false friends

Sometimes I get confused and mix Indonesian and Javanese, but there are so many borrowings anyways, people forgive my ‘boso campur’. But with ‘false friends’, I get extra confused.

Consider the verb ‘makan’. In Indonesian, it means ‘to eat’, while in Javanese, it means that some electronic thing is on, like ‘lampu makan’. Or the verb ‘tahu’ in Indonesian is ‘to know, to understand’, while in Javanese, ‘tau’ means something like ‘ever, once’, marking that an event has occurred in the far past. (Although the spelling is different, the pronunciation is the same.) So imagine “aku tau mangan kepiting” in Javanese, it’s like ‘I once ate crab before’, but at first I was imagining – ‘I know about eating crab’… Then, ‘mari’ in Indonesian means ‘come on!’, while in some Javanese dialects it can mean ‘after, or finish’, or in other Javanese dialects it means ‘recovered’ (from an illness).

I was also confused with ‘mau’ and ‘mou’. They are pronounced differently, but I didn’t realize that they have different meanings as well. In Indonesian, ‘mau’ means ‘to want’, and is also used as a future marker, while in Javanese, ‘mou’ is a recent past marker, so ‘aku mou mangan’, means ‘I ate a little while ago’, not ‘I want to eat’…. ah, the subtle differences.

Then, there are the borrowings from English. I like ‘stress’. Here it means that you a crazy person, not that you have a lot of tension. It’s usually combined with the gesture of putting your hand or pointer finger diagonally across your forehead. And if there’s issues with some electronic devices, you can say ‘ono trouble’… ‘lola’ (loading lama, loading is long). And a phone charger is pronounced something like ‘jas’. Or ‘risk’ is ‘riseko’. Or ‘aspect’ is ‘aspek’, and ‘modality’ is ‘modalitas’, that’s easy enough to remember, but harder to explain when people ask me, so what are you studying about in Javanese? I just say the ‘sintaks’ or ‘struktur’ and ‘semantiks’ or ‘artine’ of words like ‘mesthi’, ‘kudu’, ‘oleh’, ‘iso’, ‘wes’, ‘ape’….. and then they laugh….she can say ‘ape!’. And then I laugh too.


2 comments on “false friends

  1. Gwendolyn says:

    all that counting… having a dad who is a math teacher sure has had an influence on you!

  2. Jordan says:

    That sounds as dry as dust.

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