Malaysian Multilingualism

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Yilise Lin kindly called my attention to this article entitled "is hokkien my mother tongue?"  (Hokkien consists of a number of topolects belonging to the Southern Min branch of Sinitic.  They are spoken in Taiwan and in parts of the province of Fujian [on the southeast coast of China], and widely throughout Southeast Asia by overseas Chinese.)  The article was written by a well-known Singaporean Malay playwright named Alfian Sa'at (he also call himself "Naif" and writes a blog under that name).

Alfian Sa'at's insights on the close relationships between what he correctly terms Southern Chinese languages (such as Hokkien, Teochew, and Cantonese) and Malay are very interesting. His observations on how there are almost no similar connections between Mandarin Chinese and Malay are quite thought provoking.  In other words, Alfian Sa'at is saying that Mandarin is a Johnny-Come-Lately to the region and that the inhabitants of Southeast Asia do not have any deep affinity for it.

As one example of the intricate linguistic interactions discussed by Alfian Sa'at, let us take the durian.  (The first time I smelled the stench of this foul fruit permeating an entire, huge Hong Kong supermarket, I nearly vomited.  Never mind that some people consider the durian's powerful odor to be fragrant, I find it to be overpoweringly repulsive and sickening — akin to a fetid, putrid petroleum sump full of dead rats.)  The name durian comes from the Malay word DURI ("thorn") followed by the nominal suffix -AN.  This is a tropical plant, so the Chinese in their homeland would never have had a chance to see it before emigrating to Southeast Asia.  Hokkien speakers who encountered the fruit borrowed the name durian as LOOLIAN.

Later, European travellers brought the soursop (a fruit indigenous to South America) with them to Southeast Asia.  Since it looked a bit like the durian (green with spiky exterior and custard yellow flesh), Hokkien speakers called it ANGMO LOOLIAN ("foreign durian").  Alfian Sa'at doesn't explain how ANGMO (also spelled ANGMOH) came to mean foreign, but I surmise that it is the same word as that pronounced HONG2MAO2 紅毛 in Mandarin, viz., "red hair."  This was an old word for the Dutch, who were among the first Europeans to engage extensively in trade in the Far East.  Later, ANGMO / HONG2MAO2 was used to refer to all Europeans and, by extension, anything novel or foreign that came from the West or was brought by Westerners (e.g., ANGMO KIO ["'Dutch' eggplant," i.e., "tomato"]).

Malay speakers, on the other hand, called this new fruit the DURIAN BELANDA (again, the "foreign durian").  It is noteworthy that the Malays, like the Hokkien, used a word referring to the Dutch (BELANDA = Holland) to signify things that were foreign (e.g., AYAM BELANDA ["'Dutch' chicken," i.e., "turkey"]).

Alfian Sa'at provides numerous examples of the interpenetration of Malay on the one hand and the Southern Chinese languages on the other hand.  He laments the imposition of the locally deracinated Mandarin as the official standard for Chinese in Singapore (English is the main working language of the nation, while Malay and Tamil are spoken widely).   And I love it when Alfian Sa'at, in his ardent defense of the "Southern Chinese languages" spoken in Singapore declares:  "I refuse to call them 'dialects'."  That's telling it like it is.


  1. Joel said,

    September 11, 2009 @ 4:29 pm

    Durian linguistics!

    Is there anything durian can't do?

  2. Ryan Denzer-King said,

    September 11, 2009 @ 4:32 pm

    I'm especially interested by the "Dutch" nomenclature. A similar situation exists in North America, where introduced items are "white man's" things in many languages, e.g., Thompson Salish, in which apples are "white man's crabapples" and bananas are "white man's prickly pears".

  3. Endymion Wilkinson said,

    September 11, 2009 @ 4:35 pm

    Great introduction! Thank you.

    I think I am right in saying that of the 14 languages that contributed most loan words into Mandarin in the course of history, Malay ranks as no. 14.
    One of the first Malay words that appears in wenyan is gubei (short-stapled cotton wool), possibly from Malay kapuk (English, kapok); Others include binlang (English, betel-nut palm from Malay pinang); and possibly manguo (mango from Malay mangga).
    Other words that appear in Chinese transcription but were not adopted into Chinese include katti (under the year 977, Songshi: 14,049).
    Does anyone know of other early Malay loans?

    Of course, if we were to count loan words into Minnan and Hakka, then Malay (as Alfian and Victor suggest) would score higher than many other contributors of loan words to these topolects.

  4. dr pepper said,

    September 11, 2009 @ 5:40 pm

    "peach" < "malum persicum". "persian apple".

  5. Nathan Myers said,

    September 11, 2009 @ 6:18 pm

    I thought it was already well established that Malay, and subsequently Polynesian and (!) Madagascan, languages were traceable to Taiwan, along with various alleles. Is this posting a celebration of tracing language details over long distances and times?

    Generally it's old people who like durian, so I suppose Victor is reminding us that he's in his prime. I have guessed that the olfactory apparatus that detects durian's foulness declines with age, but I don't know that anybody has investigated the matter. I had a bag of durian flavored hard candies (that my father enjoyed) that my wife finally threw out in disgust, to mine.

  6. Lameen said,

    September 11, 2009 @ 7:27 pm

    In North Africa, introduced plants often likewise get named "of the Christians": thus kəṛmus ən-nṣaṛa "fig of the Christians" = prickly pear; luz ən-nṣaṛa "almond of the Christians" = pine-nut.

  7. alex said,

    September 11, 2009 @ 8:56 pm

    Do note that Malaysian Chinese can differ from standard Chinese spoken elsewhere – i.e different names for some common everyday things like drinking straws and mandarin oranges, etc.

    While on the subject of loan words: "Pasar" (Market) from Malay gets rendered as Ba1 Sha4 in Malaysian Chinese. I've yet to encounter a mainland China Chinese who understood what this meant (at least not one who hasn't already been to Malaysia before).

  8. Peter Metcalfe said,

    September 11, 2009 @ 9:38 pm

    Belanda doesn't mean Holland. Orang Belanda is also the name given to the Proboscis Monkey in Bahasa Malay and when the Dutch came to their shores, their big noses, large bellies and red faces reminded them of the Proboscis Monkeys hence the name.

  9. Benjo said,

    September 11, 2009 @ 11:00 pm

    Whatever its origin, Malay belanda is also the etymon of the northern Australian Aboriginal term for whites, balanda, by way of Makassarese.

  10. Stephen Jones said,

    September 12, 2009 @ 12:42 am

    We have durian in Sri Lanka. I also can't stomach it. Somebody must like it though. Mind you a quick poll of everybody in the house finds nobody who does.

  11. Nathan Myers said,

    September 12, 2009 @ 2:11 am

    Stephen: Just give it time. You'll come around.

  12. Stephen Jones said,

    September 12, 2009 @ 3:16 am

    Stephen: Just give it time.You'll come around.

    In the intensive care unit, I suspect.

  13. M. Packman said,

    September 12, 2009 @ 8:40 am

    Durian is, for the record, the best of all possible fruits. Except maybe for mangosteens, but they go together anyway.

    I don't know about the /original/ meaning of belanda, but the most recent Kamus Dewan only gives the the European definition. (Interestingly enough, it seems 'belanda hitam' or black belanda means a person of African descent.) I'm too lazy to look it up in the online corpus to see if there's any relation to monkey business in the old texts.

  14. alex said,

    September 12, 2009 @ 9:27 am

    Hey Nathan, nice to have a fellow durian afficionado here!

    Stephen – have you ever tried dodol? That's a Malaysian sweet made from durian. I've known some durian haters who didn't mind eating that even though they can't stand the natural fruit.

  15. Benjamin Zimmer said,

    September 12, 2009 @ 10:24 am

    Peter Metcalfe: Belanda doesn't mean Holland. Orang Belanda is also the name given to the Proboscis Monkey in Bahasa Malay and when the Dutch came to their shores, their big noses, large bellies and red faces reminded them of the Proboscis Monkeys hence the name.

    Nope — the monkeys were named after the Dutchmen, not vice versa. Belanda derives from Portuguese Holanda. The Indonesian Wikipedia page for Belanda gives the progression as holanda > olanda > wolanda > bolanda > belanda, which seems reasonable.

  16. Coby Lubliner said,

    September 12, 2009 @ 10:45 am

    "I refuse to call them 'dialects'."
    Is 'dialect' a derogatory term? Since when?

  17. rikker said,

    September 12, 2009 @ 2:25 pm

    Interesting discussion. Durian is loaned into Thai, too, as ทุเรียน /thurian/.

    The soursop is called ทุเรียนเทศ /thurian the:t/ "foreign durian". Thai เทศ /the:t/ is a loan from Sanskrit deśa "country, province" (as seen in names like Bangladesh and Uttar Pradesh).

    Thai calls the tomato มะเขือเทศ /ma-khuea the:t/ "foreign eggplant". The /ma-/ is a bound prefix that comes from a word that meant 'fruit' in Old Thai (หมาก /maak/). But the เขือ /khuea/ part does look similar to "kio" mentioned from Hokkien.

    Thai also has มะนาวเทศ /mana:o the:t/ "lemon" (= "foreign lime"), มันเทศ /man the:t/ "sweet potato" (= "foreign potato"), and even นกกระจอกเทศ /nok kracɔ:k the:t/ "ostrich" (= "foreign sparrow", go figure).

    Thai actually has two words that serve this same purpose, though. The other is ฝรั่ง /farang/, a much misunderstood word that is still the common word for "white foreigner", and despite folk etymologies aplenty, in fact seems to ultimately from Persian /ferangg/, their word for the Franks. (Varying forms of this word are found far and wide in the East, and even made its way into Star Trek as a parody of greedy Westerners —

    The Thai word for "guava", native to the Americas, is recorded in the early 19th century as being called กล้วยฝรั่ง /kluai farang/ "white man's plantain". Today it is known simply as ฝรั่ง /farang/ (which has led to folk etymologies that the white men are named after the white flesh of the guava fruit).

    Thai also has the มันฝรั่ง /man farang/ "potato" (= "white man's tuber"), หมากฝรั่ง /maak farang/ "chewing gum" (= "white man's betel"), ผักชีฝรั่ง /phak chii farang/ "parsley" (= "white man's coriander").

    Thai also has many of the same words as Malay from Southern Min dialects, especially Teo Chiu and Hokkien, due to an influx of Chinese immigrants in the 18th – 20th centuries. And as a neighbor of Malaysia, durian is but one of many words Thailand has borrowed.

    Oh, and I'm quite fond of durian myself. It's the smell of jackfruit that makes me gag.

  18. Jonathan said,

    September 12, 2009 @ 2:37 pm

    I am wondering along with Nathan Myers about what you meant precisely by Malay's 'relationship' with southern Chinese languages. Historical linguists like myself distinguish sharply between similarities arising through contact (of which this seems to be a clear case) and actual genetic 'relationship', meaning that two languages go back to a common ancestor through an unbroken succession of instances of child language acquisition. As far as I'm aware, there is little or no evidence Malay and Chinese are genetically related in that sense, so you should be careful not to imply otherwise by talking about the 'relationship' between the two languages. Instead, you should talk about the close contact the languages have shared and leave it at that. Language contact in itself is a very interesting subject, of course.

  19. James C. said,

    September 12, 2009 @ 6:11 pm

    @Coby Lubliner:
    If you take a Hokkien speaker, a Shanghainese speaker, and a “Beijingese” (Mandarin) speaker and ask them to speak only their native language to each other, the result is essentially mutual unintelligibility. This is the usual (though not flawless) criterion for the distinction between language and dialect. So for a linguist, these should be considered different languages. Indeed, most non-PRC linguists I know who are familiar with the issue do generally refer to “Chinese/Sinitic languages”, “the Cantonese language”, “the Hakka language”, and so forth.

    However, there is a tradition of describing all of the Sinitic languages of China as “dialects” in English, even when the possibility of mutual intelligibility is remote. This is partly due to there being one standard writing system applied to all the different languages, partly due to the influence of Classical Chinese over the centuries, partly due to the problems in translating “language” and “dialect” into Chinese, and finally partly due to language politics and the supremacy of Mandarin as the primary Sinitic language of the PRC, the ROC, and Singapore. I think the Wikipedia article on the topic is informative, though itself not without problems.

  20. David Huggins-Daines said,

    September 13, 2009 @ 1:55 am

    Re: "dialects" … Even the idea that there is a standard writing system for all Chinese languages holds up better in theory than practice. In the past, when everyone wrote in Classical Chinese, this was true, but since people started writing in vernacular Chinese, and particularly since guoyu/putonghua (Standard Mandarin) was codified, writing Chinese means writing Mandarin, even if you don't actually speak it.

    Cantonese does however have a standard written form, with some special characters. For Taiwanese Minnan the situation is apparently complicated by the fact that the language contains a large number of words with no clear Chinese origin, so nobody can agree on how to write them. is an interesting article among many on on this subject…

    What *is* true is that written vernacular Chinese is more or less intelligible across literate speakers of all Chinese languages, but then again, it's also somewhat intelligible to Japanese speakers.

  21. Kellen said,

    September 13, 2009 @ 5:25 am

    Re intelligibility of written vernacular, assuming that's true, is it true because things are similar or is it true because people are familiar with the vernacular usages? I'm in/around Shanghai and many of my friends are quite familiar with various Cantonese phrases thanks to music and movies. However the other day I was at a loss for the word meaning "cockroach", but could remember the characters of it in Cantonese. In a room of 20 people, only one had a guess.

    There are a number of characters used in Wu/Shanghainese to signify that it's Wu being used in novels etc, e.g. 阿拉 as 我们, (and 俺们 used in the North), 吾 as 我 etc., though admittedly that last one's less common. When they're easily understood, it seems it would be due to classical roots (as is the case with 吾) or because of pop-culture, e.g. Lust/Caution the lead female role as that of a displaced Shanghainese woman, not because of some inherent understandability of the characters used.

    For the record 曱 was the character for cockroach I gave, though I think I've also seen something like 曱甴.

  22. Lugubert said,

    September 13, 2009 @ 7:22 am

    Belanda made me think of an Indian way of expressing "foreign". Belaiti Gai = English Cow, belaiti/bilayutee/bilatee panee = English/European/soda-water, bilayati baingam = tomato. Have a look at the Yule–Burnell, Hobson-Jobson article, "Bilayut".

    It's only two or three letters in common, but at least the principle is the same.

  23. Nathan Myers said,

    September 13, 2009 @ 4:13 pm

    Just for the record, I am not yet a connoisseur of durians. It may take another two decades for the aromatic components that suggest old wet garbage, burnt wiring, and kerosene to fade from my sensorium. It's hard to say that I look forward to that eventuality, but I can hope the pleasure of durians' flavor compensates for the losses.

  24. Bryan said,

    September 13, 2009 @ 5:02 pm

    曱甴 is Cantonese for "cockroach". Neither word is used alone. Must always be used together.

  25. Bryan said,

    September 13, 2009 @ 5:04 pm

    Wait. Oops! It's 甴曱, not 曱甴!

  26. Bryan said,

    September 13, 2009 @ 5:11 pm

    Belanda / Belaiti / Bilatee / Holland / 河蘭:
    "belaiti/bilayutee/bilatee panee = English/European/soda-water".

    Soda was referred to as "河蘭水" or literally "Holland water" in Chinese, when it first reached China.

  27. Kathryn said,

    September 13, 2009 @ 5:12 pm

    Your description of durians suggests something resembling a dead baby joke.

    Q: What is more foul and repulsive than a rat?
    A: A dead rat.

    Q: What is more foul and repulsive than a dead rat?
    A: A petroleum sump full of dead rats.

    Q: What is more foul and repulsive than a petroleum sump full of dead rats?
    A: A durian.

  28. Bryan said,

    September 13, 2009 @ 5:14 pm

    Is 'dialect' a derogatory term? Since when?
    Dialect is not derogatory. If it is, then it's "Silly like Milli Vanilli", when they got busted for lip-synching.

  29. Bryan said,

    September 13, 2009 @ 6:21 pm

    Pasar is probably borrowed from Turkish/Arabic / Middle Eastern "Bazar / Bazaar"

    甴曱, "gat zat" in Cantonese = 蟑螂, "zhāng láng" in Mandarin.

    Since Shanghainese and other southern dialects were used first before Mandarin cirka "800 AD", there might be some similarity in vocabulary.

    再會 / 再会 = "zai ve" or something similar in Shanghainese = "tsoi wui" in Cantonese, which sounds a bit archaic in Cantonese, where nowadays 再見/ 再见 "tsoi geen" is used.

  30. hidamali said,

    September 13, 2009 @ 9:53 pm

    "angmo" is indeed the hokkien pronounciation of "hongmao ", but perhaps it would be more accurate to say "hongmao" is the mandarin pronounciation of "angmo".
    for me as a singaporean chinese, "hongmao" is almost never used when speaking in mandarin, it's almost certainly a direct "translation" from "angmo". i think the "red hair" epithet comes not because the colonialists were all redheads, but because of the way caucasian body hair looks slightly red under sunlight.

  31. hidamali said,

    September 13, 2009 @ 10:00 pm

    another example: soap is "feizao" in Mandarin, alluding to the use of fat in it, but "sab-bun" in Hokkien.
    imagine my surprise when i went to Syria and discovered "al-sabun" in the souqs. probably came from Arabic via Malay.

  32. Akshay said,

    September 13, 2009 @ 10:05 pm

    While I certainly see why Hokkien and Hakka should be considered languages different from Mandarin, would be correct to call say, _Nanyang_ Hokkien (ie Hokkien as spoken in South East Asia) as a dialect of mainland Hokkien? Among Sa'at's many points was that idiomatic usage in the mainland and in South East Asia is different, not unlike, say, Argentinian Spanish and European Spanish.

  33. hidamali said,

    September 13, 2009 @ 10:15 pm

    by the way, why is the article titled "malaysian multilingualism"? nothing in it seems specific to malaysia, and it's written by a singaporean. maybe u mean "malayan"?

    and i've been suppressing it for 2 comments, but i have to say it now: durian is awesome! and it's not just old people who like it.

  34. hidamali said,

    September 14, 2009 @ 12:59 am

    Dear Akshay,
    As the article states, "Hokkien consists of a number of topolects belonging to the Southern Min branch of Sinitic." Due to Fujian province being a mountainous region, the inflections in Hokkien differ quite a lot from hamlet to hamlet.
    The Hokkien spoken in Xiamen is viewed as being the "standard" Hokkien, and in my personal experience, Nanyang Hokkien doesn't deviate from this much more than Hokkien in western Xiamen, or in Taiwan.
    So maybe Spanish is not as good an analogy as say, Basque.


    PS. I don't know if an article has already addressed this, but just like Malay, Japanese also has a lot more in common with southern Chinese dialects than Mandarin, for entirely different reasons. another fascinating topic.

  35. Chas Belov said,

    September 14, 2009 @ 1:24 am

    I was told in a personal communication that "angmoh" was an insulting reference to the red-haired monkey in Journey to the West. whether this is a folk etymology or not I leave to the professional linguists among us

  36. Victor Mair said,

    September 14, 2009 @ 9:15 am

    To those who question whether "dialect" is a derogatory term, you've missed the point. It's purely a matter of proper linguistic classification.

    Bob Bauer sent these interesting comments on the term "red hair" for Westerners:


    As for durian, yes, it does have a strong smell, but I happen to enjoy/savor its creamy sweet taste. When I lived in Thailand years ago, I used to have it for breakfast with a pot of Twinings Earl Grey tea — a great combination. The most delectable durian in Bangkok is called [mOn thOng] (O = open o), literally, 'pillow golden', i.e. 'golden pillow' (I suspect there may be at touch of irony in that name).

    As for "ang mo", your analysis is spot on. Back in the 19th century this term was in widespread use in the Min- and Yue-speaking areas of southeast China to refer to foreigners and the things they introduced into the region. In Cantonese the word is pronounced [hung4 mou4] and in Hong Kong the old (but still current) word for 'cement' (the construction material) is [hung4 mou4 nai4] which is literally 'red-haired mud'; presumably, it was introduced by the Europeans, maybe the British who were called [hung4 mou4 gwai2] 'red-haired ghosts'.

    When I was in Singapore in March, I discovered that the local lexical equivalent of HK Cantonese [gwai2 lou2] '(white) foreigner' is [ang mo]. Just as in HK, white foreigners in Singapore use the local term to refer to themselves.


    Bob also sent me the cover of a old book published in Guangzhou dated ca. 1835. Its purpose was to help Cantonese-speaking Chinese people learn how to speak English by transcribing English words with Chinese characters pronounced in Cantonese and then translating them into Chinese. The title of the book is Hung Mou Tung Jung Faan Waa 紅毛通用番話 (in Mandarin that would be HONG2MAO2 TONG1YONG4 FAN1HUA4).

    I wish I could post the picture of the cover of this book because the depiction of the ANGMO(H) it bears is indescribably charming. Alas, I do not know how to do so. If someone reading this is technically capable of posting the picture in the comments section here, I'll send it on to them.

  37. jiak kantang said,

    September 14, 2009 @ 1:14 pm

    To those who question whether "dialect" is a derogatory term, you've missed the point. It's purely a matter of proper linguistic classification.

    Not quite. Alfian Sa'at's rejection of the use of 'dialect' arises from a context in which the use of non-Mandarin Chinese languages is actively discouraged, and the use of the term 'dialect' by the authorities is one of many tools (whether consciously perceived as such or not) to de-legitimise these languages—the idea being that if these are "just dialects" and not "real" or "full" languages, then they could certainly not be given official recognition. From a social point of view, then, Alfian's use of the term 'dialect' does have a negative connotation.

  38. Eric said,

    September 14, 2009 @ 2:22 pm

    Though I'd always perceived it as value-neutral, I'm under the impression that one reason sociolinguistics seems to shy away from the word dialect is its connotations. According to the dictionary there's nothing inherently derogatory about the word, but I've inferred that, for many speakers, a "dialect" is something looked down upon… since when are "dialects" ever encountered, but as deviations from the prestige variety… and everyone knows those are substandard!

    Also, hidamali, in this case does Hokkien mean Malaysian Hokkien? This article seems to imply that sabun'd be called something different in Mainland or Philippine Fujianese. (“Soap" in modern Portuguese is "sabón.”)

  39. jiak kantang said,

    September 14, 2009 @ 2:42 pm

    Yes, I think a difficulty with the term 'dialect' is that while linguists may often want to use it in a value-neutral way for the purposes of language classification, non-linguists on the other hand have beliefs about what a 'dialect' is that are not value-neutral.

  40. Jim said,

    September 14, 2009 @ 2:45 pm

    "peach" < "malum persicum". "persian apple"."

    "walnut " < "wealhhnutu" – Celtic nut

    I can't make out what language the article means by "Hokkien". Hokkien is a pronunciation of "Fujian", and there as many as five Sinitic languages in that province, and they damn sure aren't dialects of one language. There is no way a Fuzhou speaker is going to be able to make any sense out Min Nan. They sound as different as Danish and Swedish, but are probably actually as differnet as Dutch and High German.

    If the term Hokiken is meant to refer to the southern language, which people already call Min Nan, then I thought the term for that region was Hoklo / Fu2lao3.

    There seems to be a chronology of which term was used to designate foreign things coming into the culture: hu2tao1 = "barbarian peach" (walnut) is older than fan1qie2 = French eggplant" (tomato) which is older than yang2cong1 = ocean scallion (yellow onion). The fact that walnuts came overland may explain the use of hu2, but both onions and tomatoes came by sea. And then weirdly maize got named 'yu4mi3" = jade rice[grain] = corn.

    Durian is rancid Anything with durian in it is rancid. Anything that has been sitting next to it on the store shelf will be rancid. Even if they have managed to mask the smell somehow and you can gag it down the burps will be rancid. It smells like it was scraped from the bottom of a dumpster after the CSI team had finished processing the scene.

  41. Eric Vinyl said,

    September 15, 2009 @ 7:47 am

    Hokkien is the common English name for Min-nan as spoken in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. I’ve only heard Hoklo used to refer to the Taiwanese variant.

  42. Alexander said,

    September 17, 2009 @ 11:34 am

    The "fan" in Chinese "fanqie" (tomato) does not mean 'French'. Rather it has a broad meaning in the general area of 'barbarian'.

  43. Akerbeltz said,

    September 19, 2009 @ 8:29 am

    Is the meaning of "wealhhnutu" really Celtic nut? The same root crops up in German "Welsch"; I remember that the green tops of the Frauenkirche in Munich used to be called "Welsche Hauben" which was always glossed as "foreign caps".

    [(myl) And also in Walloon and in Vlach and in … There's an extensive etymological discussion here. The OED's etymology for walnut:

    OE. walhhnutu str. fem. = WFris. walnút (NFris. walnödd from Da.), MDu. walnote (Kilian walnot), Du. walnoot, MLG. wallnot, -nut, LG. (Bremisch. Wörterb. wallnutt) walnut, G. walnuss (earlier wallnuss), ON. valhnot str. fem. (Norw. valnot, Sw. valnöt, Da. valnød). The first element is OTeut. *walχo-z (OE. wealh, OHG. walah) ‘Welshman’, i.e. Celtic or Roman foreigner.

    The AHD's entry for Wales:

    Although Celtic-speaking peoples were living in Britain before the arrival of the invaders from Friesland and Jutland whose languages would eventually develop into English, it was the Celts and not the invaders who came to be called “strangers” in English. Our words for the descendants of one of the Celtish peoples, Welsh, and for their homeland, Wales, come from the Old English word wealh, meaning “foreigner, stranger, Celt.” Its plural wealas is the direct ancestor of Wales, literally “foreigners.” The Old English adjective derived from wealh, wælisc or welisc, is the source of our Welsh. The Germanic form for the root from which wealh descended was *walh–, “foreign.” We also have attested once in Old English the compound walhhnutu in a document from around 1050; its next recording appears in 1358 as walnottes. This eventually became walnut in Modern English, which is thus literally the “foreign nut.” The nut was “foreign” because it was native to Roman Gaul and Italy.


  44. Sunduvan said,

    October 7, 2010 @ 3:42 am

    In Malaysia everybody knows atleast 3 languages. That is what makes us beautiful. :p

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