Don’t play play! – 20 useful Singlish expression
Most western visitors find Singapore both strangely familiar and alien. All the road signs are in English, there’s an efficient public transport and plenty of activities to keep you entertained. Yet in your interactions with Singaporeans you may notice that you don’t always completely understand what they’re saying – non-english words are dropped in conversations and they use a rather unusual composition.
This is the island’s unofficial (and some may argue authentic) mother tongue, Singlish. Singapore’s government has long insisted that everyone should speak English. But in practice many people speak the creole English of the land. There is nothing quite like it: with words borrowed from several Chinese dialects, Malay and Tamil, direct translations would sound ridiculous. You can pretend you understand and just smile at your counterpart or just have this Be app little guide handy. These typical terms will help you navigate the local linguistic landscape.
01 Ang Moh: “red fur”; refers to Caucasians
02 Chope: the act of reserving seats, often with a packet of tissue paper
03 Kiasu: literally means “afraid to lose”; refers to Singaporean competitive spirit
04 No ding dong: literally means putting your phone on silent
05 Guai Lan: literally means “strange dick”; refers to difficult or annoying people
06 Wah Lau Eh: literally means “My Father Eh”; an expression of surprise or disappointment
07 Eee-yer: pronounced “e-year”; a term used to express disgust or dislike
08 Siao: used as a reply to a crazy idea or proposition, or to simply describe someone is crazy
09 Malu: lose face
10 Jialat: used to describe a tragic or disastrous situation
11 See how: an answer to a situation whose outcome you can’t predict
12 Liddat: it’s the Singaporean shortcut to “like that”
13 Heng: a term of relief
14 Sian: a word that conveys boredom, frustration, weariness or monotony
15 Bo jio: the act of not inviting your friend to a get-together\
16 Cheem: complicated
17 Don’t play play: a phrase roughly meaning “don’t mess around with me”
18 Paiseh: an expression of embarrassment
19 Shiok: an exclamation of delight
20 Whack: means to attack someone; usually a term used when you dig into a hearty meal
What we love, what we do and what we say – it’s these little quirks that make us Singaporeans who we are. Come visit us with the Be app – travel series powered by local expertise, available at your fingertips! #BeSingapore – Click and get the Be app below.