These little booklets evoke a lot of nostalgia for the older folks amongst us. Have you ever wondered how the notation “555” came into existence?
These gained notoriety as “buku hutang” – a sort of credit booklet which villagers used to chalk up their debts as they bought household items and food on credit from the kedai runcit (sundry shops). The idea was to pay up lump sum at the end of each month when they debtors got their gaji (wages).
Unfortunately, this practice often became an insidious debt-trap, as it encouraged a “buy-now-worry-about-paying-later” mindset. Thus, for quite a number of folks, it became a Book of Woes.
Legend has it that the Chinese “victims” often looked inside these booklets and would cry aloud “wu wu wu” and, well that sounded like “555” in Mandarin. The rest is history.