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Indonesian Idioms

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  • Indonesian Idioms

    As with every language Indonesian has many idioms which can be very confusing for the language learner. Especially as the words often have no relation to the meaning.

    Here are a few common ones

    Angkat telur (lift eggs)- closest to kissing arse
    Cari muka (looking face) - trying to look good
    Cuci mata (wash eyes) - window shopping/taking in another view
    anak buah - (fruit child) - Subordinate
    anak bawang -(onion child) - the odd one out/the one whose picked last.
    tangan panjang - (long arm/hand) - thief
    jalan tikus - (rat road) - similar to the English rat run meaning short cut.

    There are so many more. Feel free to share more
    The challenge is to be yourself in a world that is trying to make you like everyone else.

  • #2
    Otak udang (shrimp brain) = Stupid If you ever peeled a shrimp that still has its head on, you know that the head is full of its crap.
    Kambing hitam (black goat) = Scapegoat
    Muka tembok (wall face) = Thick skinned
    Cuci mulut (wash mouth) = Desert
    Kaki tangan (leg arm) = Staff, assistants, minions

    Indonesian is surprisingly literal compared to English. This is probably because most people have access to a second (ethnic) language to express euphemisms.

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    • #3
      I don't know that many, but I can think of a couple:
      Malu-malu kucing (shy shy cat): somebody who is very shy or too embarrassed to speak
      buaya dara (probably misspelled; "land crocodile"): playboy / sexually aggressive male
      This space is available for rent.

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      • #4
        Done by lovers: main gila = playing crazy. Old idiom but still makes me smile each time I hear somebody saying it.

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        • #5
          angkat tangan (raise hand): surrender
          buah tangan (hand fruit) : gifts
          buah bibir (lips fruit) : byword
          anak emas (gold child) : the fave child

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          • #6
            i once heard someone said "om om senang" and "tante girang"

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            • #7
              CMIIW

              cuci tangan (wash off hands) = try to escape from something by cleaning up evidence
              angkat kaki (lift foot) = to leave
              ringan tangan (light hand) = love to help, in sinister way: quick at raising hands & beating up somebody
              jago merah (red roaster) = big fire/flame (often used in fire disaster)
              main api (play with fire) = do something risky
              buang muka (throw face away) = to look away, to avert or ignore in purpose
              buah hati (fruit of heart) = beloved child
              bintang lapangan (star in the field) = the MVP
              gulung tikar (to roll the mat) = go bankrupt
              pindah tangan (move hands) = transition of authority (for belongings, possession of things)
              darah biru (blue blood) = aristocrat
              darah dingin (cold blooded) = cold blooded
              tangan besi (iron hand) = dictactor
              lintah darat (leech) = similar to loan shark?
              naik daun (going up leaf) = becoming popular
              meja hijau (green table) = the court (law)
              banting tulang (throw bones) = work hard
              kepala dingin (cold head), to think with "kepala dingin" is to think clearly not just based on emotion. "mendinginkan kepala" is to cool off
              unjuk gigi (showing tooth) = bare fangs, to demonstrate your skill
              unjuk rasa (utter the feelings) = demonstration
              gigit jari (biting finger) = to feel dissapointed
              kelinci percobaan = guinea pig
              tangan hijau = green finger
              bunga desa (flower in the village) = the most beautiful girl in a village
              besar kepala (big head) = arrogant
              besar mulut = big mouth / blabber mouth
              mata hati, to use "mata hati" is to use your heart/conscience
              kutu buku = book worm
              kutu loncat (jumping flea) = a fickle person, a term used for people love changing jobs.
              muka dua = two faced

              There are idioms i find it hard to explain, anybody could help?
              1./ balik kucing
              2./ goyang lidah (is this even an idiom??)
              3./ tangan dingin


              Are the words "meja makan", "lidah api", "sapu tangan", "rumah sakit", "sapu lidi" just noted as "kata majemuk" (composite words)? It'll be great if somebody explain the difference...

              I'll add up more if I some words come up to my mind

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              • #8
                Oh yeah..
                tuan rumah (house master) = a host.
                kupu2 malam (night butterfly) = prostitute
                angkat jempol (to raise thumbs) = admit somebody's greatness
                mata hijau (green eyes) = money oriented
                silat lidah (tongue fight) = bicker

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                • #9
                  goyang lidah is actually to explain how great the food is .. the food is so good that will shake your tongue
                  tangan dingin is for someone who can heal someone easily , or someone who can always make the plant grow.

                  kata majemuk is when 2 different meaning words are combined results a new specific product but not a idiom

                  like sapu is broom, tangan is hand, but when it's combined, it's sapu tangan handkerchief
                  rumah is house, sakit is sick , but when it's combined it's rumah sakit - hospital

                  so it's different than besar kepala, since besar kepala is an idiom, geez.. i need to open my 5th grade bahasa indonesia book he he ..
                  dont judge a book by it cover. judge it by it price. good books are expensive

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                  • #10
                    Some great idioms here. Learnt a few new ones.

                    One that my friend recently taught me was panas panas tai ayam - (hot hot chicken shit) - someone who starts something then suddenly drops and moves onto something else.
                    Another was - kambing di bedakin - (goat with make-up on) - mutton dressed as lamb

                    More idioms

                    gede rasa - big headed often shorten to GR
                    cinta monyet - (monkey love) - puppy love /childish crush.
                    main mata - (playing eyes) - flirting
                    anak pasaran - (market child) - common/ commoner
                    bau tanah - (smells of dirt/soil) - nearing death / one foot in the grave
                    tertangkap tangan basah - (caught wet handed) - caught red handed
                    pas foto - to get to first base eg to kiss as the head being the only thing you can see in a passport photo.
                    The challenge is to be yourself in a world that is trying to make you like everyone else.

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                    • #11
                      tc: the ones that judylin wrote are the idioms that are official, we learned that in school
                      some of what you mentioned there are slang idiom( GR, bau tanah, pas foto, kambing di bedakin) , made by society, so it would not be translated in idiom dictionary.- GR was brought up by comedian in early 80 'warkop'

                      there is also some slang idiom like Muke lo ijo ( your face is green) ..
                      it's like a: hey where are you taking my car to? -panic because his friend is driving his car without permission
                      B: oh your mom told me i could have it
                      A: muke lo ijo ..give it back !@#@!!!


                      - sumpe lo (swear you) : 'are you sure "
                      dont judge a book by it cover. judge it by it price. good books are expensive

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by travellingchez View Post
                        Some great idioms here. Learnt a few new ones. One that my friend recently taught me was panas panas tai ayam - (hot hot chicken shit) - someone who starts something then suddenly drops and moves onto something else. Another was - kambing di bedakin - (goat with make-up on) - mutton dressed as lamb
                        These probably came from Warkop Prambors, a very famous group of comedians on radio that graduated to tv and movies.

                        In Jakarta it's "Anget-anget tai ayam" (chicken shit warm). Chicken droppings are always warm in the beginning, but it cools rapidly. You're anget-anget tai ayam if you have a lot of passion in the beginning yet get bored quickly.

                        I understand "kambing dibedakin" (powdered goat) as an expression of desperation. He's so desperate of sex that he would even do a goat if you just put a make up on it.
                        Last edited by Nimbus; 30-01-12, 01:30.

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                        • #13
                          haha i can't wait to use these idioms! i like the chicken poop one, so funny!

                          one that i hear often is menjilat (to lick)= a** kisser/teachers pet

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                          • #14
                            tc

                            jalan tikus is indeed short cut but I believe the intent is to convey narrow and winding laneways or alleyways.

                            Wombat

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by wombat View Post
                              tc

                              jalan tikus is indeed short cut but I believe the intent is to convey narrow and winding laneways or alleyways.

                              Wombat
                              The same also applies to rat runs in English.
                              The challenge is to be yourself in a world that is trying to make you like everyone else.

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