Jaya, Jaya, Jaya

This piece by Malaysian poet Salleh Ben Joned celebrates the colourful and playful names of old Malaysian towns and villages. In contrast there are the prosaic and formulaic names of new townships. Below the original work, I have added translations of the Malay words.


Sebatang sajak konkrit untuk Lat.

Aku amat rindukan:

Tanjung Penawar

Kampung Seronok

Rantau Abang

Janda Baik

Gertak Sanggul

Bukit Katil

Lubuk Cina

Teluk Panglima Garang

Batang Melaka

Batang Berjuntai

Batang Besar


Gelang Patah



Pulau Bunting


Aku lemas dan layu

di tengah-tengah:

Petaling Jaya

Damansara Jaya

Desa Jaya

Ampang Jaya

Subang Jaya

Kelana Jaya





A concrete poem for Lat. (Lat is a popular Malaysian satirical cartoonist.)

My heart longs for:

Tanjung Penawar (Cape of Consolation)

Kampung Seronok (Gleeful Village)

Rantau Abang (Brother Land)

Janda Baik (Good Widow, or perhaps even Kind-hearted Divorcee)

Gertak Sanggul (I find this hard to translate. ‘Gertak’ means bluster and ‘sanggul’ means hair bun. It is supposed to refer to a bouncing up do.)

Bukit Katil (Hammock Hill, or without alliteration, Bed Hill)

Lubuk Cina (Chinese Pond. ‘Lubuk’ may also mean sinkhole or whirlpool.)

Teluk Panglima Garang (Fierce Warrior Bay. Panglima is also an official military title, equivalent if ‘commander’.)

Batang Melaka (‘Batang’ means stick or even river, but it provokes much sniggering because it’s slang for penis. Batang Melaka may refer to the Melaka river, or a large tree, or, in jest, Melaka’s official ‘member’.)

Batang Berjuntai (Lots of merriment over this place name as ‘berjuntai’ means dangling.)

Batang Besar (‘Besar’ is big, therefore you can imagine the schoolboy jokes.)

Banting (‘Banting’ means, variously, convulse, toss, and thresh. It is an agricultural town, or used to be, but I don’t think paddy is grown here.)

Gelang Patah (Broken Bracelet)

Tumpat (Dense)

Pedas (Spicy)

Pulau Bunting (Pregnant Island)


But I am depressed and discouraged

when I am in:

Petaling Jaya (‘Petaling’ refers only to the district and the city. It is not based on any Malay word.)

Damansara Jaya (‘Damansara’ refers to the river that runs from Sungai Buloh to Shah Alam.)

Desa Jaya (‘Desa’ means countryside.)

Ampang Jaya (‘Ampang’ means dam.)

Subang Jaya (‘Subang’ means earring.)

Kelana Jaya (‘Kelana’ means wanderer or wayfarer.)

Putrajaya (‘Putra’ means prince.)

Cyberjaya (well, you know what ‘Cyber’ means.)

(The suffix ‘jaya’ means success or prosperity or to thrive. It is, as you can tell, a popular suffix for the names of new townships and neighbourhoods. Used repeatedly, it has become meaningless. The delightful Batang Berjuntai has been renamed Bestari Jaya, ‘bestari’ meaning smart or skilled. Ho-hum.)


13 thoughts on “Jaya, Jaya, Jaya

      • Lyme and Bognor have the addition of Regis (‘of the king’) because of Georgian patronage, lots of place-names such as Norton Juxta Twycross have the Latin for ‘next to’ included, and near Nottingham are Sheepy Magna and Sheepy Parva (‘great’ and ‘small’). I know there are other examples but can’t bring them to mind just now! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lyme is also featured in Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman and in Penelope Lively’s children’s novel A Stitch in Time, and I suspect there are others! It’s a romantic-looking place, isn’t it, with the Cobb and all, so it’s unsurprising novelists want to locate their story there.


      • The Sheepy name “comes from the Anglian words for Sheep, “scep” and island, “eg”. Eg didn’t necessarily mean island in the middle of a lake or ocean, it could also refer to dry land in a marshy area.” Rather more prosaic, but there we are! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • I know about the downs from when I lived in Sussex but when I was a child I wondered why a book about a sinking ship had a picture of a rabbit on the cover. I did not know the ship Watership refers to sheep til now. Why water?


      • I haven’t yet found an etymology of Watership, but I’m guessing it’s something to do with thirsty sheep (streams emerging from the chalk hill?) rather than an obscure Anglo-Saxon chieftain or farmer called Walter.


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