Pisang Goreng – Addressing a Common Mistake

Have anyone tried banana fritters before? It is english for pisang goreng.
Or you knew them by the name, goreng pisang?Pisang Goreng, Source Image from Wikipedia.Org

Everytime I see this word, I cringe as it is incorrect. Some Malay folks perpetuated the confusion by calling it goreng pisang too! Why am I so particular about this? The reason is very simple.

Pisang Goreng means Fried Banana. Goreng Pisang means Frying Banana. See the difference?

Goreng is a verb when used in front of a noun (pisang), but when it is used behind a noun, it is an adjective. In the strictest, most correct grammar, fried banana is ‘pisang digoreng‘ and frying banana is ‘menggoreng pisang‘ but the meaning is understood when the prefixes are dropped, since the sequence is the same. In Malay, when the prefix is dropped from ‘menggoreng pisang‘ in writing as well as in conversation, it is recognised as a transitive verb.

I do not know why even Malay folks make this simple mistake. I definitely do not see them describing fried chickens as goreng ayam?! No! They say by the correct word which is ayam goreng!

So why did they not apply the same rule & logic to pisang goreng . If someone does not make this correct soon, goreng pisang would be so accepted as the correct way to describe banana fritters and all is lost for the next generation.

A friend shared with me his thoughts on this;

while i agree with what you say i thought you might be fighting a lost cause so i googled both “goreng pisang” and “pisang goreng” thinking the former would be more common – after all i almost always hear and say it that way round.

but while “goreng pisang” returned 30,800 results, “pisang goreng” came back with 128,000!

so maybe it is because of chinese or peranakan usage? Peranakans use chinese grammar with malay words which might be the reason for the inversion? hmm but off hand i can’t think of another example. all the food i can think of follows the noun-adjective word order (ayam buah keluak, unless of course it is made up of all chinese words (tau yu bak).

the only other explanation i can think of is that “pisang” is actually the adjective and “goreng” the noun (as in opor ayam? or possibly satay ayam?). when you go to a *ahem* goreng pisang stall they sell lots of other fried stuff – “goreng” – so wanting the banana flavoured as opposed to cempedak flavoured you ask for “goreng pisang”. (ok even i don’t really believe this!!!)

the entry in wikipedia is “goreng pisang” (with no entry for “pisang goreng”)
this is your chance to correct something!

And so I did, so unless someone changed it back, my corrections will remain on Wiki for now. :)

12:36, 1 June 2006 Earth (Talk | contribs) m (moved Goreng pisang to Pisang goreng: grammar (Malay))
03:04, 14 March 2006 Juzzywuzzy (Talk | contribs) (This article initially described “fried banana” as “goreng pisang”. This is a common mistake made. In Malay grammar, “fried banana” means “pisang goreng”. The action comes after the object.) (undo)

Note: This is a re-post from my previous blog on LiveJournal. I have to thank Ceddric & Uncle Marc for their contributions to this post. The image for this post is taken from Wikipedia under Creative Commons license.

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  1. rinaz says:

    I agree, now that more people are using ‘Goreng Pisang’ which is not the correct term, even many Malays arent using the correct term ‘Pisang Goreng’ now

    But however it is, I’m hungreh for some Banana Friters now …! Yum!

    You might want to take a listen to a video I did a while back about ‘Nasi Lomak’


  2. Mintea says:

    It irks me very much when people use ‘goreng pisang’ instead of ‘pisang goreng’, especially if they’re Malay.

  3. Ed says:

    Very enlightening post. Maybe I should try using the term “Pisang Goreng” instead…

    I hope the abang don’t goreng me instead. Haha!

  4. a_x says:

    i remember back home, the hawkers promoting the merchandise by yelling “yo, goreng pisang!”—which somehow sounds more pleasant to hear than “yo, pisang goreng!”

    but i agree with your logic about ‘goreng’ as a verb in ‘goreng pisang’.

  5. mhisham says:

    @rinaz er im having problems viewing online videos at work, will try again tonight when i get home. its more of a network issue rather than anything else. yes i agree that there is a tendency for mispronouncing Nasi Lemak. At least they get the positioning structure correct! :)

    @Mintea Yes, it can be irritating right. I think the next time someone says that, that we shall say, “Oh, I want goreng ayam too!” :P

    @Ed Thanks for dropping by. If that Abang goreng you, tell him my URL. :)

    @a_x I feel it is matter of practice. I can be even more pedantic and say I prefer people to call what they play in the EPL or Champions League or the Euro Cup as football, instead of soccer. :)

  6. Bengbeng says:

    to be honest with you, I speak standard Malay and whilst I am aware of the differences between pisang goreng n goreng pisang, the hawker doesnt. he will look at me like an idiot if I say pisang goreng :)

    i have thought of writing in Malay for my blog but I will have a bigger readership if I write in English so I decided to write in English.

  7. mhisham says:

    @Bengbeng oh. i do believe it is just habit, anyone that tries to correct me, I will give them the fried chicken analogy.

  8. malique says:

    wow. you have the same sentiments as rinaz. i know she has the same thoughts on pisang goreng too.

    perhaps we should call it “Pisang Yang Sudah Digoreng” :D

    hows that sound? :p

  9. Jurlique says:

    Okay this sure is a malu-ation for me. As a malay myself I used the term wrongly, haha. :???: Habit lah..

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