Friday, 20 May 2016

Singlish - Uniquely Singapore


The rise of Singlish
Singapore's famous spouting Merlion statue - in Singlish "merlion" means to vomit profusely

Singapore's government has long insisted that everyone in the island nation should speak English - it's the language used in schools, at work, and in government. But in practice many people speak a hybrid language that can leave visitors completely baffled - Singlish.

Singapore is known for its efficiency and Singlish is no different - it's colourful and snappy. You don't have a coffee - you "lim kopi". And if someone asks you to join them for a meal but you've already had dinner, you simply say: "Eat already."

Singlish first emerged when Singapore gained independence 50 years ago, and decided that English should be the common language for all its different races. That was the plan. It worked out slightly differently though, as the various ethnic groups began infusing English with other words and grammar. English became the official language, but Singlish became the language of the street.

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Colloquial Singaporean English, better known as Singlish, is an English-based creole language spoken in Singapore

While English is one of Singapore's official languages, Singlish (a particular dialect with its unique intonations and grammar) is commonly regarded as having low prestige. The Singaporean government and some Singaporeans alike heavily discourage the use of Singlish in favour of Standard English and Standard Mandarin. The government has created an annual Speak Good English Movement to emphasise the point.

Singlish is also heavily discouraged in the mass media and in schools. However, such official discouragement and routine censorship is actually countered by other presentations in mainstream media, including routine usage by ordinary people in street interviews broadcast on TV and radio on a daily basis, as well as occasional usage in newspapers.

The vocabulary of Singlish consists of words originating from English, Malay, Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Tamil and to a lesser extent various other European, Indic and Sinitic languages. Also, elements of American and Australian slang have come through from imported television series and films.

related:
Singlish vocabulary
Singapore English
Languages of Singapore

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Singapore Colloquial English (Singlish)

Modern Singapore is traditionally dated from 1819, which was when Sir Stamford Raffles claimed the island of Singapore for the East India Company, with the intention of creating a trading post for Britain in a strategis place. This 'founding' of modern Singapore took place against a background of multiethnic trade going back many centuries. The Malay peninsula was an important crossroads in trade from East Asia to India and points westward, as the pattern of winds and the lay of the land created a natural meeting point.
 
The region had a history of Indian and Thai influence and rule, but by the time of European involvement (from this sixteenth century) the area consisted of a series of rather cosmopolitan Malay sultanates, which were Muslim, but with distinctive cultural practices that reflected the centuries of contact with other nations, especially with India. Many Chinese had also settled in the region, to foster their trading interests, and there were links of all sorts around the whole of Asia.
 
Singapore, a trading post at the southern tip of the Malay peninsula, was multicultural from the start. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to seek a share in the riches of the Malay peninsula, and after their defeat in Malacca in 1641 the Dutch dominated. After the British came on the scene in the eighteenth century, there was a jostling of power between British and the Dutch which continued until the middle of the twentieth century. Negotiations took place involving the colonial powers and the local rulers of the various Malay sultanates.

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SinGweesh on Wednesday: Kiam Chye Char Loti

Singlish has long-long history one! Dun listen to some people talk cock sing song, anyhow say this, say that. Say got no Singlish before Singapore was independent. Say last time only got Chinese dialects maybe mixed with some Malay but no England – because people weren’t educated. Or, worse, say Singlish only became tok kong when Singaporeans felt rootless and then buay tahan Speak Good England Movement. Wah piang eh! No lah!

Lucky the Grand Ah Ma of Singlish, Ms Sylvia Toh Paik Choo, had preserved for us in the 1980s some knowledge of how old Singlish used to be like. When I was a geena, her books titled Eh Goondu! and Lagi Goondu! were national bestsellers one OK. Sylvia was correct to have turned to her own childhood in the 1950s for evidence of some oral tradition. We should all do this too lah – especially if you’re a born-and-bled Singaporean. Go into your childhood. Try to recall all those gila rhymes your grandparents and parents would sing to you!

Of course, if your upbringing angmo pai one, then kua kua, kena sai lor. But, if it wasn’t, you may remember, you may remember, for example, that the term “fatty bom bom” came from one such rhyme. “Fatty bom bom” refers to an Ah Pui; “bom bom”, as the sound a heavy, wobbling body makes, dramatises fatness. Yea, not very nice, but we call others that – or hopefully used to do that – because we learnt it from Pioneer Generation one. They would chant to us when we were babies:

related: Singlish Tag

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Yale-NUS profs speak Singlish? Steady lah!
 
Professor Charles Bailyn, Dean of the Faculty at Yale-NUS

Can speak Singlish a-not?

Eleven foreign academics apparently can - after taking a crash course in Singapore's unique colloquial language.

The faculty members - including some from the United States, India and Australia - are due to start work at Yale-NUS, a new liberal arts college that will open in August.

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American website makes Singlish sound like cheemanology

Atlas Obscura, an American website that deals with the weird, kooky and unknown side of the world around us, recently turned their gaze to a very specific aspect of Singapore. Singlish.

The average Singaporean might find Singlish to be almost second, sometimes first, nature in their everyday interactions.

Little did we know that Singlish was actually the most difficult thing for anyone else in the world to pick up.

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Singaporean English is Almost Impossible to Pick Up
The Merlion is a famous statue and symbol of Singapore. "To merlion" in Singlish means to puke everywhere. (Photo: WolfgangSladkowski/CC BY 3.0)

"Two dollar onny, dis one," a street vendor might say to you in Singapore. A local might reply, "Wah! So espensive one, cannot leh."

While this might sound like broken English, it is an example of Singlish, the highly complicated English creole spoken in Singapore. Its staccato, off-grammar patois is the subject of much bemusement for visitors to the country, and it's almost impossible for outsiders to imitate.

“Singlish is easy to learn, but hard to execute,” says Sai Pogaru, who moved to Singapore in 2001 and is now a citizen. “There is a certain flair to the language/accent. It actually requires lots of practice to sound authentic.”

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This 3-minute round of Singlish charades is surprisingly compelling

Which basically consists of contestants acting out Singaporean words and phrases, with the same limitations of normal charades.

Normal charades, for the uninitiated, is a word guessing game.

It is an acting game in which one player acts out a word or phrase, often by miming similar-sounding words, and the other players guess the word or phrase. The idea is to use physical rather than verbal language to convey the meaning to another party.

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SINGLISH - A Language Guide for Foreigners

SINGLISH... when an English-speaking foreigner first arrives in Singapore, one of the first things noted is that most locals have a fairly good grasp of the English language. As time goes by, and one spends much time living and interracting with the locals (especially outside of the tourist areas), it soon becomes apparent that English alone is not enough to fully converse on local topics.

The intent of this post is to offer a guide to non-Singlish speaking people to perhaps better understand what is going on around them :p

It should be noted, that I consider Singlish to be a part of the essence of Singapore and it's culture! Before I begin with the background and 'common' Singlish terms and their meanings, the following video is quite entertaining and offers some examples of usage of some of the most popular terms - "WHY WE TALK LIKE THAT"

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"Aiyah, Where got time!"


Some of you may have heard of the Singapore Sling; some may not have. But if you hang out with Singaporeans or Malaysians often enough, you more likely than not would have heard the Singapore Slang, more commonly known as Singlish.

Put succinctly, Singlish is a Singapore brand of spoken English. It is basically English with Chinese grammar and spoken with a distinctive Singaporean and/or Malaysian accent. Sometimes words from Hokkien, a Chinese dialect, creep into the sentence structure and strong overtones of the Malay language often accompany Singlish.

Here, I present a cross section of some of the more common Singlish phrases and words and their explanations.
  • Let us start with exclamatory remarks. A common one is Alamak! which is the Singlish equivalent of "Oh my gosh!" We use Alamak! to express despair and sometimes anxiety. For instance, "Alamak! I forgot to bring my assignment!"
  • Wa-liao is used when one is surprised, as in "Wa-liao! The food here is so expensive!" It can also be used as an equivalent for "Good Grief!" or "Oh dear!" and the like.
  • Aiyah or Aiyoh express impatience and sometimes disgust. One might say, "Aiyoh! the river is so filthy!" or "Aiyah! hurry up!"
  • A Singlish sentence often ends with words like "lah", "leh", "meh" or "lor". These utterances are included at the end of a sentence to add emotions or feelings to the sentence. For instance, "Come with us leh" (with a long and draggy "leh") is persuading. "Come with us lah" (with a short emphatic "lah") is encouraging. "Come with us lor" is almost like pleading. "You don't want to come meh?" is simply "Don't you want to come along?" A common use of such end-of-sentence phrase is in the phrase "OK lah" which is the Singlish equivalent for "Okie dokie". Be careful not to confuse this with its cousin, "OK lor" (meaning "alright then") which is usually spoken with a sense of resignation. The difference is fairly subtle and can be fully understood only after years of exposure to Singlish.
  • There are also phrases and words which are distinctly Singlish. For example, when we say a person is blur, we mean he/she is confused. So, one would say after a lecture, "Wa-liao, so blur man!" and that would mean "Good Grief, the lecture was so confusing!"
  • Another common phrase, "Why you so like dat?", which has been made popular by a local rap group, The Kopikat Gang, actually means "Why are you behaving like an uncivilised buffalo?"
  • Singlish also has a large collection of "Where-gots", like "Where got time", "Where got money", "Where got fun" and so on. In general, the "Where got" can be replaced by "Where on earth do you expect me to find". So for instance, when asked to donate some money to charity, a Singaporean may say "Aiyah, where got time?" Note that here, time and money seem to be synonymous.
Some Hokkien words commonly used in Singlish like kiasu, pai seh and ngeow need some explanation.
  • Kiasu literally means afraid of losing or losing out.
  • Pai seh means embarrassing or embarrassed,
  • ngeow (which is a Hokkien word for "cat") is usually used to describe a stingy or fussy person.
  • So, a kiasu person would go for all the freebies and eat his/her fill (and more) at a buffet or all-you-can-eat meal, and there is no need to be pai seh about it. And if you happen to have a very ngeow landlord, then you have to be more kiasu ...
Now that we have a fairly good picture of what Singlish is like, lets see if we can understand the following conversation between Ah Beng, Ah Seng and Ah Lian (the Singapore equivalent of Tom, Dick and, well, Mary) ...
  • Ah Beng : Hi, Ah Seng, Ah Lian, long time no see.
  • Ah Lian : Hey, you guys wanna go to the Singapore D & D?
  • Ah Seng : No lah, where got time?!
  • Ah Lian : Aiyah, neber mind lah, long long one time oni what. Go lor.
  • Ah Beng : Free one ah?
  • Ah Seng : Aiyah, where got free one?
  • Ah Lian : Ya-lor, if free where got good one?
  • Ah Seng : $50 you know!
  • Ah Beng : Wa-liao! So expensive one meh?
  • Ah Lian : $50 oni what, where got expensive?
  • Ah Beng : See first lor.
Well, some people may say that Singlish is nothing but bad English; but lest we forget, Singlish is a spoken "language" and we generally do not write in Singlish. It is used throughout Singapore and has been a very effective tool of verbal communication. It also has a certain Singaporean flavour. And oh, by the way, the Singapore Sling, which has nothing to do with Singlish, is a cocktail.

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Singlish

Singlish is an informal, colloquial form of English that is used in Singapore. Linguists refer to it as Singapore Colloquial English or Colloquial Singapore English. The use of Singlish has been the subject of much debate since the 1970s, when it first became an observable phenomenon. The government actively discourages the use of Singlish among the population, citing the need for Singaporeans to be able to communicate effectively with the wider English-speaking population in the world.

Description - The intonation and sentence structure of Singlish are influenced by the main Chinese dialects spoken in Singapore such as Hokkien, Cantonese and Teochew, while the influence of the Chinese dialects and the Malay and Indian languages are also noted in the use of certain lexical Singlish terms such as “agak agak” (from Malay, meaning “estimate”) and “kaypoh” (Hokkien for “busybody”). Standard English grammar rarely applies to Singlish. For instance, grammatical endings, tenses, plurals, and the linking verbs “is”, “am”, “are”, “was” and “were” are often ignored. Speakers of Singlish would say “You walk so slow” instead of “You walk so slowly”, and “She shop here yesterday” rather than “She shopped here yesterday”, and “Teck very rich” for “Teck is very rich”. The sentence endings “lah” and “leh” are also commonly heard in Singlish conversations.

Due to its departure from standard rules of the English language, Singlish has often been called “ungrammatical”, “poor”, “bad”, or “broken” English. Some linguists and academics, however, prefer to view Singlish as a variety of English that has evolved out of Singapore’s unique multi-ethnic social milieu. According to linguists, although Singlish deviates from the standard rules used in English, it has its own system of rules and grammar. For example, the repetition of words or parts of words (a process that linguists call reduplication) follows certain principles in Singlish, where the repetition of some verbs like “kick” makes sense while the repetition of other verbs like “know” does not. Singlish speakers would therefore agree that the sentence “The child kick kick the ball” means that the child kicked the ball around, whereas the sentence “I know know the answer” does not make sense.

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Are You Living Singlish Yet?

Are you a young single woman building an independent life? There are so many decisions. Do you have questions about living alone, working, managing your money, finding friends in a new town, or how to have a full life as a single woman? Need a little confidence boost every now and then? You’re not alone!

Lots of women like you want more self-confidence, and want an exciting, independent life. Many wish for a quick look into the future, to see if they will ‘make it.’

Reading Living Singlish: Your Life, Your Way is the next best thing. You’ll learn 7 simple principles that will help you prioritize, make decisions, and shape your life. These principles will help you decide what is important and what you can ignore. They will help you build self-esteem and confidence so you can have the lifestyle you want and deserve.

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Singlish to English

What’s the difference between Singapore colloquial English (Singlish) and Standard English? When should you use which? Why should you switch in different situations? This revealing workshop gives you the answers.

This interactive workshop is designed for anyone who is already confident in Singlish and Standard English as well as those new to Singapore. Is it particularly useful in helping Singaporeans switch to Standard English in situations that require it. You will take part in role-plays, discussions, puzzles, quizzes and games as well as listening to dialogues.

Who should attend? Anyone who wants to be able to switch between Singlish and Standard English.

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Everything Singlish

Singlish is a bastardisation of the English language, named after the country in which it was "invented" and commonly spoken, Singapore. While many would say, as manifest has, that it is disgusting and sounds extremely coarse, I would hold that it does have its uses. To Singaporeans, at least, it sounds intimate and informal, a social language that brings more people to ease. While Singlish does have large Chinese (particularly Hokkien) influences, it also retains a certain Malay favour. Quite a few words of Malay origin are interspersed in speech. There are two main defining aspects that qualifies a passage of text as Singlish.

The first would be the use of Chinese sentence structures in English. Take, for example, "Is this your one?". In proper English, this would be expressed as "Is this yours?", but because there is no such word as "yours" in Mandarin, "your one" is used, being a nearly direct translation of the Mandarin equivalent. (The word "one" is replacing has no true English translation; it is used as a suffix to denote 'belonging to'.) The second aspect of Singlish is the use of strange suffixes and non-English words. The suffixes are perhaps the most famous, so I will go through them first. In Mandarin, it is quite common to end a sentence or a phrase with a certain suffix, as an indication of tone. For example a question is normally suffixed with "ma", an exclamation with "ah" or "ya".

This is also done in Singlish, but in a much more extreme manner. While you would attempt to use the suffixes in a more restrained manner when conversing in Mandarin or other dialects, in Singlish nearly every other word has a suffix appended to it, and each suffix greatly influences the meaning behind the entire sentence. The 8 most common suffixes are these: lar, lor, liao, leh, mah, meh, har, hor.

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Singlish Dictionary - BEST OF SINGAPORE

What is Singlish? Singapore’s own colloquial English – made up of words from across the region – Malay, Hokkien, Tamil, Cantonese and more. With the help of my workmates, I have been writing down my favourite terms.  I’m hoping to further build out the dictionary as my Singlish skills develop!
  • AH BENG – A Chinese guy, sometimes Hokkien – usually found with dyed hair, bluetooth attachment on ear, bling watch and bright clothes.
  • AH LIAN – The female equivalent of an AH BENG
  • ANG MOH – Literally meaning ‘red hair’ – this is a general term used to describe a Caucasian.
  • AUNTIE – Generic name for an older or middle aged lady.
  • AYAM – Malay for chicken – someone who is easily scared.
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Singapore should kill 'kiasu' culture: NMP Kuik Shiao-Yin

Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Kuik Shiao-Yin on Tuesday (Apr 5) called for the eradication of Singapore’s “kiasu” (Singlish for being afraid to lose) culture, describing it as a national habit of fear that poses a cultural roadblock to transformation and at great cost to the economy.

“Fear has been a favourite motivational tool of many of our parents, teachers, bosses and even politicians,” Ms Kuik told Parliament on the second day of Budget debates. “Managed well, fear is a perfectly healthy kick in the pants to force us out of complacency and into action. Fear compels us to man up, save more, study hard, work long. Fear in that sense is an emotion that does help us take care of our future.”

“But it loses these powerful positive effects when it goes beyond a temporary emotion we feel, to a permanent disposition we live in. When fear becomes part of our emotional and cultural DNA, we lock ourselves into a habit of self-limiting behaviours.”

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'I find Singaporeans a cynical lot': Grandmother of Goondus Sylvia Toh

Columnist and writer Sylvia Toh Paik Choo is known as the Guru of Singlish. She is the author of Eh Goondu! (1982) and Lagi Goondu! (1986), the first two books on Singlish, and is the first to put spelling and punctuation to Singlish.

She continues writing on a freelance basis, writing about food, movies and, of course, her brand of humorous social commentary.

Kickstarting the interview with 938LIVE's On The Record, Ms Toh talked about her own educational history and how she came to be called "the Grandmother of Goondus" in Singapore.


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Words You Are Using Incorrectly in Singapore

help – The casual phrase “can you help me buy…” or “can you help post these letters” would seem a little strange in native English speaking countries. Although grammatically correct, contextually this sounds like you need assistance or aid, rather than you need someone to do something for you.

keep - Another word related to the Chinese direct translation is ‘keep’. “Put in order” or “tidy up” in Mandarin is 收(shou1)起(qi3). The phrase 收(shou1)起(qi3)你(ni3)的(de4)书(shu1) is wrongly converted to ‘[keep your books].

follow - Also with the word ‘follow’ based on 跟(gen1). 跟(gen1) means follow or to go with. The phrase 你(ni3)可(ke2)以(yi3)跟(gen1)着(zhe4)我(wo3) is [you can follow me] or [you can go with me]. Obviously there is confusion for the word ‘follow’, as this does mean to proceed behind. Therefore “you can go with me” or “you can come with me” should be used.

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Best of Singlish words and phrases
Kelong
  • Original Meaning: Offshore platform for fishing (Malay)
  • Alternate Meaning: Match-fixing
Fans in football-crazed countries of Singapore and Malaysia will often describe matches with dubious results as kelong. The term kelong is a Malay word which refers to a wooden offshore platform used by fishermen.

Knowing very well that fish will escape in faulty nets, the fishermen will carefully mend their nets before casting into the sea. Likewise, a bribed football player will attempt to throw the match away, and thus “kelong” is used locally to describe the guilty player or the dubious match.

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SinGweesh on Wednesday: Buak Gooyoo

A GOOD Singaporean knows all about punishment. When we were young, we kena caned by our parents and, for some, by our principals too – at least during my time lah. During my time, we also kena pulled ears and knuckle-rapped and niam by our teachers. In the army, just for the guys, we kena drop-twenty plus several times of no-count-start-again, run-and-touch-or-kiss-tree-and-come-back, all sorts of gilaness lah. As civilians, we sometimes kena fined for littering, jaywalking, parking without coupon to have breakfast at kopitiam, and so on.

In Singlish, all kinds of punishment for whatever reason can be described with one word: “tekan”. “Tekan” means to be hurt badly and often unfairly, and one can be tekanded physically, verbally, or mentally. By the way, the past participle of “tekan” is “tekanded” because, in Singlish, you must stress the lateness in this form. So it’s “You die”, “You died”, “You dieded”, for example. A physical tekan is when, say, a bully tekans a community cat. (Dun ha, si geenas.) A verbal tekan is like when a boss scolds an employee for being lazy. A teacher can tekan her students mentally by setting a very siong exam paper.

But there is tekan and there is tekan, and “buak gooyoo” takes tekaning to a whole teruk level. While anyone can tekan, not everyone can buak gooyoo, which literally means to spread butter. Technically, only a powderful source can buak gooyoo, and this tends to mean the state or any of its law-enforcing agencies. “Buak gooyoo” is way worse than “lim kopi” or to drink coffee, which just amounts to being called in for a – ahem – conversation. But to kena buak gooyoo implies jialat corporal punishment.

related:
Buak Gooyoo
No need to scapegoat Singlish to master English
The 4 myths of Singlish

Hey, are you a Chinese helicopter?
No need to scapegoat Singlish to master English
Baby Talk, Bilingually Yours
Singlish/English: for peace and harmony
Tuesday at Cheongster Cafe: New Singlish Dictionary


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18 Singlish Slangs We Used To Say That Have Gone Extinct

With the popularity of "new" words like swag, hashtag, and meh, many of us are struggling to keep up with the new words entering the dictionary. Local slangs like step (act cool) are also entering the Singlish lexicon, making it hard for the slightly older Singaporean to keep up.

But we Gen X-ers were cool once too! We had our own slangs that got lost over time, but those words were ours. We’ve forgotten more of these words than the Millennials have learnt, and I propose that we start using some of them again, for old times’ sake if nothing else.
  • Obiang
  • Gabra
  • Because the sky so high...
  • Orbigood
  • Calefare
  • Happy like bird
  • Itchy backside
  • Limpeh Ka Li Gong
  • Koyak
  • Koyok
  • Lao Kwee
  • Luo Suo
  • Bin chow chow
  • Pattern more than badminton
  • Pok kai
  • See Me No Up
  • Tuang
  • Kapo
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17 Singlish words that offer so much more than their English equivalents
Singlish is awesome. It’s efficient in two ways.

First, it cuts down on unnecessary words and platitudes. Second, one Singlish word can have multiple meanings and it takes a full sentence in English to express the same thing.

Here are 17 Singlish terms that we love to use either because of its versatility or its richness in meaning:
Shiok
Cheem
Jialat
Abuthen
Agaration
Hoot
Basket
Cannot make it
Corright
I don’t know you / How I know you
Earlier never say / Never say earlier
Yaya Papaya
Talk cock
Steady
Ponteng
Your head
Han nah / Yah lah
related:
15 things you will miss once you are done with polytechnic, university
10 things we loved as kids but are now too old to enjoy
10 things you do which you thought were weird/disgusting, but you’re not alone
A Dictionary of Singlish
Singlish - building the language the fun way!

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10 things your mother says that annoy you but it’s really just her saying ‘I love you’

Mother’s Day is next month. But do you need only one day a year to really appreciate your mom?

She makes every day a “You Day” so why not show some appreciation every morning?

Or you should at least respond whenever she says the following things that annoy you:

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Full Coverage:
Oxford Dictionary welcomes 'teh tarik' and 'lepak'
Some find new Singlish terms in Oxford dictionary 'ridiculous'
'Lepak', 'teh tarik' added into Oxford English Dictionary
'Chinese helicopter': Singlish OED entry baffles Singaporeans
LOOK: Is this the Singlish cover letter of the future?
Wah! East Asian words enter Oxford English Dictionary
19 'Singlish' terms have been added to the Oxford English Dictionary
Wah, so shiok: Singlish terms added to Oxford English Dictionary
Words Wah, Yum Cha are officially English
Hong Kong, Singlish words join Oxford dictionary
Singapore terms join Oxford English Dictionary
What this say about HK? Food words lead new Oxford dictionary entries
Are they 'some emoji' or 'some emojis'? Let's settle this once and for all

Wah! Not bad-lah! Oxford shiok

A few days ago, Singapore slang terms officially made it into Oxford English Dictionary – it’s fantastic, lah!

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) announced it has added yet even more Singaporean English words and phrases (also very familiar to Malaysians) to its lexicon. Among the 19 latest entries that made it to the March 2016 update are: char siu, chilli crab, sotong, ang moh, teh tarik, blur and lepak. This follows the earlier incorporation of suffix lah in the dictionary’s online version; and the inclusion of kiasu in February last year as the dictionary’s ‘Word of the Day’.

Singaporean English (known locally as Singlish) borrows a number of words from Malay and Tamil words, and local Singapore Chinese dialects such as Hokkien. Shedding light on the origins of some words, the dictionary explains that ang moh, for example, is Hokkien for a Caucasian. Shiok and lepak are Malay respectively for something that is great or tasty, and hanging out, taking it easy or relaxing, respectively.


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Politics and the Singlish Language

No official recognition is given to Singlish as a marker of Singaporean identity or an indigenous patois. This is despite political leaders using Singlish during election campaigning to better connect to a local audience.

The government recognises that Singlish cannot be eradicated but it will not take kindly to attempts to promote it.


The concern is that any mixed signals on Singlish will undermine efforts to raise English language proficiency. A similarly tough and consistent stance is taken against Chinese dialects, in order to promote Mandarin Chinese proficiency.

related: A Dictionary of Singlish and Singapore English

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Chinese Dialects - Uniquely Singapore
 

Singapore’s many Chinese dialects (Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka etc.) came about as a result of early settlers arriving from various provinces in China.

In the 1950s & 60s, Singapore, like many de-colonised countries, began a search for an independent national identity. The Chinese in particular, turned to the cultural products of film and music from Hong Kong as a source of inspiration. The fascination with Hong Kong was also seen as a reactionary and feudal ‘Yellow Culture’ that was set out to oppose the ‘Red’ culture still apparent in Communist China.

Canto-pop in particular, boomed because of its apparent lack of censorship and ‘sexy songstress’, and made its way to the hearts of Singapore with popular Hong Kong singers taking centrestage at the Republic’s newly established culture centre, the National Theatre.

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