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.