Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) is under fire following criticisms from MIC Youth member Thiagaseelan Ganesan, MIC Senator S Vell Paari and Penang Deputy Chief Minister P Ramasamy for including ‘K-ling’ in its dictionary.
DBP used the Tamil word ‘tambi’, which is defined as ‘panggilan untuk orang K-ling yang lebih muda dari kita”(term used to refer to a K-ling younger than us”.
According to Malaysiakini, although the term is used among older people and in the northern region of Peninsula Malaysia, it is still generally considered derogatory.
“It is racist on the part of DBP to link the commonly used word in the Tamil community tambi to the derogatory k-ling. The latter is a derogatory word used to denigrate or humiliate members of the Indian community,” Ramasamy told Malaysiakini.
DBP has responded to the controversy, saying that the word is only used in the Kamus Pelajar, while the Kamus Dewan and Kamus Dewan Perdana have removed the word.
It said that the fourth edition of the Kamus Dewan (2005) defined ‘tambi’ as a term to refer to an Indian who is a younger brother, while the Kamus Dewan Perdana defined it as “a term used to call a young Indian man who is a younger brother”.
In a statement, DBP said regarding the use of the word ‘K-ling’ in Kamus Pelajar that the dictionary was published in 1987 and new entries were added when it was updated in 2007.
“However, DBP is planning to update and compile the third edition of the dictionary, and aspects of definition improvement will be given attention in this new edition.”
DBP defended itself and said that its publications have historical elements and are “living dictionaries”, and that every fact about words used in Malay speaker communities will be recorded in dictionaries.
“The same is the case with the word ‘k-ling’ that existed in the Kamus Dewan since its first edition, which was published in 1970.
“However, in the process of coming up with its definition, there are changes and improvements undertaken by compilers of Kamus Dewan on the ‘k-ling’ word in accordance with the historical elements and sociolinguistic factors of the word,” DBP said.
DBP gave an example from the meaning recorded by Kamus Dewan 1989 and 1994 editions that explicitly mentioned that the ‘k-ling’ word should not be used, and it is better to used the word ‘Indian’ to refer to an Indian. It also said that the word ‘k-ling’, along with words like ‘anjing’, ‘hamput’ and ‘s-kai‘ are marked as taboo words.