Last night I wrote about some homonyms shared by the Bahasa Malaysia language and the Visayan dialect which I grew up with. What actually spurred the idea to write that article was two amusing pictures I took back in Malaysia.


It was my first time to deposit a check via an automated check deposit machine when I encountered this. The process to deposit a check involved filling out the required information on the blanks in the envelope where the check would be enclosed and dropping it on the designated hole in the machine. I tried to stifle a laugh when I saw the blank field for Contact Number and its Bahasa Malaysia translation because in the vernacular “talipon” is an infantile speech form of the word “telephone”. Only the Visayan-speaking people could relate to my amusement on this one.


I encountered this poster in the first floor of 1 Utama in Bandar Utama. 1 Utama is a mall I frequented on weekends, it was where I would watch movies, do a bit of groceries and meet a few friends for jalan-jalan. I found the tarp offensive at first glance because of the word “yawa”. The latter is a swear word in my vernacular, it’s tantamount to the infamous English expletive “f**k” but literally it means “the devil”.

In contrast to the negative nuance of the word in my dialect, YAWA is an acronym for a non-government organization promoting environmental awareness to young citizens in Malaysia. It stands for Yayasan Anak Warisan Alam or Natural Heritage Children’s Foundation in its English equivalent. You can check out a brief background of the website

Nothing is indeed what it seems especially with words and languages.