Indo-Lesson 4: Defining "alay", "lebay" and other Indonesian argots

It has been more than two years since I last wrote a post on Indonesian language lessons. Today I'm reviving it. I'll be having it on occassions, so you could expect to read on Indonesian language every once in a while.

What is "alay"?

Today I will discuss four new Indonesian argots that has sprung up for the last eight years in Indonesia. I doubt it that these four words would ever appear in the Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia or any Indonesian-English dictionaries.

For the Indonesian diaspora abroad (who either live among expatriate communities or have naturalised themselves into a citizen of their new country), this could also act as a refresher of what new terms are there in Indonesian.

Before I start, I would like to note that all these four Indonesian words had their birth in Jakarta (mostly among Jakartan youths), before they spread throughout the country through the influence of soap operas or internet.

adj. has the quality of being corny or not funny, usu. refers to a joke

I honestly could not recall when it first sprung, but I remember using the word as early as primary school.

Hence it would be around year 2000-2001.

Example sentence:

Jayus banget sih lo (least formal usage)
Tidak lucu sekali anda (most formal usage)
How corny you are (definition in English)

n. female prostitute

When I was a part of the Indonesian diaspora in Singapore, we spoke Indonesian everyday, but without any influence of new street talks that appeared in Jakarta. I myself came to knew this word after I asked a girl friend I just met when I got back from Singapore in year 2007.

I knew, I should've asked somebody else, that was too bloody naïve of me...haha.

Hence I could recall exactly when this word first appeared: Year 2006.

I don't think that I would need an example sentence for this one (just figure it out yourself), but one thing for sure, this vulgarity is not a euphemism. It carries a softer connotation than its synonym perek, but a harder one than its standard Indonesian term pelacur. For a proper euphemism, it would be PSK or Pekerja Seks Komersial.

adj. has the quality of being excessive, usu. refers to a story, personality or personal appearance

This word first sprung around year 2007 or 2008. Can either refer to a drama queen, someone who is constantly jayus, or anyone else who has the habit of taking things to an excessive effect. Usually used in a humourous context.

Example sentence:

Gue enggak pernah ketemu orang selebay lo (least formal usage)
Aku tidak pernah ketemu orang yang terlalu berlebihan seperti kamu (most formal usage)
I've never met anyone as excessive as you are (definition in English)

adj. describes the kind language that is too informal that is disdained by even most Indonesians nowadays, usu. refers to written language;
n. a person with shabby appearance and of uneducated impression, mostly refers to male who fits the description

This word first appeared in year 2008.

Now it is a well-known fact that Indonesians use slangs much more than speakers of other languages. For example, there are tons of variants of how Indonesians say "you" in daily basis. While in English it's either "You" or "U" in SMS language; Indonesians can say anda, kamu, lo, elo, lu, elu, mu and each regions also carry a different word while they mix it with the standard Indonesian (such as ngana in Northern Sulawesi or ci in Bali).

So what is defined as an alay language? It usually refers to the daily Indonesian slangs that have deformed into such a way that even most Indonesians themselves could not bear reading.

Back to the word "you", which in the most common occurence is used as kamu. In an acceptable form, it can only be contracted into kmu or km.

But writers of alay language does not care about contraction. They only want to "embellish" their language by carrying it to the excess. From kamu, they deform it into kmoh or kmuh or cmo.

Barely understandable, eh?

Now if that does not seem bad enough to you, wait till it gets combined together with other similarly deformed words within a sentence.

The acceptable slang for sayang would be a contracted one, such as syg or syng.

But an alay never dies. They embellish it into...guess what? Chayank.

Hence because of those alays, there are now "castes" in Indonesian language, with them being on the bottom caste:

ak chayank bgt dech ma kmoh (alay version)
ak syg bgt dh ma km (ordinary SMS usage)
aku sayang banget deh sama kamu (standard everyday usage)
aku sayang sekali padamu (most formal usage)
I really love you (definition in English)

An alay sentence does not even has to be exactly the same sentence like the one above. For an excessively alay usage, it can go as far as the alay creativity goes, sometimes with a mixture between small and large fonts:

aK chAyank bangGetz dech ama kmohh!
ak Synk bgtz dech ma kMuww!
etc. etc. The list goes on...

Pardon me if those examples above may not be totally representative of an alay language, because they are examples that I had invented myself (despite me never having used such a lingo).

They should consider creating an Indonesian alay-ness contest, seeing how far those alays could go in making those so-called creative sentences.

Nowadays there has been a purge regarding an alay language in Facebook and Twitter, with people --young and old alike-- deleting their friends who regularly use alay terminologies when posting their status.

I reserve my comment on this ongoing purge.

For the second definition of alay as a noun, it refers to a person who does not appear well in public and/or does not communicate in a way of an educated urbanite. A slightly politer euphemism than kampungan, but not a good description to use notwithstanding.

Now what do I mean by "a person who does not appear well in public"? It is usually a combination of having a lanky appearance, dressed in shabby or gang clothes and having tattoes piercings like preman or other street vagabonds do.. Or it can also refer to a person whose body is of a sturdy built, yet constantly perspire and have unpleasant body odours.


That's all for today. I hope this post has enlightened you all (who might have come here after typing "define alay" in Google), and if you have any questions, feel free to post it here on the Comments section below.


The day she and I died together

by Toshi

And so we kissed. We kissed like we never had before...I saw her tear ducts overflowing until she finally pulled herself away from me.

"I have always loved you", she whispered half-gaspingly.

"And I you" I started getting teary-eyed on my own, "I'm sorry it has to end like this, my love..."

Then she took one of those pills on the plate she prepared herself and swallowed the cyanide capsule. Within seconds she vomited blood and dropped to the floor, a scene I could not bear to see.

It took me full ten minutes before I finally regained composure of myself. The heavy artillery was still booming outside the walls.

It had been decades since I last cried like this...since the day my mother died.

With heavy sobbing, I took her body and laid her neatly on the sofa.

It didn't took me any longer than a minute before I reached my own .9 mm on the small table next to me, pointed it towards my mouth, and pulled the trigger.


I fell onto a large hall that seems like a vast court with white tiles, with my head hitting the floor first. Strangely enough it didn't hurt.

Everything was white: the tiles and the walls I can see from yonder.

I looked up and saw a cypress desk with a huge Swastika engraving right in front of that my desk?

There is a blonde-haired woman in red tuxedo behind it, sitting on my chair, writing on notebooks with a lightning speed. As she finished one notebook, she piled it up with a piling mound of notebooks she dumped on the floor.

She didn't even seem to notice me, despite us being the only two human beings in the room.

I stood up and realized that I was wearing my own uniform. Hey, that's pretty neat.

"Excuse me, young lady", as I spoke to her nicely, "but where is the restroom?"

She glanced up from one of the notebooks she was writing on.

"Restroom?" she frowned, "you really think you have a need for that anymore, huh?"

I ignored her sarcasm, "so what place is this? And why are you on my desk, young lady?"

"I only conjure up images with whatever stuff you are familiar with. And this is the gate of heaven"

"Heaven? So you guys actually exist, eh? The God and the angels and all those hogwash?"

"We are not hogwash"

"I mean, yes you do exist, but I've always thought you were invented by the Vatican so they can control the world"

"Regardless of what you think of us, we are who we are", she responded tersely. She does not seem happy with my last statement.

I wanted to say another word but she held her hands to hush my word, "Okay Adolf, you are...outstanding. I haven't seen like you before...well, at least not under my assessment"

She spoke in a matter-of-factly tone and called me with my first name, Adolf. How disparaging of her, how dare she! Not even my wife Eva has ever called me in such a way!

I wanted to slam the table and strangle her but I don't think there is much point of doing that now.

"Where is Eva?"

"She is being assessed by another angel as we speak"

"So you're an angel? I thought you had wings"

"As I said, I can conjure up whatever imagery that my assessed subjects are comfortable with"

"So is she gonna make it too?"

"What do you mean, make it too?"

"You know..across the gates"

Then she laughed. How annoying, if only I can order one of my subordinates to shoot her.

"As you see, Adolf... When I said that you're outstanding, I meant your sins" she explained while the residue of her laugh still remained on her face.

"But I'm a hero for my fatherland Germany"

"You're a hero? You killed a multitude of civilians without any sort of mercy"

"They loved me"

"They don't. A small portion does love you, but most of the rest, they're only afraid of you"

"But they're Jews and Gypsies and crippled and homosexuals, surely they have no right to live?"

"Whether or not they have the right to live is not yours to decide"

This angel's voice was calm, much calmer than the voice of Eva when she was in my embrace. Ah, the old glory days...

"Anyway, you're going back to the earth, being reborn one hundred times as some randomly-picked subjects of your egregious treatment. Then you will be reasessed after your one-hundredth death whether or not you deserve hell"

"So...there is a chance I can make it to heaven, too?"


"What do you mean by deserving hell, then?"

"Your soul is too corrupted to even pass through. It would be lucky for you to even go to hell. But before that, you have to experience some of the worst hells you created yourself on earth. If you don't pass these assessments, we will simply let you perish"

I said nothing, silenced by the heavy air she was bringing with her tone.

"Your first rebirth would be as a male named Yishak Goldberg, born in November 1929 at Gdansk, Poland" as she wrote the statement down in one of the opened notebooks lying on her desk. And by her desk, I meant my desk.

That name sounds filthy enough.

"I don't want to be born as a Jew"

"I'm sorry Mein Führer" she spoke to me softly in a sarcastic tone as she stood up from my chair and walked towards me with her red stiletto tapping heavily on the floor, "but you have no authority here"

She was about to raise her left hand and tap me on my shoulder but I wanted to ask one more question.



"Does my wife Eva make it to the heaven?"

"She will be having some long assessments too with rebirths, but yes, she has the possibility of entering paradise"

Ah. At least she's okay. Watch for me when you're up there, my love...

"Get ready now", she smiled.

Then she clapped and everything went black.


Which languages show my mood...

Little did I realise that my language preference in writing shows my mood.

I tend to use English solely for two reasons: I want my writings to be understood by the widest audience as possible or I am too lazy to use any other languages.

I relate Indonesian to my childhood and my past, especially since most of the latter part of my life is dominated with English, both in speaking and writing. Hence the childlike way of thinking that most readers can associate when reading.

I write in French when I am being highly emotional, sentimental, or dramatic.

When "love is in the air" or I am simply being filled with nostalgia, I use French.

My Mom (who is a good conversant of French herself) pointed this out to me how my French blog tends to be much more expressive and has less inhibitions.

Now... what about my newly picked language...German?

I haven't been studying the language long enough to say anything about its association with my mood. But a coarse language it is. Most of these days, when I am in a bad mood and just want to say "F*** off, world", I use German.

Not necessarily swearing in the language, but simple everyday sentences in German are enough to show how much I am feeling apathetic and indifferent to the outside world.

Which probably explains why am I so crazed up about German these days.


February as the coldest month

Indeed, February is the coldest month of the year for us in the Northern hemisphere. It did get below -15 C several days ago.

Tropical earthlings conjure up the image of December being the coldest...but what a foolery. Only the later part of December actually belongs to the Winter season.

Most of the time, it does not even snow during Christmas.


When Western celebs speak non-English language fluently

Trivial Fact of The Day: Nelly Furtado speaks fluent Hindi.

Surprising, ain't it?

I stumbled on a clip on Youtube where Sandra Bullock performs a speech in a nigh flawless German when it suddenly occurs to me:

Hey, which other West celebs can speak non-English language fluently?

The only language we ever heard them speaking on TV and news and theatres is English, de facto the only legal language allowed in Hollywood.


If you see Arnold Schwarzenegger speaking German, it won't be much of a surprise, considering his Austrian background.

But Kobe Bryant speaking Italian? Now that's one to ponder.

So my OCD took me into a bit of a google researching.

And found out some more multilingual Western celebs and the other language(s) they are fluent in:

Al Gore – Spanish
Alanis Morissette – French
Ashley Judd – French
Bill Clinton – German
Charlize Theron – Afrikaans
Christiane Amanpour – Farsi
Claudia Schiffer – French
Clint Eastwood – Italian
Colin Powell – some Yiddish
Condoleezza Rice – Russian
Emma Watson – some French
Hugh Grant – French
Jane Fonda – French
Jennifer Connelly – Italian and French
Jodie Foster – French
Johnny Depp – French
Kelly Clarkson – Greek
Leonardo diCaprio - German
Monica Bellucci – Italian, French, Spanish
Morgan Freeman – French
Mother Teresa – Albanian, Serbo-Croat, Bengali, Hindi
Natalie Portman – Hebrew, some French, German, Japanese and Spanish
Nelly Furtado – Portuguese, Hindi
Pope Benedict XVI – German, Italian, French, Spanish, Latin
Queen Elizabeth II – French
Renée Zellweger – German
Roger Federer – German, French
Salma Hayek – Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese
Shakira – Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Arabic
Sidney Poitier – Russian
Tony Blair – French
Will Smith – Spanish


I'm 16

Very young, ay?

But it's true.

Whenever I'm asked my age and I tell them that I'm 20, they always put a questioning face, "Really?"

Once I even jokingly showed my ID to an Army guy whom I just met at the mall, just to prove to him that I really am not lying that I am 20.

I would love to think this is one sort of compensation that God is giving me for the years I spent in idle...because in America, I'm always thought of by people as being several years younger than I really am.

Is it my voice?

Nope, my voice doesn't sound childlike.

Perhaps it is due to the Asian features on my face.

Some of you in Indonesia might think that I'm thought of as being younger due to my body size.

But nah.

In American standards, my body may be categorised as thin, but I definitely am not short.

As I don't have a measuring tape, I don't know how tall I am now. But rarely do I actually meet any boy between 18 to 22 years of age who is significantly taller than I am.

Especially when in church, when the attendees stand up, I can clearly see and count how many people who are taller than me.

Not many, I say.

A friend at work told me about my advantages of looking younger. She said, "When you reach 30, it will be easier for you to get a much younger wife".

I only laughed it off.


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