Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Singapore's 40th Birthday

I have made a couple of lists before. One was regarding Singapore Fashion Faux Pas and another on the type of freaks people you meet when clubbing.

In line with the date: 9th August 2005, I have decided that I should have something written in here since I am in such a celebratory mood. *rolls eyes*

I had wanted to create a list of things uniquely singapore. So I set out thinking about things that I look for as clues when I suspect an asian looking person to be from Singapore. One of the first, especially if the person is sleeveless is the BCG mark. It's actually against tuberculosis. I never knew....Or that most primary school children in the 80s and 90s (do they still do it now??) will remember having to brush their teeth, squatting next to a drain with the rest of his/her classmates? Or how about hearing the story of bukit merah, you know, swordfish, wreak havoc, smart boy, banana trunks, jealous king, murder, blood, stained hill....was it really a boy and not some girl???so much blood....

But I decided against it.

And came up with a list of Singapore Slang. Some rhyming, like the cockney rhyming slang, others, just...erm....don't rhyme. There are more certainly. but I try not to have too many of the army lingo stuff. I didn't want any that was in common hokkien or malay language. Cause our friends up north will know as well and it's not as localised anymore is it?
Here it is anyhow. The 10:

10. steady phoon pi pi
This is in common use isn't it? I am not sure if it is really local. I haven't been up to Malaysia much and never been to Borneo. So I won't know if they have this elsewhere. Anyway, it's used when you want to praise something or to confirm an appointment. Often used alone as a reply. Steady is english so it's understood. Phoon Pi Pi means to blow whistle. I figure it came about partly due to the similar sound steady has with pi pi.

9. panh chance
Ok, another of the english mixed with hokkien type of slang. it literally means to give chance but how it is often used is when asking for some leeway. like when faced with a stronger opponent, you hope the opponent can panh chance. "panh" by the way, is pronounced as "pun". I am not sure if our neighbours up north/southeast blah use this as well? This is because I have some malay friends and indians too, using this phrase.

8. chop chop kalipok
This sounds rather "army". I do know that chop chop is actually from the english. but to add a kalipok behind is purely colloquial. But i am not sure if it is 100% Singaporelian. I can imgaine a moustachioed englishman in a safari suit hurrying his local worker, "well, chop chop now, we can't be doing this the whole day. I will miss my afternoon tea!" How the kalipok comes in I will perhaps never know. Kalipok means curry puff. Like Old Chang Kee type.

7. pattern jueh kueh badminton
Help somebody. This gets stranger. It's like "steady phoon pi pi. Not much meaning just alot of rhyming. And that's what makes it more interesting actually. it's got a sllighty negative connotation though can be neutral as well. Most often used on people who has got more style than substance. Defnitely not with reference to badminton. Although it can be used to describe sports. Like when a particular footballer dazzles everyone with his fancy footwork but fails to score... "jueh kueh" means "more than". So I suppose in badminton, one can have alot of fancy footwork, smashes, drop shots etc etc....how it ended up with patterns? I don't know.

6. talk cock sing song
Ok, "talk cock" was made rather famous by one Ling How Doong. He mentioned this in a parliamentary session once...He later explained that it was a proper phrase and was referring to "cock and bull story". right....Now, there is this other guy, Charles Chong, who made a lewd funny remark on oral sex by saying he is not a "cunning linguist". He was never penalised. So the lesson here is that you can use dubious phrases/words in parliament but always in good dose of humour. Anyway, why talk cock and sing song? Does it rhyme? Not exactly. Do they sound nice together? Sorta. Was it first used here? I don't know.

5. seow ding dong
This is not related to Ling How Doong, however much it rhymes with his name. Now, this slang is a little clever. Because ding dong is a proper english slang by itself. But by adding a local word, "seow", which means crazy in hokkien, you get this hybrid of craziness that can only be reserved for...really crazy people! I wonder when the first person to use this phrase, did s/he consciously know that ding dong was a slang. and thus, fortifying (sounds nutritious) the craziness. it's like saying fucking fucker or crazy asshat or swinging swinger or ugly horse face etc etc... anyways...when people say this phrase, it can be further (!!!wow!!!) emphasised by rotating the index finger around the ear.

4. ponten
This is very old school. And I think it is still being used. I don't know the spelling. And I don't know where it came from. If it is from a malay word, can someone just tell me? It's pronounced as Pon-Ten. And it is a word used by kids of schooling age, from primary school through to university. When you ponten, you are playing truant. You are AWOL from class. And it is so damn fun.... By the way. Why is it that we are playing truant? Why play? Is ponten a lousy pronunciation of playing truant? If it is, it is a damn lousy mispronunciation.

3. sabo
Short for sabotage. Some people pronounce it as say-boh. some as sar-boh. Very army, like chop chop kalipok. people who sabo alot are called sabo king. when you get sabotaged, you are said to be sabo-ed. when you are committing sabotage, you are sabo-ing. it is not pronounced as saboing as in boingboing.net but more like sar-boh-ing. It has been spread across the causewau already i think but i wonder if sillypolians used it first.

2. tawn
This is a BBQ at East Coast Park word. When you want to stay out after a bbq at east coast and not go home till the next day, you are tawnning. So you have your friends asking you, "eh, you going to tawn or not?" Is it also a case of lousy pronunciaiton? That this is actually a mispronunciation of "dawn"? As in, if you wanted to stay till dawn? I don't know.

1. shak
Army. I almost didn't want to include this. Shak. As in shaquille o'neal. It means tired, which is how I feel now..

Ok, so I have finished with the top ten. And I am wondering which ones should be taken out. I had wanted to include "piss" cause i thought only singaporeans use piss as being in a state of drunkedness but it is not apparently. then i wanted to have "mug" in there as well because in US and UK, mugging and to mug is to rob someone. But apparently to "mug up" is to study intensively in english. So no "mug".

Alright. This has been a long entry. I was kept interested. Were you?
Oh and er...tomorrow, I will give an analysis of the design of our State Flag.


lakeside girl said...

Xiao fei yu, you forgot ya ya papaya! Haha. ;) But nice list! V original...

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Little fish said...

green apple: hey you are right. yaya papaya too. you got anymore?
glad to see your blog maintained...

Anonymous said...

how about...

1 NATO (no action talk only)
2 wueh zueh kueh gao sai
3 talk cock sing song play mahjong (the longer term)
4 tio arrow

j. said...

I always used to think the BCG thing was uniquely Singaporean too, but everyone in the UK has one in the same spot.

Nice list! :)

lost said...

ponten is still in use, though maybe shortened already... i remember as recent as 2002, we were still talking about ponning lectures =P

Anonymous said...

i think its thon.. as in a marathon. so to see how you can go w/o sleep.

gaston said...

All those you wonder why behind add 1 word one like kalipok or badminton or pom pi pi is to rhyme nia la think until so complicated...

Sabo I think originated from the Commandoes, cos they need to perform sabotage missions and started saying Sabo for short, then slowly spread through army, and leak out to the world.

It's not "tawn", I think more like "tong". i.e. Li eh tong boh? If not wrong, "tong" means bear in hokkien, so in effect is asking you if you can bear/tahan without sleeping at night. Also used in other situations, so pretty sure it's not about dawn.

Shak not from Shaquille la. It's shagged. Then they shorten somemore. Describes the feeling after sex very tiring. More likely from Austin Powers than Shaq.

Anonymous said...

"shak" should be from the english word "shagged", which means (in its original form) to be exhausted from sex.

v00d00boy said...

more slang...

song song kao jurong
swee swee bor zao zwee
pass-up (as in, hand in [assignment])
'cher (short for teacher)


hifiguy said...

tawn is actually from marathon. the last syllable. thon, became, tawn. that's how it was ... it's a recent invention in the last 10 years as i started hearing this word being used when i started giving tuition to secondary school kids in 1995/96

tinkertailor said...

nice post, but some of your spellings a bit dubious leh...
might wanna do a google to see which spellings are more popular.

Little fish said...

greenapple: glad to see your blog's back

j: you're right. UK has got a similar health plan against TB. NHS started it in 1950s.it's just one of those mental checklist when travelling around europe to sizing up *haha* the origin of people i meet. eg. chinese, carries deuter/crumpler bag, wears much less than locals, has BCG mark *bingo!*

gaston: ya la, i know it's to rhyme.

I really don't think tawn/thon came from hokkien word for tong. yah, it means to "bear" in hokkien but taking the last syllabus from marathon? i'm more incline. a recent invention? hmmm...I was using this in primary 6 and I am born in 1979.

voodoo boy: The swee swee boh zao chwee and song song kao jurong are damn good. the latter definitely local. whatabout Holland-ded? you go and start your list lah. also got ghian ghian thi sian sian (interested but pretend not to be) and wu lian bo lian kwah liao hian hian (got training no training,veyr obvious).

pontang/ponten/pawnten/pawntang/ however way you spell it...i guess you all understood.

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Anonymous said...

nice list and honest!

I like how you wanted to come up with a list of things that are uniquely singaporean and came up with a list where more than half may very well not be.

Big enough to admit that you weren't sure if they were, even though most people can't jolly well prove you wrong anyway. kudos!

RongC said...

Talk cock, sing song... AND PLAY MAHJONG! =)

v! said...

i just remembered one more..

gong gong geh sart sart. dunno whether the spelling's correct or not though. :P

Domain said...

No horse run list...
wu lian bo lian kua yan yan