Tuesday, May 16, 2017


94.  (Bagai) buntal tiup
(Like) a puffed-up blowfish

Inflated with self-importance. Strutting like a peacock. Empty vessels make the most noise. Great boast, small roast. Sometimes rendered: bagai buntal kembung, purut buncit dalamnya kosong (like a big fat blowfish, huge in belly but empty within).

95.  Anak ikan dimakan ikan

The big fish devours the small fry

The rule of “might is right.” Chronos (Time) eating his own children. The past destroying the future (through force of habit). Enslaved by the food chain and driven by greed, they hastened their own extinction.

96.  Ada air adalah ikan, ada padang adalah belalang, ada laut adalah perompak
Where there’s water you’ll find fish, where there’s grassy fields you’ll find grasshoppers, where there’s open seas you’ll find pirates

A promise and a warning. Where there’s sugar you’ll find ants. Where there’s money you’ll find banks… and mountebanks!

97.  (Seperti) ikan digulai sudah melompat
The fish has jumped out of the curry

Unbelievable misfortune (unless you happen to be the fish). Murphy’s Law: if anything can go wrong, it will.

98.  Minyak duyung merendang duyung
Frying the mermaid in her own fat

This bizarre image becomes more realistic if you substitute duyung (the mermaid) with dugong (a sea-cow) – bearing in mind that fisherfolk of old might have relished the occasional dugong rendang (a spicy, oily way to prepare meat).

There are at least two readings of this saying: (i) hoist with one’s own petard; (ii) poetic justice, tit for tat.

99.  Keli dua selubang
Two catfish in the same hole

A slippery saying with at least three popular interpretations: (i) of one mind, alike in nature, birds of a feather; (ii) arch-rivals, as in harimau dua sekandang (two tigers in the same cage); (iii) a woman with two lovers or a cuckolded husband.
100.  Belut pulang ke lumpur
The eel returns to the slime

East, West, home’s best. Return of the prodigal son to his native soil. 
A variant has the eel falling into the slime (belut jatuh ke lumpur) which emphasizes that the subject is back in his natural element or has landed on his feet, so to speak.

Like Brer Rabbit in his Briar Patch or the rat trapped in the granary 
(tikus jatuh ke beras), there really is no place like home.

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