ASEAN Hive Community Challenge #24 | Ten Idioms of the Iban (Dayak) of Borneo


It's day seven after my Covid19 infection and the last day of my home quarantine. However, being a good citizen, I will not leave the house as long as my health status in the MySejahtera app is still in the red category. MySejahtera is a mobile application developed by the Government of Malaysia to facilitate contact tracing efforts in response to the Covid19 pandemic. I knew the status would not turn green until I completed their Long Covid survey form, which I expected to get tomorrow.


❤️ Recovering From Covid19 ❤️

If you are wondering, we are recovering well from Covid19, including my daughter on her fourth day of infection. Her fever broke last night, and the sore throat is finally gone. She still coughs now and then but nothing serious. If all goes well, the kids may return to school by Wednesday. I am grateful that we are making great progress in our recovery from this dreadful disease that terrorizing the world for the past couple of years.

Several days ago, I wanted to write this post, but Covid19-induced fatigue caused me to halt many activities. I spent a lot of time resting and sleeping, which contributed greatly to the recovery process. I am glad I still have plenty of time to participate, so here goes!

❤️ The Iban's Oral Literature ❤️

The theme for this week's challenge is Local Proverbs/Folk Sayings. I missed many past challenges, but this week's challenge is right up my alley. This challenge is perfect for introducing a small part of my culture, the Iban (Dayak) of Borneo, to the ASEAN Hive community. I have never mentioned this anywhere on Hive, but I belong to the famous headhunting tribe of Borneo, the Iban or Dayak. The Dayak live principally in Borneo's central and southern interior and span two countries - Sarawak, Malaysia and Kalimantan, Indonesia.

The Iban has rich oral literature that includes fables, folklore, legends, idioms, riddles, sayings, and myths. But because this literature is passed orally from one generation to the next, it is rapidly dying out and may not survive long in modern-day society.

I am not well versed in the literature of my people, and there are hundreds of sayings or proverbs that I may have never discovered before, but I try to include 10 such sayings/idioms in this post. I hope it will give my readers a small glimpse of the beauty of Iban literature.

Just a picture of my kids in traditional Iban costume pieces but these aren't our full costumes. I will talk more about Iban full costumes in my future posts. My kids look Chinese, but they are not Chinese. They are of 3 mixed ethnicities - Iban, Kadazan, and Kimaragang.


❤️ 10 Idioms of the Iban of Borneo❤️

These idioms are not easy to translate, but I try to convey the meaning in English the best I can.

💛 Idiom 1 💛

"Makin peluh makin bekayuh, makin lelak makin berumpak."

Literal translation:
The more you sweat, the more you row the boat. The more tired you feel, the more you compete.

Referring to someone who does not give up easily or who is tenacious and perseverant in his task.

💛 Idiom 2 💛

"Baka buyah ke nabak diri ke api."

Literal translation:
Like a moth to a flame.

Partaking in a useless task or initiative. Or doing something that ended up does not give any benefit. The meaning is different from a similar English idiom, meaning someone is strongly attracted to something. Interesting, isn't it?

💛 Idiom 3 💛

"Baka kepayang ngadaka dilah."

Literal translation:
Like a "kepayang" fruit grows a tongue.

To talk about doing something but never actually doing it.

Kepayang, or Pangium, containing the sole species Pangium edule is a tall tree native to the mangrove swamps of Southeast Asia (Indonesia and Papua New Guinea). It produces a large poisonous fruit (the "football fruit" or pangi) which can be made edible by fermentation. ~ Source: Wikipedia


Image source: I Love Borneo

💛 Idiom 4 💛

"Manuk lepas jari bau tai."

Literal translation:
The rooster is out of your grab, and now your hands smell like chicken poop.

You had the chance, but you didn't grab it. A wasted opportunity.

💛 Idiom 5 💛

"Runggu ensing enti terebai apus ga sungai."

Literal translation:
A kingfisher (bird) may look sick, but when it flies, it flies far and wide.

Someone who completes a task given to him despite not looking competent enough to accomplish it.

💛 Idiom 6 💛

"Baka mayau ke ngelamun tai."

Literal translation:
Like a cat buries its poop.

Someone who hides their mistake.

💛 Idiom 7 💛

"Agi bau lia."

Literal translation:
Someone who smells like ginger.

Referring to a youngster who tries to act like an adult.

💛 Idiom 8 💛

"Antu berumah baruh dagu."

Literal translation:
A ghost builds a home under your chin.

A baseless opinion may cause trouble to the person who gives that opinion.

💛 Idiom 9 💛

"Baka manang ke nangkap semengat."

Literal translation:
Like a shaman trying to catch a spirit.

Referring to someone who is fast on their feet.

💛 Idiom 10 💛

"Berani nebang berani nyan."

Literal translation:
If you dare to chop down the tree, you must dare to carry it.

If you want to do something risky, you must be courageous enough to bear the risk.

So there you go. Ten idioms of the Iban of Borneo. Some may not make sense to foreigners, but we make our idioms based on things we see or experience in our daily farming life. I hope it gives you a nice peek into the culture of my people. There are plenty of cultural things I want to share, but I shall save them for future posts.

That's it for now. If you read this far, thank you. I appreciate it so much! Kindly give me a follow if you like my content. I mostly write about making art, life musing, and our mundane yet charming family life here in Klang Valley, Malaysia.

Thank you for visiting and reading my post. I hope you like it!

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 6 months ago  

So, you are a descendant of a head-hunting tribe. I love it. I'm going to Kalimantan with the sailing rally. It will be interesting to hear more of the history of the Iban tribe when I visit there.

 6 months ago  

Yes, I am Iban or Sea Dayak, the more aggressive tribe. May you have a safe journey to Kalimantan. I look forward to reading about your latest adventure.

 6 months ago  

You got 10 deep thoughts to live by. Something to think about for a moment. I also like the gifs and photos that are included. Thank you for sharing.

 6 months ago  

Thank you. I struggled a bit trying to translate them into English.

 6 months ago  

Wow, what a great lesson.
Despite being an Iban myself, I still learned something new from you.
I am "Iban Murtad," I must state in jest. 🤪🤪🤪

However, I would like to at least be able to speak the basic daily words so that I may at least be proud of my race.

 6 months ago  

Thank you. Glad you can learn something from my post 😁

 6 months ago  

Appreciate it.

 6 months ago  

Wow! So much to unpack in this post, and what a humorous way to animate the chosen proverbs. A few of them jumped out at me, #3 and #4. The analogy of the chicken poop is beautiful, so much better than "you snooze, you lose," what we say in the USA. Then of course one involving a local fruit, then you really have to understand a lot more of the culture to get that one. My particular part of the USA always uses "corn" in proverbs because that is the only thing we grow for miles and miles, so it's the backbone of the economy.

 6 months ago  

They aren't easy to translate as they lose their original meaning unless you see their context in the culture.

 6 months ago  
Thanks for posting in the ASEAN Hive Community.

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