In the midst of the worsening viral outbreak of Covid-19 in Indonesia, photos of the use of bastardised English terms connected with the pandemic by ordinary Indonesians can serve as comic relief. One shows the entrance to what looks like a village with a makeshift bamboo barrier bearing a sign that proclaims “Lockdont”.  Elsewhere, the word “lockdown” is spelled as “lauk daun”. Other variants include “download” and “slowdown”.

While it is easy just to laugh off Indonesia’s malaprops, mostly hailing from the less educated and lower socio-economic classes, it is important to recognise that these new-fangled foreign terms were first imposed on them by the government and the local media.  The Indonesian authorities have failed to communicate the containment policy of Covid-19  to ordinary Indonesians, and instead have highlighted the stark inequality that characterises Indonesian society.

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Johannes Nugroho is a writer from Surabaya. He is currently working to get his first novel on the May 1998 Riots published. He can be contacted at

Charis is an illustrator, comics editor, and programme designer based in Malaysia. Her interests include how comic artists and illustrators exchange resources in their networks, capacity-building for comic artists and illustrators, and drawing as a research method. Charis was formerly Comics Editor and Illustrations Editor for New Naratif.