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In 2008 Goenawan Moehamad celebrated the “very valuable paradox” (paradoks yang sangat berharga) of the language that has come over three generations to be known by almost all of Indonesia’s 250 million people. Drawing on sociolinguistic research, I explore different versions of this paradox as it has developed in two towns, Kupang and Pontianak. To compare these two urban scenes it helps first to consider more generally Indonesian’s uniqueness among the world’s national languages. This provides a way to understand how its diversity of forms and values can be traced to its enabling absence of native speakers.