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Written by Meylisa Sahan – AIYA National’s Blog Editor
Translated by Gabriella Pasya – AIYA National’s Translation Team
The Annual Australia – Indonesia Youth Association (AIYA) Congress has been held online from 30 – 31 January 2021. This event brings together all AIYA members from Australia and Indonesia. There were many things discussed in this meeting including several bilingual word terms that were packaged by the congress committee in a game called AIYA Trivia Night. All congress participants will be divided into several teams to answer the questions that have been provided.
There was one question that was quite intriguing when the AIYA Trivia game started, namely the term “buaya darat”. This term may be familiar to participants from Indonesia, but some Australian congress participants do not know the meaning of this word. Therefore, the AIYA National Blog Editor Team succeeded in summarizing various explanations about “buaya darat” starting from history, their context in everyday life, and whether “buaya darat” are actually a suitable symbol to describe a person’s level of loyalty? Let’s check it out!
“Really? Don’t you believe a word that he is saying. He’s buaya darat”
The word “buaya darat” is always associated with someone’s loyalty, especially men. Men who are labeled as “buaya darat” are those who are considered to love sweet and doting words but also like to break promises. Until now, there is no definite explanation regarding the origin of the term “buaya darat” used in the context of Indonesian communication, or simply as a parable. The term “buaya”– in english, crocodile- as an expression to describe a false, lying or fictitious thing has been around since the 14th century in a book called The Voyage and Travel by Sir John Madeville. The crocodile in this book is described as an animal that resembles a long-bodied snake that likes to soak in water at night and hide in caves during the day. Crocodiles are also said to kill humans and eat them while crying. From this came the term crocodile tears -in indonesian “air mata buaya”-, which means fake tears. There are also folktales about crocodiles who cheat or pretend to cry. This eventually became associated with the term “buaya darat” for male who like to deceive women with fake tears.
Samsudin Adlawi from Tempo Magazine in his writing entitled Binatang yang Memperkaya Bahasa – Animals that Enriched Language- explains that the term “buaya darat” has emerged since 1971. This history originates from Soronganyit around Jember, East Java, Indonesia. Long story short, in Soronganyit, there is a crocodile farm with a very tight schedule so that these crocodiles will be regulated when to be on land and when to be in the water. One day, a male crocodile disappeared and made the local residents in an uproar for fear that the crocodile would run away. Three months later, the missing male crocodile was found with a female crocodile who turned out to be not his legal partner. The female crocodile happened to be the same age as the male crocodile’s own child. The residents simultaneously cursed “Dasar Buaya!” Since then, when a man has an affair with a woman who is not his legal partner, he will be called a “buaya darat”.
In line with this, the term “buaya darat” finally began to be widely used as a nickname for men who were identified or proven to be seductive to women, easily expressed love for many women, did not take relationships seriously and liked to approach many women not for a genuine relationship. The international term for this is playboy!
Apart from the bad connotations, evidently in some history and culture of Indonesia, crocodiles have had an important meaning. Crocodiles appear as symbols in food, statues even to the philosophy of life of a certain tribe in Indonesia. For the Betawi people in Jakarta, the crocodile symbol is present as an important sign in the marriage process with Betawi customs. Crocodiles in the form of food are called “roti buaya” which is given as a gift from the groom to the bride. The Betawi Cultural Studies Center explained that Roti Buaya is a Betawi custom that must be done during weddings. This symbol of crocodile bread is defined as loyalty because crocodiles are loyal animals. Roti Buaya is made by baking. Roti Buaya used to have a hard texture and no taste but now it is different because of its soft texture and various flavors. In the past, Roti Buaya was hard because the philosophy was that the harder the bread was, the better. After making the offerings, Roti Buaya is not eaten but stored for a long time. It is a symbol of the loyalty of the husband and wife.
Meanwhile, the crocodile is also a symbol of the Dayak Lundayah tribe, which is known as a brave tribe. Referring to their past life, the Dayak Lundayah tribe used crocodiles as a symbol of themselves. The detik.com Tapal Batas team in their writing entitled Suku Dayak Lundayah dan Filosofi Buaya –the Dayak Lundayah Tribe and the Crocodile Philosophy- explains that there are several reasons that crocodiles are then used as a symbol of Lundayah, namely crocodiles are brave and alert animals, crocodiles are animals that live in two realms that reflect the local people who are capable to adapt and survive anywhere, loyal and have a calm nature. Crocodile statues can be found in the Dayak Lundayah area.
Meanwhile, crocodiles are also closely related to the city of Surabaya. The name Surabaya, according to its etymology, comes from the words Sura or Suro and Baya or Boyo in Javanese. Suro is a type of shark, while boyo is the Javanese term for crocodile. According to myth, these two animals are the strongest animals that have also become symbols of the city of Surabaya to this day.
Then are crocodiles an unfaithful animal? Apparently not. Several studies have established crocodiles as one of the most loyal animals. As reported by Livescience.com, a 10-year study conducted by the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, proved that 70 percent of crocodiles always choose the same partner every time the mating season arrives. While they have many opportunities to choose a new partner. There are many crocodiles that were found for the first time to mate with their partners in 1997 and were still paired until 2005. Apart from that, the context of “buaya darat” as a figurative or parable is a form of how humans communicate and exchange symbols. The word and meaning of “buaya darat” can of course be shifted if it is related to the cultural context in which the word is found.
So, that was the discussion from the AIYA National Blog Team about “buaya darat”, history, context and symbols of crocodiles in various tribes and regions in Indonesia. Hopefully the information this time is useful for you. May we all be freed from the trap of “buaya darat” haha, it’s scary!