Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Penang Streets #1 : T'or K'or Kay

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To-day we start with the first posting of "Penang Streets in Penang Hokkien Dialect (PHD)"

I don't claim to be very knowledgeable on this subject. My little knowledge would be no better than an average Penangite. It's a situation of I happened to be growing up in that area; that's all. So my comments are open to criticisms and corrections; and hopefully some of you could shed more light to this interesting subject.
Another caution is that for the non-Penang Hokkien speaking readers, it is most unlikely that you will get the pronunciation correct. This problem may resolve somewhat if we use Hanyu Pinyin; but then again I don't really know it and so are many of my readers. Three terms you should know. "Kay" is street. "Lor" is road. "Harng" is lane. Most of the traders doing similar business would operate along the same street. So in a way, you could say George Town was once the biggest Hypermall in the world! As I said in my previous post, the street distance is usually very short. This was particularly very useful for the trishaw-men as they would know the exact section of the road to go to.
Ok, here we go.
Let us start from where I was born and grew up. Lebuh Pantai. Lebuh Pantai has 4 different sections in Penang Hokkien Dialect (PHD). The stretch of Lebuh Pantai from the Esplanade clock tower to the junction of Lebuh Chulia is called T'or K'or Kay. The Star translates it as Wholesale Street. This section, used to be the place where you would find all the big "European" trading companies where they acted as sole agents for imported European goods. I have forgotten the exact names/spellings of these companies. Two of them are Jardin Waugh and William Jacks. Maybe the more appropriate translation for this street should be "Big Companies Street". This was and still is the place where all the banks and law firms converge.


romerz said...

"Tor K'or kay" literally translates to company street.

'Tor K'hor' translates to company and 'kay' translates to to street so it means 'company street'.

So sorry Justin no 'tua' (big) here or unless its before my time.

Do you still live there? I go to Lebuh Pantai once a week as my father's office is still there with his correspondence address even though he is no longer mobile enough to walk into the office.

Tell you what. After I meet you at the book launch, we could have banana leaf lunch one day (around there) and you could explain to me the history of the area.

I'm very interested to know if thats OK with you?

monsterball said...

Yes Penang and Malacca were the center of Malaysia's exporting businesses....before Klang was developed.
My first task working for Jebsen....was to start an office there with a huge store house.
My biggest business was exporting BASF cassettes to Thailand from Penang.....and almost all my buyers are somewhat entertainment house owners.
Penang and Malacca people are quite that time.
They refused to move out of their venture out ......looking for jobs...elsewhere.
Penang always have the one and only huge attract the most tourists....and Penang should be very rich....with tourism income for it hotels..hawkers...retailers..etc.
All the government needs to make Penang a real duty free that time.
Penang with so much to offer to tourists....see what it is now...under Gerakan.....for 18 years.....and a small villager like Hatyai is now much more modern....much more richer than Penang.
What I see all these 25 years is Penangites keep sIlient...after every election..knowing their lives is better without UMNO or BN..even if they are poor..eating simple they are still very poor...under Gerakan..for som long..totally no progress at all....just few show off the Penang bridge and Komtar building.
Komtar is dead for years..and look at that Koh...did nothing at all!!

Justin Choo said...


Thanks for the correction. As I said, I am no expert; just trying to share the little I know.

Your offer accepted.

I shall write more about my old place in Sia Boey Kay later. My father still lives there and the shop has a "new" 3-storey building. My father is the "last of the Mohicans" there.

Thanks for visiting and commenting.

Justin Choo said...

I think Tor Kor has the implied meaning of European companies. That's why I take it as Big companies.


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