Thursday, December 09, 2004

talking architecture (part 1)

As an architect trained in metric system, I found it hard enough to convert to the imperial system of foot and inches. I have to, more often than not. The older ‘tukang’ can’t decipher the mm, cm and m, while we can’t talk about ‘hung’, ‘kaki’, ici’ or ‘ela’. Somehow we learnt and became ‘bilingual’. On the ground, in Terengganu the system of measurement took another detour. Coupled with local terminologies, it gets even more difficult to follow.

‘Kita paka plewook tige hung padang doh’ (We can just use the three ‘hung’ plywood) the tukang would say. ‘Hung’ is one eight of an inch. Carpenters of the older days use two main measuring instruments, a 's’siku' and ‘kayu lipat’. The first a steel L-shaped ruler and the later as the name implies, a foldable wooden ruler with brass end and swivel joint. Both type of rulers uses a division of eight for an inch, thus the commonly use term of scale ‘sekil se-lapang’ describing the imperial one eight (1/8) scale; that one eight is ‘se (satu) hung’. Lapang (eight) ‘hung’ is thus ‘sici’ (se inci), ‘dua belah ici’ (twelve inches) made up a foot. The ‘s’iku’ together with ‘timbang air’ (spirit level) made up an amazingly simple way of determining accuracy of angles. Artful positioning of the s’siku and timbang air assures every members of the building to be ‘makang s’siku’. Literal translation of makang s’siku is ‘eating the elbow’ but makang here denotes ‘ngam’, perfect, fit; the s’iku also mean elbow or angle. Makang s’siku thus means ‘perfectly fit to the angle. Anything ‘dok makang s’siku’ is ‘sengek’ (tilted).

Anything ‘dok makang s’siku’ was also the reason for numerous faults in a building, the roof may ‘b’alik air’, the beam may need to be ‘kene b’aji’, the tiling may end with ‘ekor tikuh’.

B’alik air’ means backflow. Roof not properly constructed, at too shallow an angle, or ‘atak berombok’ (the roofing material badly laid wavy, uneven roof surface), easily caused water to backflow into the house. Rain water supposedly flowing down the roof surface is often pushed by the upward wind causing water to splash upward in between the roof sheets or roof tiles into the house. This is nightmare. Normal leaks can be solved by ‘tepek belakeng’ (pasting tar) on the holes but ‘b’alik air’ requires re-roofing.

A shallow roof is said to be ‘tare’ (less than 15d) while a steep roof ‘ceruh’ (more than 45d). A 25d to 35d roof are considered ‘biase’ ( normal ). Roof is normally formulated at ‘sekaki akat sici’ (an inch elevation every foot) So a ‘tukang’ when looking at the plans will comment, ‘Tare do’oh atak ning, ujang sikek pung tobak b’alik air. Wi ceruh sikek, baru napok yeng’ (Atap ini terlalu rendah sudutnya, hujan sedikitpun sumpah akan berbalik air. Buatkan lebih tinggi sudutnya barulah bergaya / The roof angle is too shallow, I swear it will backflow when it rains. Make it steeper, it will look grander)

Another term is ‘koye’ - used to describe an area measuring 100 square feet or 10’ x 10’. ‘Koye’ is often used to measure works like ‘m’elah’ (plastering) or ‘pasang mozek’ (tiling) or ‘ikak bate’ (brick laying).

Khije se kong, dok ‘oh dok leh siak se koye ikak bate. Makang taing dok ‘oh le tu.’
(Kerja satu ‘kong’ takkanlah tak boleh siapkan ikat bata 100 kaki persegi. Rehat berlebihanlah tu.’ / A day’s work and yet can’t finish a hundred square feet of brick-laying. Must have taken a break too long)

Kong’ is a measure of a day’s work of normally eight hours. The word originated from Chinese’s ‘kong’ to describe worker. ‘Kongsi’ is a workers’ quarter. In Terengganu it's often pronounced as 'k'osi'. 'K'osi' can also mean to share. 'Awok-awok Pok Soh dok k'osi blake, taing makang ye pakak k'osi ma'sok.' (Pak Soh's workers stay in the quarter, come meal time they share the cooking task) ‘Buku kong’ is a card recording attendance of workers that must be signed by a ‘p’ala’ or ‘mandor’ (kepala / head). ‘King-kong’? The number one worker in Phua Chu Kang. Oooops.

(to be continued)

1 comment:

sue said...

i had the same difficulty dealing with veteran contractor in Kedah..they have their own terminology...interesting blog..