Just Call It ‘KW’

If you live in Indonesia, you might hear the word “KW” (pronounced like ‘car-way’ with a faded ‘r’) quite often. Allright, let me explain about this word a bit. In Indonesia, KW stands for “kualitas” which means “quality”. KW is used to indicate something which is not original, imitation, or having a lower quality than it should be. The word KW refers to many things, from commercial products to –hold your breath—politicians!

Among billions of words in the world, I do not know why KW was chosen to resemble this condition. However, I have a bet: this word was adopted from the ceramics industry. Huh? Sounds too far?

If you ever live a bit longer in Indonesia, you would have encountered many people asked you, “Which KW do you want to buy?”

If you buy a battery for cell phone, the shop attendant will likely to ask, “Do you want to buy the original or the KW one?” Similarly, if you got your car broken and some of its spare parts need to be changed, the employee of the service station would surely asked you, “Original or KW?”

Indonesia is the paradise for any products. We can find any product in any levels of quality here. So, Indonesian people are accustomed to questions such as, “Do you want to buy the original or the KW one?” Nobody got offended by such question.

However, the floor ceramic seems have no ‘original version’ or standardized level of quality. If we go to home improvement center and asked for floor ceramics, the shop attendant will surely asked you, “Which KW do you want to buy?” The choice is not between original and KW products. All the choices are KWs.

Typically, the shop attendant will show us KW1, KW2, KW3, and even KW4 floor ceramics. The smaller the number of the KW means better quality. The the Indoensian people adopted the word “KW” to refer to low quality products.

Today, KW is widely used to indicate a imitated or inferior quality of things. His cell phone often crashed, means he has the “KW” mobile phone. Her diplomas obtained by purchase, not through a normal college process, so her diploma is KW. If a leader is not responsible for his/her people, then  the leader must be KW.

So, how long the KW word will stay in Indonesian informal spoken language? I bet that the KW word will last as long as it has a function at the society. As long as there are many things –from products to politicians—which are below the standard they should be, so long we will use the KW word…. (*)


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