English, Engrish and Singlish

Image taken from Flickr By BooksActually

One thing that uniquely identifies a Singaporean from any other nationality in the world is our very own colourful adaptation of the English language. No one can really say where or when Singlish was born, but it sort of evolved along with Singapore as we grew from a lazy Kampong to what is now a bustling [and almost overcrowded] city.

You can never escape from Singlish as long as your feet are standing on Singapore soils. Be it in the local coffee shops, high-end mega-malls or even the military [especially the military...], or as we Singaporeans call it, the Army.

Here's a snippet from my previous, and now defunct, blog about how Singlish seems to be the most effective way to use the 26 letters of the alphabet.

Just like our infamous local dish 'Rojak', the Singaporean version of the unhealthy salad, where anything and everything from fruits to condiments to deep fried stuff is chucked into a single bowl and tossed about for a few minutes then magically it becomes a ready-to-serve local specialty dish, Singlish is the result of thousands of years of perfecting the art of mixing and matching all forms of languages to be able to express ourselves in the most efficient way possible.

Here are a few comparisons of how Singlish helps everyone save their voices.
[And for those of you who do not know of the word 'chim', it means 'very profound']

English: "Excuse me, may I borrow your pen for a moment?"

Chim-glish: "Sorry to interrupt, but would you be so accommodating as to furnish me with your writing apparatus for three winks?"

Singlish: "Paiseh, lend ah!"


English: "Is anything bothering you?"

Chim-glish: "My intuition is telling me that you are showing a hint of agitation as a result of some disconsolate events."

Singlish: "Ho Seh Bo?"


English: "Come on! You know it won't be as fun without you!"

Chim-glish: "Don't be a killjoy! Your participation in this event is highly anticipated."

Singlish: "Go lah!"


English: "Sorry, please excuse me."

Chim-glish: "Apologies my good sir, would you be so kind as to pardon my intrusion of your current personal space as I advance to my destination."

Singlish: "(Ex)Scuse!" [Silent 'Ex']

And of course, what language would be complete without our all time favourites, the swear words

English: "Fuck!"

Chim-glish: "Holy Mother of God!"

Singlish: "Sial Lah, Kan Ni Na Beh Cao Jee Toad Bye Bye Macham Barbie Pondeh~!"

The real inspiration that made me want to write this post was when I chanced upon a post in facebook comparing British English against American English:

Image taken from facebook

And my first thought on reading the post was "That is totally so not how we Singaporeans talk!". So here's my fix to the post, breaking up each picture into American, British and Singlish, just for laughs, and to be taken with a pinch of salt:

Singlish: HDB

Singlish: Yellow Cab

Singlish: Can

Singlish: Sweets

Singlish: Potato Chips

Singlish: Cupboard

Singlish: Biscuits

Singlish: Ja-gong

Singlish: Pampers

Singlish: Wind

Singlish: Jumper

Singlish: Lift

Singlish: Rubber

Singlish: Bo-tak [loosely translated as 'Hairless']

Singlish: PUB

Singlish: Torchlight

Singlish: MacDonald French Fries

Singlish: Dustbin


Singlish: Petrol

Singlish: Expressway

Singlish: Hood

Singlish: Aga-Aga [A type of jelly]

Singlish: License plate number


Singlish: Cinema

Singlish: Pyjamas

Singlish: Jeans

Singlish: Scotch Tape

Singlish: Pavement

Singlish: Shoes

Singlish: Football

Singlish: Letterbox

Singlish: Cooking Stove

Singlish: MRT

Singlish: Tyre

Singlish: Lorry

Singlish: Grocery Shopping

Singlish: Jia-Hong 
[loosely translated as 'Eat Wind' in Hokkien]

Singlish: Jacket

Singlish: Wiper

Singlish: Town Park

Singlish: Zip

 And so, the final verdict is:

American English:  8 
British English:     12
Singlish:               22

Singlish wins hands down!! And let's not even get started on the lah, le, leh, los...

Personally I have no objections against the use of Singlish, as long as it is used in the right context. It gives Singaporeans a sense of belonging and homeliness, especially during this xenophobic-like period. Instead of trying to abolish Singlish altogher, I feel we should embrace it and make it work for us.

For a country that has made the world relate it to a weird creature with the head of a lion and the tail of a fish, I don't think getting others to accept something that is remotely similar to one of the world's most spoken languages will be that difficult.

What's your favourite Singlish phrase?

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