air Hitam together to see his long lost friend. He asked me to accompany him and along the way, the tyre of the taxi we rented punctured. When we wanted to replace the tyre, we could not do so because there wasn’t any apparatus. So we had to wave at some passing cars for assistance. Luckily one car stopped and assisted us to replace the tyre.

      As a testimony of our close friendship, I have his picture which will be shown in my forthcoming book under the same chapter. Your uncle arwah Rashid too was my friend when we were both were staying in Johor Bahru in the 70s. I visited your uncle arwah Lokman when his first leg was amputated. It was only after two days of his passing that I was informed.

      I guess your uncle Mat Ceking is still around. The last time I met him was at Plaza Damas, Sri Hartamas some three years ago.

      Alfatihah to your arwah father and your arwah uncles. They were all my close friends, especially your father.

  9. Noordin MY says:

    Yes, my uncle’s name was also mentioned. Sahak Doktor is my late mother youngest brother. I didn’t know that he was a singer back then. I remember going back to Muar when I was young visiting my late grandmother whose house was at Lorong Datin Habibah not far from your house at Jalan Omri. You mentioned that Dr. Hamzah, Sahak Doktor’s father, was your grandpa’s younger brother. That meant that we’re 2nd cousin as the late Dr Hamzah was my grandfather. Nice to hear that you’ve published a book. All the best for your future undertakings.

  10. morazzi says:

    Hahaa.. hilarious. Dato’ Bakar ‘gagap’ son happened to be my friend. He is known as “santa klaus”

  11. firdauz aziz says:

    Yahya crack is my uncle. Err pls verify first is it yahya dato rauf is the yahya crack thar u’been mentioning?. My mother always tell us abt those days in muar. She is 1948 born.

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