What can colonial-era texts tell us about these phenomena? What analytical tools do we have to study them? In an attempt to address these questions, I call attention to a semi-digital corpus of vernacular Malay texts from the former Netherlands Indies. The authors of these novels, newspapers, poems, advertisements, and theatre plays predominantly came from Indonesia’s Chinese minority, although other Malay-literate communities were among their readers and writers too. Unlike the elitist “standard Malay” literature – which was promoted by the colonial government and aimed to “improve” the intellectual level of the Indonesia’s subjects – the so-called “Sino-Malay” literature was commercial, popular, and unapologetically hybrid. To the chagrin of language purists, Sino-Malay texts were deeply translingual, incorporating elements from Javanese, Sundanese, Dutch, English, French, Mandarin, and Hokkien (the Sinitic variety many Chinese-Indonesians originally spoke).