I’m often asked, “Do you speak Indonesian?”and I answer, “Yup, both Indonesian and Balinese.” More often than not, the reaction is: “Ooooh, they’re two different languages?” They are indeed. And the word ‘siap’ is an example of just how different the languages can be.
In Indonesian siap literally means ‘ready’, but it can also be a way of expressing agreement, just like saying “OK”, “I’m on to it” or something along those lines. I’ve noticed that siap has gained popularity in colloquial speech over the past few years and it has become a stock phrase, so much so that it has its meme variations like “Shiiiii-appp” heard on Indonesian comedy shows (and must be pronounced with the correct intonation and slightly effeminate gait to pull it off effectively). There are also spelling variants in messaging such as ‘siyap’ or ‘syap’ as well as siap komandan meaning ‘Yes leader / commando’ and siap bos meaning ‘Yes bos’. Indonesians love playing on the whole “big boss and lil guy” dichotomy, so this phrase is meant both literally and sarcastically (although sarcasm – it has to be said – is not an Indonesian forte and is often misunderstood).
If you use repeat siap in short fire succession, siap-siap means to get ready. You can use it in the imperative too: “Siap-siap ya” to mean “Get ready.”
Siap in Balinese has an entirely different meaning altogether: it means ‘chicken’! You couldn’t get much different, right? To those in the know, you can slip this word into a joke by saying: “Sudah siap, belum bebek” (I’m already ready / a chicken but not yet a duck) or asking someone, “Sudah ayam Bali?” to mean “Are you ready?”
Indonesians love plays on words – once you’ve mastered Indonesian, and particularly Balinese, you can slip these word plays into conversation: they’ll love you for it and Balinese people will be impressed that you understand the differences in meaning of the same word in two completely different languages that most people on this island speak with ease every day.
By Vaughan Hatch
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