The Key to knowing Bahasa street style

Sample this – random texting between my husband and his friend:

Husband – Hey, long time , lets catch up!

(I am sure, the real message was even shorter. Something like – ‘Let’s meet’ or even ‘Meet me’ or ‘Meet!’ – all of this is probable considering my husband’s low patience for all sorts of texting, further tempered by the fact that it wasn’t his client)

Friend – Hey, sure! Let’s meet at Kunci? (Knowing his friend too, I know it was much shorter reply 😀 )

So, my baffled husband turns and asks me – “do you know a place called Kunci? “

Ever proud of my own better Bahasa Indonesia skills (only as compared to my husband), I set him correct. “Kunci? Come on! Kunci means a Key Swapnil, a K-E-Y! Key! That which helps to lock and open the door??”

He made a noncommittal noise and went back to messaging, then smiled looking at me. “You’re wrong. Apparently Kunci means mall Kuningan City”.

We spent a moment in amused laughter. In almost 6 years of my residence here in Indonesia, one thing never ceases to amuse and baffle me. Its the abbreviations created by people. The local slang language or ‘Bahasa Jalan’ (Street language) as they call it , has evovled a ‘tendency’ to create short cuts. I call it tendency because I notice this leaning towards shortforms in almost every sphere of local life. I have come across abbreviated forms of so many unexpected words, places, things and so on, that sometimes, when I learn a new word, I ask the native Bahasa speaker if it is a shortform or a real word.

So you have shorter names for malls like Mangdu for Mangga Dua, Kokas for Kota Kasablanka, Sensi for Senayan City and so on. Not just malls, even place names become shortforms and you tend to get confused. Once while reading a running race schedule, I noticed the location was Jakpus. I got quite confused before realising that in all probability it was Jakarta Pusat  (Central Jakarta). Similarly Jaksel, Jakut and Jaktim. Names too do get shortened here, say a Wijayanto becoming Yanto, Arianto becoming Ari and Christina sometimes being called Tina! Which I guess is the only abbreviation, commonly practised throughout the world. 😊

While these abbreviations are mainly a part of street language, they are formally used sometimes  – such as Jakpus / Jaksel on the website of that racing community. The national monument in Jakarta is called Monas, which is shortened ‘Monumen Nasional’ . There are many communities with shortened name. Certain ‘national communities for so and so’ being called Komnas __ ___. Even the ministries have faced same fate. Kemenkes for example means Kementerian Kesehetan (Health Ministry) . Minsitry for information and broadcasting is called Kemkominfo and formally so.

Once while travelling I came across a series of shops named Warkop. Example – Warkop Ibu Yeni , Warkop Pak Nurul and so on. I wondered aloud what warkop meant. Our driver informed us – it was Warung dan Kopi (Snack and coffee).

With so many shortforms floating around, you would think, that there wont be many long words in Bahasa Indonesia. That’s extremely far from truth. To get a taste of the long words, one glance at newspapers is enough. Sometimes the words seem so long to me, that I wonder when they will end , even while reading them 😊. All in all , maybe these long words are what prompted the locals to start with shortforms. Whatever it takes to make communication easy! Only, they should have this kunci (Word key) for us newcomers though and regularly update it. That will make our life easier. 😊

 

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