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Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Indonesian naming system

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Did you know that most people in Indonesia DON'T have surnames?
Passing down a family name is just not that important in our culture. Indonesia is home to many different ethnic groups and languages. Indonesian names vary greatly between these groups.
Indonesians have one or more given names, but neither a family name nor a patronym. Some ethnic groups also use a family name or clan name, other groups use a patronym, the latter is possibly an Arab influence. Telephone books in Indonesia are organized by given name. Football players have their first name printed on the back of their jersey T-shirts. Some people have just one name, e.g. Soekarno and Soeharto, our past presidents.
My first, middle and last (given) names were derived from Malay, Javanese and Sanskrit words, respectively. Hening means tranquil or serene (Malay), Dian illumination or light (Javanese), and Paramita perfection or completeness. I don't have a patronymic nor a family name. My online aliases follow the meanings of my names: Shizuka (tranquil, Japanese) and Svet-lana (light, Russian).
Indonesians who don't have a family name are often compelled to use their given name as a family name because the immigration card or flight booking form they're filling out asks it. Interestingly enough, the scenario can be reversed. Upon registering to social media, my cousin whose 'only name' is Sanjaya had to create a first name, otherwise he could not join the websites. So there he had it: Jaya Sanjaya.
Husbands and fathers of surname-less women 'suffer' the most. Many married Indonesian women choose to keep their maiden name, and foreign friends or colleagues would call their husbands by the last names they assume to be the women's marital names. The same happens to the fathers. Imagine you're brought up in Indonesia and your name is Henry and your daughter's name Elizabeth. People unfamiliar with Indonesian naming system would assume that your name is Henry Elizabeth. This analogy is similar to a situation when my dad was mistakenly called Mr Paramita, which is a female name.

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About the author

Hening is a laid-back ENTP (by upbringing) and a solar-Scorpio-and-lunar-Sagittarius (by birth). She believes that thrifting is an art form that helps rewire our brain circuits for the better.

 

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