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Bahasa Gay is Bahasa Gaul


Many homosexual men in Indonesia speak what they call bahasa gay ‘gaylanguage’, a linguistic phenomenon based upon bahasa Indonesia(Indonesian), Indonesia’s national language.
Bahasa gay, is also known by gay men and other Indonesians as bahasa banci, a closely related language variety. Banci is a nationwide (and somewhat derogatory) term for male-to-female transvestites; two well-known bahasa gay/banci variants of the term are binan and bencong (thus this language is also called bahasa binan or bahasa bencong).
To date, the fundamental condition of bahasa gay’s existence is that although some terms transform words from local languages such as Javanese or Balinese, at the overall grammatical level bahasa gay is always based on Indonesian (bahasa Indonesia), the national vernacular.
Although Indonesia has considerable linguistic diversity, bahasa gay is a self-consciously nationwide way of speaking. All of the derivational patterns used to produce bahasa gay lexemes originated in one region of Indonesia but became nationally distributed through gay social networks. The language’s fundamental logic is not that of alterity but of creative transformation of a dominant state discourse. It is a conscious (and often humorous) language game.
Derivation
Competence in bahasa gay includes intonation, pragmatics, and ideology about bahasa gay itself, but what gay men (and those who appropriate bahasa gay) find most salient is lexicon. This “lexicon,” however, is more than just a collection of words; it is a set of patterned derivational processes that together constitute a language game. True fluency is signaled not just by knowing vocabulary but by knowing the processes and being able to coin neologisms oneself.
There are several ways to create gay terms. Since the mid-1990s, the most popular process is syllabic substitution, where a word replaces a standard Indonesian word with which it shares a syllable (typically the first syllable). For instance, tidak ‘no, not’ is replaced by tinta ‘tint’ (see Table below).

Syllabic substitution in bahasa gay

Bahasa gay termOriginal meaningReplaces
Indonesian term
Meaning
amplop 
Balikpapan
BBC
bodrex
ciptadent
émbér
jelita
lapangan
Makassar
mawar
Polonia
Samarinda
semangka
sutra
tinta
envelope 
city in Kalimantan
British Broadcasting Corporation
cough medicine
brand of toothpaste
pail, bucket
lovely
open field
city in Sulawesi
rose
airport in the city of Medan (in Sumatra)
city in Kalimantan
watermelon
silk
tint
ampun 
kembali
becak
bodoh
cium
emang
jelek
lapar
makan
mau
pulang
sama-sama
semak
sudah
tidak
in set phrase ‘ya ampun’
(oh my God!)
you’re welcome
pedicab
stupid
to kiss
indeed
bad
hungry
to eat
to want
to go home
you’re welcome
to like
already
no
Two other derivational processes are related to syllabic substitution. The first is neologism (Table below), in which the Indonesian term is replaced by a form that shares the same first syllable or sound but does not have a prior meaning of its own. Only a handful of bahasa gay terms originate in this manner; bahasa gay is a language of transformation.

Neologisms in bahasa gay

Bahasa gay termReplaces Indonesian termMeaning
akika
cuco’
jahara
aku
cakep
jahat
I (familiar)
handsome
evil
The second process is semantic shift, whereby an Indonesian term is given a new meaning (Table below). Semantic shifting is a feature of non-gay urban language as well, where it is termed plesetan (Chambert-Loir 1984; Oetomo 2001).

Semantic shift in bahasa gay

Bahasa gay termReplaces Indonesian termMeaning in bahasa Gay
brondong
goreng
kucing
fusillade
fry
cat
young man
anal sex
sex worker
Another important derivational process in bahasa gay is suffixation and vowel shift (Table below), which is usually used to transform a standard Indonesian term but occasionally involves a bahasa gay item, a local language term, or an English loanword.

Suffixation and vowel shift in bahasa gay.

Indonesian or
bahasa gay term
MeaningNew bahasa gay term
banci
berapa
dandan
homo
lelaki
loco
pura-pura
sakit
terjadi
waria (an amalgam of wanita ‘woman’ and pria ‘man’)
how much?
put on makeup
homosexual
man
masturbate
pretend
sick(‘attracted to the same sex in bahasa gay)
to have happened
béncong or bénces
brépong
déndong or déndes
hémong
lékong or lékes
lécong, léces, or léci
péres
sékong, sékes, or sékes
térjedong
The most common suffixes are –ong and –es. Dede Oetomo suggests that suffixation and vowel shift first appeared in Jakarta and areas most directly influenced by the Jakartan dialect of Indonesian; he also notes that a few terms of -ong shifting, namely bencong, from banci ‘male transvestite’, andnepsong, from napsu ‘desire’, appear to have come into existence beforebahasa gay took form (2001:62). As in the case of all other derivational processes for bahasa gay, the most common kinds of transformed words are nouns and adjectives.
With -in- infixing, the infix -in- is “inserted between the consonant and vowel of every syllable, usually with a shortening of the product so that it becomes two syllables long” (Oetomo 1999:28). Thus banci becomes binancini, which becomes binan. See table below:
Indonesian or
bahasa gay term
MeaningNew bahasa gay term
banci
berapa
dandan
homo
lelaki
loco
pura-pura
sakit
terjadi
waria (an amalgam of wanita ‘woman’ and pria ‘man’)
how much?
put on makeup
homosexual
man
masturbate
pretend
sick(‘attracted to the same sex in bahasa gay)
to have happened
binancini
binerinapina
dinandinan
hinomino
linakini
linocino
pinurina pinurina
sinakinit
tinerjinadini
Intonation
Though far less emphasized than patterned lexicon, speaking in what is considered to be an effeminate manner is also sometimes asserted by gay men to be indicative of bahasa gay. By ‘effeminate’ (standard Indonesiankewanitaan or femininbahasa gay terms include ngondhek, megol, kriting‘curly’), these men refer to the high-pitched tone and rising utterance–final intonation that Indonesians associate with images of demure femininity and softness (lembut).
Bahasa Gaul
Bahasa gay so rarely serves the cause of secrecy. Its existence is to stabilize social relations, creating a sense of similarity and to invoke a sense of gaycommunity. Gay men can sometimes be openly gay in the presence of normalIndonesians, especially if they work in a salon. These interactions make it possible for bahasa gay terms and even derivational patterns to enter vernacular Indonesian. Bahasa gay thereby becomes part of a national vernacular or bahasa gaul. This appears to invoke an Indonesian public culture of freedom from official stricture.
In recent years the dissemination of bahasa gay has been extended by the entry of bahasa gay terms into mass media. It’s even said that Jakarta youth that cannot use this language are said to be socially inept and behind the times. When normal Indonesians use bahasa gay, they are seen to be hip, not queer; it marks them not as gay but as in tune with popular culture.
Bahasa gay took an even greater leap into the Indonesian public eye with the publication of Kamus Bahasa Gaul ‘The Dictionary of Bahasa Gaul’ by television personality Debby Sahertian (1999). More recently, news of bahasa gay’s appropriation by Indonesian national culture has reached the international media. In January 2002, the Australian Financial Review ran an article on bahasa gay, which it called bahasa gaul (Dodd 2002).

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