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Topic: Taboo of word and action in Malay modern culture
Almost every part of Malaysia, the elders often uses the same taboos and
practiced those words to discipline youngsters so that in the future, the children will be
well behaved. Every culture in Malaysia has their own taboo, not excluded Malay
culture. Malay community is a people who are still bound by much taboo though they are
dealing with life in this third millennium and accept the renewal. Some of the taboos
associated with the Malays against the law of nature, there is also highlighted as
showing consequences will befall the perpetrators and to protect the decency as a
human sense, in addition to at least have a close relationship science
In Malay culture there are some taboos or restrictions either for elders or
children. For example, taboo of food, taboo of wedding, taboo of newborn, and many
more. Malay culture is significantly full of “adat resam”. Taboo is usually use by people
who living in rural area or in village.
For this research, the researcher will focus more on taboo of word and action.
Taboo of word and action explains the restrictions or “not to do” or conduct behavior that
is accepted by all people in practices on action and word or the way you speak. It
included the way you adapt with something in our life. For example, they have taboo on
‘jangan duduk atas bantal, nanti bisul” Why it must pillow? Why the effect is boil?
Why these taboos exist?. In fact, the researcher would also included taboo of words. For
example, youngsters nowadays use harsh words such as “bodoh sial, bangang nak
mampus, palat, and etc” to welcome people. Why these taboos of words exist? Why it
can be taboo? Besides, the researcher also would like to know how this taboo affect live
and value for some people. This research may also be able to give a clear overview for
some taboo that we do not know before.
According to Sociology books, a taboo is social or cultural prohibition.
Disregarding taboo is generally considered a deviant act by society. Taboo is a
Polynesian word, first encountered by Captain Cook, meaning literally ‘marked off’.
Taboo is putting of a person or thing under temporary or permanent prohibition or
interdict, especially as a social custom. Taboo also means forbidden to general use or to
a particular person or class of people. Taboo is a customary prohibition or interdict, also,
the system or custom, especially in certain societies, by which such prohibitions occur.
Taboo refers to those special articles or symbols within a culture that are given a distinct
status as sacred, metaphysical or dangerous. Taboo may mean set apart for or
consecrated to a special use or purpose. Tabooism is a system of taboo. Vegetarianism,
halal and kosher food can be regarded as part of restrictions one is expected to adhere
to. There can be taboo of the use of certain words and topics in social conversation.
According to Online Etymology dictionary, Taboos can include sex, death, dietary
restrictions (halal and kosher diets, religious vegetarianism, and the prohibition
of cannibalism), restrictions on sexual activities and relationships (sex outside
of marriage, adultery, intermarriage, miscegenation, incest, animal-human sex, adult-
child sex, sex with the dead), sexual fetishes, restrictions of bodily functions
(burping, flatulence, defecation and urination), restrictions on the use of psychoactive,
restrictions on state of genitalia such as (transsexual gender identity, circumcision or sex
reassignment), exposure of body parts (ankles in the Victorian British Empire, women's
hair in parts of the Middle, nudity in the US), and restrictions on the use of offensive
language. Foot Binding, practiced in ancient China, would also be considered taboo in
the context of modern cultural mores.
Malay culture is a culture which is still bound with taboo even though they are
going to develop a new era. Some parts of their taboo is related with environment
purposes, some of them is created to give effects because of bad behavior or else.
Taboo of words and action explains the restrictions for action and word for
people which is created by ancestor in order to make disciplined to the youngest
especially in Malay culture. There are many examples of taboo of words and action in
Malay culture. For example, there are taboo which is prohibited a young lady to sing in
the kitchen or else they will married with old man. Our ancestors created this taboo is
because to make sure there is no accident while in cooking. Besides, to make sure the
taste in food is enough and good taste. There are relevance why our ancestors create a
For taboos of action in Malay culture, there are some taboos which are related. This
taboo is familiar because it well known among Malay people who living either in village
or urban city. Some of example is:-
Taboo 1 #
“ Jangan duduk atas bantal, nanti bisul”
- (Do not sit in the pillow, or else you will get sores in your backside.)
- The reason: the pillow is use on head, so it is not polite to sit on it.
Taboo 2 #
“Jangan menyanyi di dapur, nanti dapat suami tua”
- (Do not sing in the kitchen, or you (women) will marry someone who is way older
than you expect.)
- The reason: you might be careless while cooking in order to avoid accidents.
“Jangan keluar senja, nanti kena sorok dengan hantu payu-dara”
- (Do not go out and play at dusk, or you might be kidnapped by boogey-women.)
- The reason: most Malay is Muslims, so it is not good to go out at dusk because
the devils and the djinns usually wander at dusk.
Taboo 4 #
“Jangan kencing dekat busut, nanti bengkak kemaluan”
- (Do not urinate or termite bunk, or your (male) penis might be swollen.
- The reason: it is impolite to wee-wee out of nowhere and a bunk might be a resting
place for supernatural spirits and it might be curse anyone who mess up their place.
The researcher strongly believe that all of those mentioned above as taboos not
because the subjects are immoral or corrupted, but the Malays are sometimes being
restricted to certain knowledge by certain authorities for their own benefit, not because
the words are impolite.
There are also the modern taboos of Malays. Nowadays, the young generation has
their own taboos created among themselves which is not used as moral lesson, but to
curse and to address people in an impolite manner. What interest me is not only
because of why the new generation taboo exist, but also these words are not allowed to
be used back in the old days (twenty-thirty years ago).
According to Polseguera.com, taboo of words is those that are considered in
bad taste by some people or that are better to be avoided because they mention
realities that are stark or vulgar. They refer to sex, religion, and necessities such as
the act of emptying the bladder or the bowels, and so on. Examples: fuck, fornicate,
masturbation, prick, cunt, the devil, crap, piss, die, etc.
1) taboo of word (harsh word)
“Bodoh sial, bangang nak mampus, palat, kepala bapak engkau, lancau, bengap,
benyut, sengal, etc.”
Those words all are pretty well known to Malaysian youngsters. Actually, all of these
words are taboos and cannot be used at home, school and public places. However,
these words are widely used among the youngsters in their daily conversation. It really
worry us as the youngster are the future generation, however, they are using such words
to address other people. For example, Malay people who live in Malacca. For them, this
word is just a “welcome” or a simple word to address members or clicks. But for other
state, it is not. What if those words become a common thing in the future and are widely
used by the society? For sure, Malays will become a rude race and negative
impressions will be given to the Malays by other races in Malaysia. We want the Malay
youngsters to be aware of what they are saying because our words usually show our
personality and backgrounds. Do you want to be labeled rude and uneducated by your
parents because other people see the first impression of you by the way you talk to your
4.1 Jiwang. Org (Blogs) – Mitos (Pantang Larang Melayu Lama)
4.2 Berita Harian – Warna Kehidupan : Pantang Larang melayu
4.3 NGC Blog – What is Taboo
4.4 Wikipedia.com - Pantang larang Melayu
4.5 Blog - Pantang Larang Melayu Tradisional
4.6 Blog (Nik Suzaidie) – Pantang larang Melayu Tradisional
4.7 Jab. Kebudayaan dan Kesenian Negara – The Malay community
4.8 Sociology Books – Taboo
4.9 Blogs – to pantang or not to pantang
4.10 Blogs – Pantang Larang orang tua-tua
7.0 Solution suggestions
In a multi-racial country like Malaysia, we get all sorts of taboos whether we are
Chinese, Malay, Indians, and of one of the dozens of indigenous groups such as bans,
dayaks, kadazans, muruts, dusuns, etc . Sometimes and very likely it's impossible to
keep track of most of them. However, we should visit any of them especially for any
festivities; the hosts of any culture are usually very gracious and more than happy to
explain the cultural and traditional practices.
Taboo is a Malay traditional belief associated with past customs and cultural
heritage of ancestors. Taboo is existing because it has their own reasons and theories.
Taboo cannot be denied. It is important for youngsters especially make them aware for
all activities that they do. Taboo is also used to acknowledge our culture because it was
be the significance for each culture and races in Malaysia. Taboo is importantly for
children because it can make them responsible for their actions or activities. Taboo can
also be used to make them disciplined and be controlled.
In history, the Malays are well known for their polite manners. Nowadays
Malaysian Government starts introducing new terms to make a word more polite in order
for the public to converse using polite language. For example, the introduction of
OKU(orang kurang upaya) – term that was used for disable people, warga emas – term
for oldies, pendatang tanpa izin (rather than “pendatang haram” or “alien” ),and
meninggal dunia – term for “mati” or die. There are many euphemisms being used all
over the Malay language, but the people have the freedom whether to use it or not.
In conclusion, taboos exist within a community, our perception on certain
subjects or words will determine whether some words or doings are considered as
taboos. Taboos are what give a culture its culture. Taboo is something that “just isn’t
done” or that you just don’t do. Taboo is accepted as such not always with a supporting
So, we must use euphemism in our everyday conversation so that we will not
hurt other people's feelings. Remember, use polite words to address other people and
choose the words carefully before we open our mouth. For example, instead of saying
"orang cacat"(disabled) use "insan istimewa"(special). We also should not use bad
words and misuse taboos for bad things so that we can be nice to each other and is
Denggi. (2006, Jan 23). What are taboos in your culture? (Msg 10). Message
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Pantang larang. (2009). Retrievd on August 20, 2010 from http://www.
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