What's Up with Indonesian Names?

Megawatti, Bambang, Jurisprudencia, Tootoomuch…

I have run into all of these last names in people coming from Indonesia. With all respect, I am wondering how these names happen to sound like Mega Watt, Bam Bang, Jurisprudence, and Too Much. I am sure there are othere examples of these names that other dopers may have run into.

I intend no disrespect, and hope that all involved understand that my curiosity is the only motivator. Is it just a coincidence that many Indonesian names seem to contain sounds that sound like english words?


Hmm, I lived in Indonesia for 7 years, plus I did the FALCON program in Indonesian language at Cornell and am a fairly competent speaker of Bahasa Indonesia. On this imperfect yet not completely clueless basis, I shall comment.

Aside from “Megawati” (one T, not two, by the way), I can’t think of any names I ever heard that fit the category you are describing. I was living in Indonesia when Megawati first ran for president (she got outmaneuvered by Gus Dur at the time) and yes, all the expats chuckled at her name. “Wati” is a common enough Indonesian nickname. I assume that “Megawati” is just a variant of that; “mega” means cloud and “megah” means "glorious.

As to the other names you cite … who knows? Bambang (one word, not two) is a common enough Indonesian-Chinese name, but entirely consistent with the local languages. I guess I’ve lived abroad for too long to see why that’s funny … is it reminding you of Bam-Bam from the Flintstones? If so, yeah, I think that is strictly coincidence.

A name like “Jurisprudence” would obviously be based on a cognate. However, there are many cultures in Indonesia; perhaps in Sumatera or some place, a judge named his son or daughter with that name, and others imitated. (I hate to generalize about an entire archipelago with many different cultures, but in my experience, imitation really is a high form of flattery there, and not something that usually irritates people).

If the name is really spelled “Too Much,” it must be a nickname or English-derived name. For one thing, Bahasa Indonesia does not use “ch” to indicate the ch-as-in-cherry sound. The letter "c"in Indonesian is pronounced “ch.”

…Oh, another thought…“Bambang” is pronounced “Bom-Bong,” not as if it rhymed with “ham, bang” in English.

Members of many Indonesian cultural groups have traditionally used only one name (examples include the leaders Sukarno and Suharto). With the country’s increased participation in the world economy and its rising population, however, surnames are becoming increasingly desirable as a means of distinguishing one Bambang or Megawati from another. So you now have the phenomenon of many people picking surnames for themselves, just as you did in centuries past in such countries as England, where John who lived on the hill became John Hill while his friend who worked as a carpenter became John Carpenter, and the surnames stuck even when the Hills moved to the lowlands or a Carpenter decided to become a musician or tailor.

Here is an introduction to Indonesian naming practices.