April 17, 2004

Talking Cock , home of the The Coxford Singlish Dictionary, is a comprehensive and very local guide to all things Singlish.
  • Wow, it must have been a year since I last visited this site. Brings back memories. Warning: Not all the etymological definitions are accurate. Nice one, mexican. Have a keng chio :) No, that wasn't a rude word. Yes, I know what it looks like, but it's not a rude word. No, really.
  • Egad sir! I'll see your Ong Ah Bee and raise you a Charles Leland. The dictionary is a pleasure. [banana]
  • Ai ya, so good link lah!
  • Awesome - thanks mexican!
  • Wow. Singlish seems to be a terrifying mix between Jamaican creole and Scouse.
  • Mexican, you got lobang one. This is a good site, and fairly well accurate. One word in Singlish on loan from Malay is lobang, which Kathay's New Crown Dictionary of National Language (5th ed., 1963, Kathay Press & Traders) says is "pit" in English. It's related to and used interchangeably with lubang, which means "hole" or "opening." Both are used in Singlish colloquially to mean a well-connected source of goods or information, an opportunity—particularly in business—, a special deal, a sale, a hookup, an informant, an inside tip, or more explicitly a job opening. It's versatile: you can have a lobang, some lobang, or lobangs. If you want tickets to a show, you might say, "You got lobang on Pixies tickets?" If someone asks you if you got lobang, you can respond, "I got lobang one!"—the "one" is a tag for emphasis and finality. You'll see this in Singaporean Anglophone dicussion forums on the Internet, such as gaming sites, where kids all over the planet dicuss their favorite video games. A related term is pecah lobang, which means "to spill the beans" or "to let the cat out of the bag," and literally translates into English as "broken hole." Kathay's says the word is spelled "pechah," but most people leave out the H, since the C is hard, as in "cat." Also in use in Singlish is kang tau (sometimes spelled kangtao), from the Hokkien dialect spoken in the province of Fujian, and sometimes called Fukien or Amoy Hokkien. It means "empty head" and is short for "Wu si mi kang tau?" which roughly translates as, "What empty head have you got?" It's overall sense is something like secret methods, mysterious skills, savoir faire, special abilities, or instinctive knowledge. If you're a good salesperson, you might say, "I got kang tau selling air conditioners to Inuits."
  • My Unix username was beng for ten years. As a result, I get twitchy whenever I see references to "Ah Beng." Proper usage would have been Ah, Beng, y'know you left a mem'ry leak in th' demarshallin' code... don't worry, ah fixed it fo' you. /autobiographically
  • Kathay's says the word is spelled "pechah," but most people leave out the H, since the C is hard, as in "cat." Mo: There's some confusion here. The Malay word for 'broken' is pecah, pronounced (as Kathay suggests) /pechah/, with /ch/ as in "chair." If it had a "hard c" sound, it would be written pekah. So either you're mispronouncing it or it's undergone some weird metamorphosis in Singlish. mexican: Great site, thanks! (I'm stealing this one, too.) By the way, there's an excellent Wikipedia Singlish page.
  • Languagehat, you're right in a lot of ways here: I am pronouncing it wrong, to some ears, because apparently the pronunciation does vary, thus the differences in spelling. Kathay's spells it pechah, with a breve over the e, while the Kamus Tribahasa Oxford Fajar (a trilingual Malay-English-Chinese dictionary) spells it pecah. Neither of these dictionaries has pronunciations nor pronunciation keys, but it looks like (according to a completely unscientific search of Google) that pecah is more common. I cannot for the life of me remember where I got that hard c information from, but I did pull it from a book rather than from my butt. My grammars of Singaporean English are at home, and no doubt one of them is the source.
  • Nickels: In Malay, "C" is always pronounced as "CH". So "Cantik" (for pretty) is "chan-tek" and might even be spelled as the latter in certain books. "pecah" would be pronounced as "per-chah" ("r" is relatively silent), and possibly why Kathay spells it as "pechah". If any of your books states that Malay has a hard "c" pronunciation, it is in error, I'm afraid.
  • I didn't want to look it up, but "leceh" has the same "c" as "ch" thing Alnedra is describing.