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When names in Kedah are Greek to you

Rare earth ore compared to a US nickel - Photograph: Wikipedia

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Mustafa K Anuar looks back at Kedah’s purported discovery of rare earth reserves and an attempt by a civil servant to give a new stadium a strange name.

What’s in a name, you may ask. It means a lot, particularly in Kedah.

Recently Kedah was informally called Wakedah – although somewhat temporarily – after Menteri Besar Muhammed Sanusi Md Nor declared that the state has huge valuable deposits of rare earth elements in a few places.

In presumably intense excitement, he claimed that the hitherto buried deposits were worth RM43tn. It was later amended to a plausible RM62bn.

For the uninitiated, social media users gave Kedah the name Wakedah, which was extracted and modified from a Marvel Comics fictional African country, Wakanda, that harnesses and exploits an extremely valuable metal, Vibranium, derived from a meteorite that crash landed on it.

To be sure, it is not far-fetched to employ the fiction-based name to rice-rich Kedah in anticipation of its supposed material prosperity and progress in the years to come after the elated Sanusi government stumbled upon the rare earth find.

There’s also goldmine to be derived from potentially logging the forests under which the rare earth reserves are located to enable the required prospecting. Fortune is undoubtedly a-waiting.

Besides, the state’s prosperity is envisaged to be further enhanced if Sanusi’s threat to charge raw water flowing from Sungai Muda to neighbouring Penang is made good. Indeed, RM50m annual payment awaits Wakedah.

If the name conferred on Kedah is fiction-laced, a character involved in a recent incident is, in contrast, very well grounded in Kedahan reality.

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The incident, which has gone viral on social media, involved the renaming of an upgraded mini-stadium by Padang Terap district officer Hakim Ariff Md Noor in Kedah.

Critics and social media users accused Hakim of naming the local stadium after himself, ie Ffira Mikah, which they claimed was Hakim Ariff in reverse.

To be clear, a building is named after an individual in appreciation of his or her life’s achievements – and surely Hakim has good reasons for doing so.

Besides, most civil servants, such as Hakim, have no desire to indulge in self-aggrandisement, a bad habit that is the preserve of certain unscrupulous politicians.

His defence for using an exotic name in the midst of a rural setting must be heard: those two words are actually a combination of Spanish and Greek or Arabic, and so it is obviously incorrect and unethical of the critics to infer mischief on his part.

Hakim Ariff, which generally implies a learned judge in Malay, insisted that ffira in Spanish or Greek means something great, while mikah in Arabic means angel. You can’t go wrong with two positives under your belt.

Even if – and that’s a big if – it is true that he did name the stadium after his (reversed) self, there’s still good justification, in that he could inspire locals, especially young people, to attempt to be a polyglot like him.

Surely, he is aware that speaking many tongues can put you in a better position to have a wider and better perspective about life and the world.

It is, therefore, truly sad that the KN Kiara football club that manages the stadium has seen it fit to take down the signage that carried the exotic and controversial name, for reasons only best known to the group.

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Such misfortune that befell Hakim and others of his ilk suggests that last year has been an annus horribilis for us all.

In other words, it’s been a pain in the posterior – as any Latin student would tell you.

* Note: This is satire… don’t rage!

Source: themalaysianinsight.com

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