Sunday, April 13, 2008

Why you so like dat?









The moment we stepped out of the arrival hall at Changi Airport Terminal 3, a unison of excited voices in the ever so familiar language engulfed us.

"Aiyoh, why you look so dark aleidy?" a mum was examining her son, who was on my flight, from top to bottom. Before I had time to wonder how that chap got so dark in wintery London,

"Wah lao eh, so late meh!" a kid, who has apparently grew impatient, was complaining his dad.

As we walked through the airport, I began to make a mental list of top 5 common Singlish phrases/words used by Singaporeans.

"Can!"

Commonly used as an affirmative word.
"Can you help me with this?"
"Can!"

"I was wondering whether you can finish this report by next morning?"
"Can!"

Short, simple and succint. The 'can' word reigns the Singlish vocabulary.


"This one can or not?"

This usually warrants a resounding "Can!" or "Cannot!". In common English, this phrase should have been,

"Will this do?"


"Like this also can huh!"

If you have not noticed by now, the word "can" featured rather strongly in Singlish. Haha... I wouldn't hesitate to declare the word as the bedrock of Singaporeans' "can-do" attitude.

In common English, it should probably be,

"I am surprised that this would do as well."


"Wah lao eh!"

Definitely a serious contender for the "can!" word as the most commonly used in Singlish. There were some debate that the phrase used for swearing in Hokkien (a Chinese dialect).

In common English, "I cannot believe it!" (that's as close as I can get... in polite language.)


"Win already lor!"

A phrase normally used in resignation or acceptance of failure.


There's always this love-hate relationship between Singaporeans and Singlish. On one hand, we would like to embrace it as something that is unique Singaporean, but we do realised that it would prove to be a major stumbling block for communicating with the English speaking part of the world.

For now, I'm making my list of the local food to eat before I leave for London again.

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6 comments:

Jasmine Shanea said...

Its a great post. Even though how wrong Singlish might be. It's still part of who we Singaporeans are and makes us feel at home. :) Oh well.. one of my Egyptian professors made my class a "no cannot!" t-shirt. So really lovin' the whole Singlish thing. :)

kyh said...

Haha! SOunds so familiar!

Okie... It's a special identity, but taking too much pride in it will prevent proper English from taking root.

Deimos Tel`Arin said...

Language is only a tool for humans to communicate with one another, as long as the message is understood, that is good enough for me. :)

Pinay Jade said...

Hi Welcome back to Singapore!
This is a great post and actually I realized after moving here from Europe and living for over a year now...Singaporeans understand me better if I talk Singlish with them.

It is unique lah.

SheR. said...

Singlish can one lah!
De best! :)

themuxicbox said...

Hmm... I don't think Singlish is the best or have anything against it. But I do think its a time saving way of letting your emotions heard. Lolx