Word (Ab)use

Boredom could turn over-scrutiny into a blog post, and popular phenomenon is an easy prey


Really sorry for not updating for a while, readers! (I’m too busy in university entrance exams thingy)

Anyway, my major driving force to write is that I’m FED UP with our (yes, Indonesian) pre-teens and teens who happened to abuse these two very words lately: “LABIL” and “GALAU”. The latter is subject to even further shift of meaning and all of my loathings.

To give you perspective about how far the meaning have shifted to this day, here’s the transcript of the meaning of those two words from KBBI (It’s like OED for Indonesian language) 1988.

Labil: 1. goyah, tidak mantap (tt bangunan, pendirian, dsb); 2. goyang, tidak tenang (tt kendaraan, kapal, pesawat terbang); 3. tidak tetap, mudah berubah-ubah, naik turun (tt harga, nilai uang, dsb); 4. tidak stabil, cenderung berubah-ubah

So far so good. Now let’s see the meaning of “galau”

Galau a, bergalau: sibuk beramai-ramai, sangat ramai, kacau tidak keruan

Labil was interpreted as, well, labile, unstable. But you would never, ever describe someone’s personality as labil, because labil is usually used in conjunction with its noun, e.g “bangunan itu berdiri di atas struktur yang labil” (the building is built on an unstable structure).

But in contemporary pop culture, labil is mistakenly (ab)used as a substitute to noun plinplan (derived from plintat-plintut), perhaps because of easier pronunciation. Here’s a good example:

A: Labil banget sih lo! (Hey, lad, you’re so labile!)

In order to be more discernible, you have to add a noun for the adjective “labile”. Honestly, for the practicality of communication, one may omit the noun at all, given the context is known to both side, without adding further semantic confusion. But sometimes, you’ll even find further error like this salutation:

A: Heh, bocah labil! (Hey, labile kid!)

Every language learners will absolutely get lost at this point. But this semantic error is way more tolerable than for the word “galau“. Now if you’re about to find why galau is much more a trouble than labil, let’s see this fine example:

A: Duh, lagi galau nih. (oh geez, I’m feeling blue right now)

Note that this is the mildest deviation. The actual meaning of galau is, according to the dictionary, is (mentally) messy, chaotic, disorganized, or for the sake of precision, tumultous. Properly, you usually use galau as in “Ia sangat galau memikirkan kehidupannya yang berantakan” (He/she is very tumultous/confused thinking about his/her ruined life) So why people use the word “galau” instead of “sedih” to express their feeling? I don’t know. But let’s see another example:

B: Dia sedang menggalau abis diputusin pacar (He/she is languishing after he/she broke up with girl/boyfriend)

Another melancholy-related things we have here. People seems to have failed to get the “confused” meaning and instead thinking it as a way to express melancholy and associate it with cheap and seemingly perpetual fad of teenage relationship. But the most confusing surprise come from this example:

C: Gue lagi ngegalau di Mall X (I’m now wandering in X Shopping Mall)

So it seems as if galau is applicable to literally all kinds of  meaning! Now you get a magic word! Ha! And they even think galau has prefix me- instead of ber-. As a person who pay much attention for language, I think this is too far a mistake (isn’t it?)

To make things worse, the shift of meaning also give the word “galau” a new pejorative sense. It’s very ironic since the word galau used to be a word of choice for songmakers (which are also now a degraded members of society) and poet.

Now, why? Why could such a big mistake happened? Why people could degrade the once beautiful meaning of this word?

Blame it to secondary school students. And the high school students. And college students.

It’s ironic since we (yes, I’m also a student) are the next-generation leaders of the nation. Long before this generation comes to its productive age, we successfully tainted the language with such pejorative linguistic measures. Ha, life is great!

Will we stop messing around, or will we continue to mess up this already messy country?

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