Don’t Wear ‘Clothes That Poke Eye’!

Ethical dress code for The Defence Ministry staff gains public buzz for literal English translations

Image credits: The Star Online

What does ‘shine closed’ mean?

If you see Malaysians laughing over their Twitter timeline or Facebook news feeds, it could very well mean that they are reading the ministry’s latest ‘ethical clothing’ issue.

It all started after a guide on dress code (translated as ‘ethical clothing’) for Defence Ministry staff was posted on the ministry’s official website. The English translation provided for the circular dress code was very literal, even showed usage of translation programme.

“It was obvious that a translation programme was used. How else would you explain pakaian yang menjolok mata being translated to ‘clothes that poke eye’? Leslie Andres, New Straits Times.

Image credits: The Star Online

Besides ‘clothes that poke eye’, strange phrases like “long-sleeve batik shirt with collar / mongoose fight made in Malaysia” and “shine closed” appeared in  the post. The former defines ‘baju batik lengan panjang berkolar / cekak musang buatan Malaysia‘ while the latter ‘kasut bertutup’ (closed-toe shoes).

Shortly after the strong public reactions online, the guide was taken down from the Defence Ministry’s official website.

“The clarification on the website said corrective action was being taken on the related software to ensure translations were accurate.” – The Star Online

Malaysia and the ‘ethical clothing’

Malaysia, a secular country with Muslim as its official religion – has always paid close attention to decency in dressing up. The Prime Minister’s Officers have the written dress code to reflect desirable attires in civil servants.

“Always dress in clean, smart, and decent clothing at work according to the Administrative Circular on attire” – Code of Ethics, quoted from the Official Portal of Office of the Prime Minister of Malaysia

Over the years, performing artists have made headlines over dressing rules in Malaysia. Gwen Stefani showed nearly no skin when she performed in 2007 while Beyonce’s gig was postponed in 2009. Until today, Beyonce has not performed in Malaysia. It is rumored that the postponement/cancelation was due to Beyonce’s way of dressing.

“…The entertainer remains respectful of the people and cultures of all nations and holds the fans of Malaysia in highest regards.” statement taken from Beyonce’s official site, 21 October 2009.

Central Agency for Application for Filming and Performance by Foreign Artistes (PUSPAL) Malaysia has set a few ground rules for performing artists in the country. Male artists should not wear ‘unbuttoned tops that expose chest and body’ and ‘torn clothes, patched pants or untidy attire’ among others. The rules are stricter for female artists, with ‘wearing clothes which expose herself from the top of her breast to the knee level’ among others are prohibited.

For the full PUSPAL guide, click here. The dress code guidelines are stated under Appendix F.

Literal Translations: Bad News for Decency in Dressing?

With dress code controversies around Malaysia, such as the recent beauty pageant issues for Muslim contestants and the ‘tudung’ requirement for every Muslim women in Kelantan, the recent official dress code controversy coupled with public’s ridicule over the issue was obviously not giving’decent’ dressing a good indication.

Being the second most applied language in the country, Malaysians are actually no strangers to English. Government bodies for instances, should be of good role models for the citizens, starting from applying proper use of English.

“.. Or, perhaps, we are overworked and, therefore, have no time to translate anything. Maybe, we’ve become too lazy even to do a simple translation job. Just put it through the computer programme and print what we get. Whatever the reason, a solution needs to be found before we poke someone’s eye out.” – Leslie Andres, New Straits Times

Nina Hidayat

Nina Hidayat survives life by heart and intuition (plus a bit of logic). In between voicing out through writing, she daydreams about clothes and shoes. Recently, she started 'Sepatu Merah' - a self-designed handmade shoe line dedicated for women. Life is a fashion playground, after all.


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