Updated Language: Real Progress?


By: Henricus Ismanthono

How would you rate this short message from a friend of mine a couple of days ago? “Pls kol me @ 6 n giv de buk 2 him”. The message looks non-standard because the words are not spelt correctly. They show an instant and short meaning, understandable by anyone, including myself, and particularly by youngsters and teenagers. This type of message is generally sent using a cell phone and is believed to be practical and efficient as the sender does not need to use all fingers, just the thumbnail of his left hand.

The instant message is acceptable since there seems to have been a “mutual agreement” by the users. In fact, a language is a system of communication that is agreed upon by the senders and receivers based on the principles of consensus. There is no reasoning of how they come to use shortened words. Probably, they do not want the meaning of the message identified by others, by their parents, or tapped by their peers or even by their competitors.

Once the word “dingklik” (Javanese meaning small bench) is agreed to be used, members of the community will follow, using it in their daily activities. The word “dingklik” is not the same as “kursi” since the latter has a back, and its size, shape and feet are quite different.

A revolutionary communication system had been established among young people in Malang, East Java, when I was there for at least 20 years in the 1970s. They referred to what is called “reversed word” and is still used today. As an example, the word “kodew” derives from “wedok” (Javanese, meaning female person). So “kera-kera kodew” means “a number of female young people”. The word “kera” comes from “arek” (East Javanese, meaning young people), so is the word “Arema” means “young people from Malang”. Another example is “kadit nes”, which comes from “tidak nes”, meaning not nice. The word “nes” is obtained from the English word “nice” and then combined with the word “kadit” which means “not”.

In Jakarta, the Betawi people have a different language structure. They use the word “lu” or “elu” meaning “you”, “gue” which means “me”. The words “bokap” and “nyokap” mean “father” and “mother” respectively; “doku” means “money”. These words have become popular among youngsters and teenagers for years for easy and comfortable communication. Presently they have invented the word “lebay” meaning “move on to something”.

Eventually a celebrity, Debby Sahertian, compiled a special dictionary for young people, Kamus Gaul, in Indonesian language in 1999. It has been a best seller for a couple of years. The book contains words, phrases and slang commonly used by teenagers and their peers in daily activities to make them more intimate and sociable.

In this year’s London Olympic Games, the committee has established an American guide to British English to accommodate American participants since their English is somewhat different. The American English “restroom” is translated “loo” in British English. It is similar with the words “subway” and “underground” for the underground train in London. The words “check” and “bill” are used when finishing dining in a restaurant, but a cheque (British English) means “a printed order to a bank to pay money”.

British people prefer the ending “re” in words such as “centre” instead of the American “center”. This is probably the influence of the French. Another different spelling is the use of “u” such as in “colour” for British English and “color” (American), and “harbour” instead of “harbor”. I think this word is more efficiently used as it consists of only five letters. So imagine how many of these longer words appear in millions of books or magazines around the world. Wouldn’t it save space and printing ink on the paper when published?

At Heathrow airport, London, the Americans have to stand “in a queue” rather than “in a line” to come to the counter to check in. To make a long journey in Britain, an American may have to hire a British “taxi” (which is currently black in color) not an American “cab” (which is yellow). In previous eras, a “cab” in Britain referred to a “handsome cab”, which is a carriage driven by horses.

Nowadays, in the business world, there appears the word “greenpreneur”. It means somebody who is making projects that are environmentally friendly. They are expected to be able to help minimise green house gases using “Reduce – Reuse – Recycle” principles. Another example is the word “mompreneur”, which I heard on a radio commercial recently. It means a mother, or any female person who is managing a business.

In the near future, I believe, other words with the suffix “preneur” will become popular and universal in use because of the development of science, technology and information. These updated words are being developed every day.


Notice: This opinion article has been displayed in an online newspaper, The Jakarta Post, in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sunday, 8 July 2012. It is also able to be searched at: www.thejakartapost.com [accessed in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia: 8 July 2012].

The writer is the compiler of Kamus Istilah Ekonomi Populer, September 2003, and Kamus Istilah Ekonomi dan Bisnis, August 2010, both printed by Penerbit Buku Kompas in Jakarta, Indonesia.



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