Living in Jakarta is quite interesting, language-wise. While formal Bahasa Indonesia is quite similar to Bahasa Malaysia, which I speak, the local lingo known as bahasa gaul is another kettle of fish altogether. Up till today, I can't make head or tail of it and need subtitles if I watch the sinetron. B. Indon also uses a different subset of words to describe certain common things and this is a sample of what I've learnt so far.
We call it a lipas back home in Malaysia. So when we found one in our house some months ago, this terrified Madam immediately called for the compound superintendent. "Supardi, bisa tolong? Ada lipas di rumah!" (Supardi, can you help? There's cockroaches in the house!) To my astonishment, he asked me what a lipas was. Oh goodness me. How do you mime a cockroach??? After a rather silly round of insect charades, he finally lit up, "Ohhhhh... kecoa!"
Cepek, ngopek, gopek...
It was early days in Jakarta and I asked our driver to put on the local radio so that I could pick up some new words. I can't remember what the radio ad was about but the jingle talked about overcoming capek. I asked S what it was. He said it meant "tired" and explained further, "Capek itu letih... tapi kalau cepek.. itu uang." (Capek means tired but if it's cepek, it means money) I repeated, "Cepek?" He nodded, "Ya... cepek, ngopek, gopek.. itu semua uang, Madam!" (Yes.. cepek, ngopek, gopek...that's all money, Madam!")
I was extremely puzzled. Why so many terms for money? I couldn't figure it out and kept turning it over and over in my head. Finally it hit me - they'd borrowed from the Chinese terms for 100, 200 and 500.
These terms in Malaysia mean "the day before" and "tomorrow" respectively. I made the mistake of assuming they would mean the same here. They don't. My maid and driver gleefully informed me that they mean different things in different parts of Indonesia. Besok can mean tomorrow or the day after tomorrow or any day in the future, depending on where one came from. Kelmarin could mean yesterday, the day before or last night. I feel a migraine coming on, I do.
This is my favourite sign ever in the whole of Jakarta. When I first arrived, I saw it everywhere but couldn't figure out what it was. Finally a German friend interpreted it for me. It's a Dutch word which translates literally as "bang pot" and is the word for the exhaust pipe on your vehicle. He asked me, "What do you call it in Malaysia?" Somewhat sheepishly, I replied, "Paip ekzos..."
And this one is my favourite. We were on our way home from Pacific Place on Saturday and Dear Hubby pointed to a sign and asked warily, "Babe... just exactly what are they selling?" I looked up and saw he was pointing at a sign that said SEMEN GRESIK. I burst into laughter and explained, "Don't worry, they're just selling cement!"