The streets in Penang especially in George Town city are mostly built since the colonial era and most of the street names are predominantly in English, until when the National Language Act 1967 is implemented, a government policy which determines Malay language is to be used for all official purposes. Although new street names are given in Malay language, most of the colonial street names especially in George Town are retained for historical purposes.
As Penang is a place famous for its unique hokkien language, and spoken not only by the Chinese, but also Penangites from other ethnic backgrounds, many of the streets have Hokkien names to it. Suprisingly, the Hokkien street names have little relation to the colonial names, but is related to the historical background of the exact location instead.
Let’s explore some of the unique hokkien street names in Penang.
車水路 Chhia-chúi-lơ̄, named after the aqueduct that ran along the road
風車路 Hong-chhia-lơ̄ named after the winnowing machines used to separate rice from chaff.
Jalan Dato’ Keramat
柑仔園 Kam-á-hûiⁿ, named after a former mandarin orange plantation there.
新街 Sin-ke, which means New street, alternatively 新雞 (new prostitutes), where it used to be the red-light district of George Town.
新街頭 Sin-ke-thaû, which means at the beginning of Campbell Street.
拍袍街 Phah-phaù-ke, which used to be the street with the lower type of brothels.
兵房路 Peng-pâng-lơ̄, translated literally from Barrack Road
刣牛後 Thâi-gû-aū, named after the cattle slaughterhouse at the back of the street.
鹹魚仔巷 Kiâm-hû-á-hāng, famous for making and drying salted fish.
義興街 Gī-hin-ke, named after the association house of Ghee Hin secret society which is located at the street.
海墘新路 Haí-kiⁿ-sin-lơ̄, meaning new road by the waterfront, which used to be at the waterfront before the land is reclaimed.
六叉路 La̍k-chhē-lơ̄, which describes the road with six junctions until the demolition of Gladstone Road and the construction of Komtar.
亞片公司街 À-phièn-kong-si-ke, named after the Opium and Spirit Farm Offices at the junction with China Street.
南華醫院街 Lâm-hoa-i īⁿ-ke, name after the Lam Wah Ee Hospital that used to be there.
平安街 Phêng-an-ke, a literal translation from the Malay word.
There are still a lot of names in local languages or dialect, what story do you know about it? Share it with us.