TwentyFifteen 13/20: Singaporelang – What the Singlish? by Zinkie Aw


Singaporelang – What the Singlish?

| sɪŋɡʌpɔ læŋ | [sing-ka-poh-leng]
● noun. Singapore language in shortform. From English.
sɪŋɡʌpɔ laŋ | [sing-ka-poh-lang]
● noun. Singaporeans. From Hokkien.

Welcome to the new Visual Singlish Dictionary!

Whether or not you are sing-ka-poh-lang, I’m very sure you will enjoy my remix on this Singapore slang one.

Sorry I a bit kiasu, but try to follow my instructions, OK?

Step by step, slowly:

    1) Study the images carefully first hor.
    2) Then what you think is the Singlish word for it, go and write in the white space provided.
    3) Finish already take selfie, then post. Of course must hashtag #singaporelang. Wait for what siah? Chop-chop kali pok!
    4) Salah ah? Start again lor. Waliao eh. Like that also must teach ah? Anyhowly lah

Easy, right?

Actually, you can also see this as a form of the famous word-guessing game, Charades. Remember that game or not?

Whether or not you are a native speaker of Singlish, this rendition is confirm-stamp-chop better than Charades lah.

Don’t pretend and act atas lah, you really don’t know what is Singlish meh? It is a rojak or chap chye of English, Chinese, Malay, Tamil and some Chinese dialects lor. Linguistics experts will say, it’s the creole version of English spoken in Singapore.

So I thought, to spoil market, I see whether I can try and illustrate this uniquely Singaporelang thingy into photographs lah.

Swee boh?

As angmohdan says on his website, “Singaporeans are efficient people, and prefer to take less time and words to express themselves.”

Indeed, the brevity of Singlish is what makes it tick. Some say it is chapalang, disorderly or illogical, but Singlish evolved to convey specific feelings or situations that can’t quite be described in standard English language.

No one really ‘owns’ Singlish, and that is why free-style (suka-suka) experimentation led to creative spins on how we modify and use the languages that we speak and hear around us all the time.

In piecing together this visual dictionary, my aim is not to put parameters on the spelling and usage of Singlish, but to provide a reference and to celebrate it. After all, language is ever-evolving. We use it everyday and we should be allowed to attach meaning to each scenario.

Who really decides what words go into a dictionary? Maybe if we tan-gu-gu, Singlish will eventually get validated. But does a dictionary give legitimacy to words?

Halfway through this project, I accepted the fact that my visual dictionary probably CMI but ok mah, because Singlish words have spelling variants, different pronunciations depending on who is speaking it …

The whole point of this is sometimes catch no ball also never mind one. Anyhow hamtam, mata also won’t catch.

I’d say Singlish is just like a swee char bor, pattern zuay zuay – ‘pattern more than badminton’.

At the end of the day hor, the same scene might be shiok to someone, but might be just siao or sot sot to another.

Just like life, right?

Steady lah,
Zinkie Aw

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