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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/840

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objects, just as we say "head" of horses, "sail" of ships, etc. They are very many as compared with English, and very idiomatic in their use. For instance, the Malay says, "Europeans, three persons," "cats, four tails," "ships, five fruits," "cocoanuts, three seeds," "spears, two stems," "planks, five pieces," "houses, two ladders," and so on to fifteen or twenty different classes of articles or objects. By some this has been regarded as a peculiarity of the languages of southeastern Asia; but the same thing may be noticed in the Indian languages of our own continent.

As a language Malay is easily learned and has much to repay for so doing. It is full of wonders and surprises—among other things is the natural home of euphemism, where a spade is called anything but a spade. For instance, to die is beautifully expressed in Malay as a return to the mercy of Allah. The language is decidedly rich in poetical expression and imagery. A neighbor is one whom you permit to ascend the ladder of your cottage, and your friend is a sharer of your joys and sorrows. Interest is the flower of money, a spring is an eye of water, the sun the eye of day, and a policeman all eyes. A walk is a stroll to eat the wind, a man drunk is one who rides a green horse, and a coward a duck without spurs. A flatterer is one who has sugar cane on his lips, a sharper is a man of brains, a fool a brain-lacker.

In his proverbs also the Malay shows a matchless use of metaphor and imagery, his words having the softness of the jungle breeze, and at the same time the grimness of the jungle shades. Nowhere does the nature of his race or the peculiar genius of his language show out better than in these terse, pithy sayings which the Malay uses to sweeten his speech or lend effectiveness to it. The real Malay is a creature of the forest or the sea, whence he draws his livelihood, and it is but natural that he should envelop his daily and perhaps dangerous life with homely philosophy. He loves the freedom which he enjoys; take him away from it and he eats his heart out in homesickness. "Though you feed a jungle fowl from a golden plate, it will return to the jungle again." In his humble life he has discovered that blood, be it good or bad, counts for something, and he thinks of the forest lairs; "a kitten and small, but a tiger's cub." He is beset with dangers by sea and land; often he is between the devil and the deep. "One may escape the tiger, and fall into the jaws of the crocodile." He recognizes the inevitable, and draws what consolation he can. "When the prow is wrecked the shark gets his fill"—a very stoical recognition of ill winds. "For fear of the ghost he hugs the corpse," is often the solution of his dilemma. Sometimes he indulges in drollery, but is never unphilosophical. "To love one's children, one must weep for them now and then; to love one's wife,