Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In the Mail: An Itty Bitty bit of Home

I was so surprised to receive this in the mail today!


My dearest friend Sherry Jess sent me a surprise package to remind me of home. Thank you my dear girl! I am having a good laugh reading through it!

So, just a brief introduction. Singapore English, or more affectionately known as Singlish, is a form of pidgin spoken in Singapore. Because we live in such a culturally diverse society, our everyday lives are a mix of many different languages. Singlish has become our very own unique blend of English, Malay, Tamil and all the various Chinese dialects!

As I flipped through the introduction, I was almost bent double in laughter, reading through the paragraphs heavily peppered with Singlish terms.

Here are a few excerpts of some of my favorite entries, the phrases I always use back home, but have not heard in awhile. And in my current situation, I am most likely not going to be understood if I were to use them.

alamak |ah-lah-ma'h|

A Malay expression of dismay, surprise or alarm that has long been rumoured to mean "Allah's mother" but more likely comes either from the Arabic "Allah Ma'ak", meaning "God be with you" or "Allah maaf kar" meaning "God forgive you". It is thus used to denote a situation or action of such calamity or stupidity that God's intervention is necessary.

(My note: Most people use it as an exclamation, an equivalent of 'OMG')


"Alamak! Why you go and do this sort of stupid thing?" translates into "OMG! Why did you do such a stupid thing!"

kan cheong |gkahn tjee-ong|

A Cantonese and Hokkien term meaning nervous, harried, overanxious or uptight.


"Your exam in June, now only March, you so kan cheong for what?" translates into "The exam's in June and it's only March now. Why are you so nervous?"

kan cheong spider

Epithet describing someone who's kan cheong, i.e. a nervous wreck.


"Eh, don't so kan cheong spider lah! Also not late, hurry for what?" translates into "Can you not be such an overanxious twit. Why are you hurrying? We're not late."

Somehow, I feel very English after all the translations...

To PRISCILLA (this one's for you!)

pecah lobang |bper-cha loh-bahng|

A Malay phrase which literally means to break a hole. It's used in the same way as the English phrase "to let the cat out of the bag".


"Don't tell him anything secret. He like the BBC like that, sure pecah lobang." translates into "Don't tell him anything confidential. He's sure to broadcast it like the BBC."

So if you're interested in reading further, or have plans to move to Singapore in the near future, The Coxford Singlish Dictionary is a very good guide to help you understand 3/4 of the population. Okay. Now i really miss home!


  1. Hehehe that is such a sweet gift! When I go to Singapore one day I will need some Singlish lessons :)

  2. Oh how wonderful. You're from Singapore too? Alamak is my fave expression. Esp with exclamation point! Have you read Paik Choo's Eh Goondhu!?

  3. @HazelandMare Haha! It takes a while of getting used to. Even if you're just listening in on a conversation. My husband took a long time to understand my parents. It was hilarious!

  4. @jane p
    oh yes! i am a true blue singaporean. But i have not read Eh Goondhu! I must pick it up when i'm home the next time!

  5. @punkychewster hiaks! You are definitely a sweet friend who deserve a sweet surprise my dear! We don't have to wait till birthday or X'mas for all the lovely surprises just like; 只要相爱, 那每天都是情人节!

  6. eh you make it sound like I'm the one who always pecah lubang! hahahahaha

  7. @The CellMate
    eh! no lah! i thought about how you and i and fran always gossip and we use the term quite abit!


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