Tuesday 29 May 2012

Singlish and Making Decisions

First, a little joke.

Two Singaporeans - Ah Lim and Ah Peh - entered a pub in Hong Kong's Lan Kwai Fong.

Ah Lim: "Send me a girl!"

Ah Peh: "I want a Thai girl."

The ang moh lady bartender looked shocked and offended: "Sir, we don't provide such services here.  If you want girls, you have to go down to Wanchai's girlie bars."

Ah Lim and Ah Peh looked at each other with puzzled looks. 

What talking her? What girls?

We only wanted a San Miguel and a Tiger beer!?

LOL! (OK, pathetic laughing at my own joke hor?)

I remember my Swiss German boss telling me that he found Singlish hard to understand. We don't speak in complete sentences.

The above misunderstanding can be avoided if we speak in complete sentences:

"I'll have a San Miguel beer please."

But that will take the fun and brilliance out of Singlish!

Where else can you express so much with so economical use of words?

"Why cannot?" versus "Why is it not possible?"

"How much?" versus "How much do you charge love?" Opps! I meant "How much does it cost?"

Isn't it brilliant? See? So fake.

Power right? That's better!!! (save one word and three syllabus what!) 

Singlish relies a lot on being "understooded". We are expected to "fill in the blanks" ourselves. 

So imagine if we can make decisions like we speak Singlish?

Power or not?

But no. 

For some Singaporeans to make decisions, we need to first check with mother, consult with our superiors, check dictionary this and check thesaurus that, and even want to refer to the whole bloody encyclopaedia or SOP manual just to be safe!

Why can't we "fill in the blanks" ourselves with the limited information - like in Singlish?

For investors who buy high sell low, I guess that's the price to pay - for waiting for confirm and double-confirm - whenever you make an investment decision ;)  


  1. Wahahahahaha! So true, dude LOL. Wah lau eh. Lemme dobeh confem fest dan I let you know ah? I qiasu and qiasi leh.

    Oh, you might have heard of this little youtube clip of an auntie ordering "fly lice" and a large "Kok" for a drink:


    PS: I liked your joke by the way LOL.

    1. Hee hee.

      Hey! I long time never use this "wah lau" oredi.

      Fond memories.

      Small that time always kenna scolded by Dad when I use it. He thought I using vulgarities...

      Teochew don't use wah lau. We use wah lan - which is synonymous to "my coke". LOL!

      That's the problem with growing up in Singapore - even my Teochew is rojak! Rojak cheena, rojak england...

      By the way, till this day I have no idea why we use "wah lau" before our hokkien sentences like in "Wah lau, like this also can?"

      Hokkien aunties use it to call their husband, this I know.

      Hokkien peng you out there, can explain?


    2. We (my wife & me) were touring "Halong Bay" (Vietnam). We met a French and a Canadian. We conversed and we could understand the French and Canadian in English perfectly. The Canadian could also understand us though we spoke Singlish. But not the French. He could hardly understand our Singlish. We felt very strange why we could hear and understand every words spoken by the French yet he could not understand our Singlish. Which we thought his pronunciation was not that much different from us. The French asked the Canadian why he could not understand the way we spoke Singlish. The Canadian answered... ...You guessed it right he said Singaporeans spoke Singlish almost exactly like what you described. But i don't understand why the Canadian could understand us perfectly. Maybe he had lived in Singapore for sometime. Plus English may be his native language.
      What i say, you understand? Beh tahan.

      Ha! Ha! Actually no laughing matter if we are doing business with this French guy. We may have to lower our communication standard (on the spot) by conversing in writing.
      What to do, we are Chow Ah Beng Singaporeans. Not the Atas Singaporeans. The Elitist Class.

    3. Temperament,

      You are right. It's no laughing matter when we need to be understood outside of Singapore :(

      Meanwhile, let's enjoy Singlish while we can. I think it will slowly disappear like our authentic hawker foods...

  2. haha! reminds me of the "can i have a large coke" spoken in singlish. the last word might be a little mispronounced...

    1. I,

      It's funny but respect to the aunties and uncles who made an effort to learn to speak Singlish - never mind English is not our mother tongue.

      I had my fair share of laughs (others laughing at me) when I attempt to speak in Shanghainess and Greek.

      Hey! How's your Yorkshire accent coming along?


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