My Anthem

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Quirks of English language, Singlished and Mangled



Before opening up your mind Desi's way, how about tasting some "FreeRice"?
No, it doesn't come with a Condo or Leeza, for that, please approach Prez Bush on dainty feet, he's worth at least two birds in the hand!

Test Your Vocabulary
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en·er·vate (nr-vt)
tr.v. en·er·vat·ed, en·er·vat·ing, en·er·vates
1. To weaken or destroy the strength or vitality of: "the luxury which enervates and destroys nations" Henry David Thoreau. See Synonyms at deplete.
2. Medicine To remove a nerve or part of a nerve.
adj. (-nûrvt)

Deprived of strength; debilitated.
[Latin nervre, nervt- : -, ex-, ex- + nervus, sinew; see (s)neu- in Indo-European roots.]
ener·vation n.
ener·vative adj.
ener·vator n.

Usage Note: Sometimes people mistakenly use enervate to mean "to invigorate" or "to excite" by assuming that this word is a close cousin of the verb energize. In fact enervate does not come from the same source as energize (Greek energos, "active"). It comes from Latin nervus, "sinew." Thus enervate means "to cause to become 'out of muscle'," that is, "to weaken or deplete of strength."

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2003. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
ThesaurusLegend: Synonyms Related Words Antonyms


I was interrupted while C&P-ing the above from dictionary online, and it rocks my mind to share wit myGOoDfriend some of the interesting features, some quaint and puzzling -- I call them QUIRKS -- I've encountered in the colonial master's language which I deem myself to have mastered to quite an exquisite level. Yes, blowing one's horn, or is it the trumpet.? But I dare not challenge Louis Armstrong. Mine is definitely weak:).

I recently had a tutorial of Copying graphics onto my Posts, but this slow pictorial dog -- but I am a quick newshound !-- got stumped trying to reproduce the GRAPHICS linked recommended by mGf-host, or correctly hostess, of, so I'd have to work out a barter trade with another mGf for another tutorial.

Another mGf Moo_t surely ENJOYS language -- I gather he's a Chinoserie expert like my counsellor Mr Coww, but I won't nickname Moo_t Mr Goatie, as it would mis-lead, and he is not a she! And why am I stating the obvious?

Anyhow, I leave thee with one last lesson on quirky English.

Normally, to use the prefix "in-" with ad adjective, it would yield the new word the OPPOSITE meaning to the root word.

e.g. -- note that for example strictly has a fullstop after "e" and a period after "g" although the flow is not of a monthly nature for "g", and neither "g" implies it must be female. A goat is neutral, okay! But being lazy bums, most of us, especially in this era of SMS, shorten e.g. to eg, yes? If you replace "yes" preceding here with a "no", it's still okay! The blardy wonder of the Englishman's language.

And where was I? It's okay, or OK, if I ask: Now, where am I?

Back to prefix "in-" --
Yes, adding in- as the prefix to certain words yielding the Opposites, or Synonyms:

valid X invalid, meaning "not valid"
sincere X insincere, meaning "not sincere"
secure X insecure, meaning "not secure"

But when you prefix "valuable", it becomes "invaluable"!
And mGf, follow Moo-T's advice, don't assume "invaluable" makes the object "to be without value", look up the Dickshenary -- oops, poor spelling! -- Dictionary.

PS: This Post was inspired by one veryGOoDfriend who suggests Desi should
make his English language skills pay for his journey to that I-LAND named


Why not, eh?
That's when Bloggers and my Esteemed Readers find Nirvana on that RM20million island in the sun, and mGf sweets will be grinning from ear-to-ear.
Me? I'll be FLASHING! Hey, what were you thinking?

Displaying my Einstein's naked body
wearing e-birthday suit?

No way can! -- Jest flashin' my darkie-white SE7EN s-mile-s

************** ASS ********* oh! **************** ASS **********

PS: I tried several times to grap the "FleeLice" here -- I'll fly yu sum lateer, ok! -- but Desi, like Jack, is "one of all trades, master of just wan -- Writing!:) No worries, I jest sent an "SOS" to mGf, and further, Miss Patience is also Miss/Mr/in-between Virtuous.

PPS: MEANw'ile, da princessly gardner of assk Desi to C&P some flour from Yukay to go with Malaiyshen Yau zha kuai (4angmokuai to tly-lah:) for non-CON BF!

From online:

Trouble and strife: Singlish
By Rosie Milne
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 07/11/2007

I was having lunch with two Singaporean Luscious Ladies,
both of whom had babies with them.

We’d been chatting, as you do, about the deleterious effects of introducing solid foods on babies’ nappies, when the talk turned, as it does, to my appalling grasp of Singlish.

“In two and a half years here you should know some more” they chided.

Everyone in Singapore can speak excellent English, but local people slip into Singlish at will. As its name suggests, this is the informal, spoken English indigenous to Singapore.

Geographically Singapore is in the middle of the Malay world, but it is an immigrant nation, like America.

Its people draw their heritage from Mainland China, and from India as well as from the ethnically Malay countries. Hence Singlish includes influences from a variety of dialects and languages.

From China, it includes element of Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew, and Mandarin. From India it has inherited words in Tamil, and from the Malays come words in the various Malay dialects.

“It’s a bit like a rojak, is Singlish” said one of the Singaporean Luscious Ladies, using the Singlish word for salad - an actual rojak is a mixture of vegetables and fried snacks, served with a sweet, spicy sauce.

My lunch companions put me to shame. In addition to flawless (ordinary) English, one of them could speak Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien, Teochew and Malay, “but not Tamil,” she apologized.

The other could speak Cantonese and Mandarin. She is married to an Irishman, and she claimed also to speak Irish, but, frankly, I didn’t believe her.

Like a schoolboy looking up rude words in the dictionary, I asked these Polyglot Paragons to teach me a few phrases of Singlish that I shouldn’t know.

Hen-pecked husbands

They kicked off by teaching me a mild insult often used of hen-pecked husbands. These unfortunates are apparently described as Kiasu-kaici-kaibor – three words spoken all in a rush, as though they were one.

Kiasu is a word you hear all the time in Singapore, and even I knew what it meant. Somebody who is kiasu is afraid to lose out to others, or always wants the upper hand.

If you say to somebody “don’t be so kiasu,” it means “don’t get so caught up in the rat race.”

Kaici, my friends told me, literally means “don’t want to die”. But they seemed to think it didn’t literally mean “don’t want to die” in the Kiasu-kaici-kaibor formulation. However, they couldn’t tell me what it actually did mean, so there you go.

Kaibor, meanwhile means “scared of the wife.” Ah. I like to think The Banker is kaibor. However, you can take it from me he’s not bolampar. My friends told me this is a word businessmen use to denigrate each other.

If one businessman says of another that he is bolampar, then, translated literally, he is saying that the poor chap has no balls.

As in the English accusation that a man has no balls, it means he has no guts, or, more particularly, that he in incapable of making a decision.

By this time I thought we’d had enough of being rude about men, so I asked about insults that applied to women.

“If you describe a woman as cibei hiao,” explained my friends, “it means she’s a very vain lady, very full of herself.” They went on to say that cibei is a swear word, in Hokkien.

Naturally I immediately asked what it meant. But they wouldn’t tell me. I pressed them, hard, and eventually one of them mumbled it meant: “my dead father’s something or other.”

Of course I asked for elaboration, but neither of them would give it. My next question was a glaringly obvious one.

“How do you say ‘lazy, spoiled expat wife’?” I asked, expecting to be given a slew of insults; expat wives are, after all, derided throughout Asia.

My friends glanced at each other. “Singaporeans are very courteous.”

One of them said “We have nothing negative to say about expat wives.” Right. If you believe that, you’ll believe anything.

Red haired dogs

My friends did, however, consent to tell me that ang mo gau, the phrase for “foreigner”, often abbreviated to ang mo, is a Hokkien phrase that translates literally as red (ang) haired (mo) dog (gau).

So, there you have it, in Singapore, we western expats are red haired dogs, although no one now uses “ang mo” as a racial slur.

After lunch was over I nipped into a bookshop and bought An Essential Guide To Singlish, which has no author attributed, but is published by Gartbooks.

I intended to look up “lah” which Singaporeans sprinkle at the ends of their sentences as liberally as Ingrish (Singlish for English) people sprinkle salt and vinegar on their chips. But I kept getting distracted.

I particularly liked:

Fatty bom bom, meaning a fat bottomed person
Humtum, meaning to whack
Whack, meaning to do something with reckless abandon
Mm sam mm say, meaning neither here nor there.
Ya ya, meaning boastful, or showing off.

When I finally looked up “lah” I discovered that it is often used as “a tag word with no particular meaning at all.” Okay lah, I get it.

I also discovered that “lah” is only one of a multitude of sentence-ending words. An Essential Guide To Singlish illustrated the range by using the word “can” as an example

Can ah? Means can you, or can’t you?
Can lah Means yes.
• Can leh
Means yes, of course
Can lor Means yes, I think so
• Can hah?
Means are you sure?
Can hor? Means you are sure, then?
• Can meh?
Means are you certain?

This reminded me of my all time favourite piece of Singlish, the immortal “everything can, but sometimes cannot, lah.”

I think it means go away and stop bothering me, but I wouldn’t swear to it.

Rosie Milne's
novels How To Change Your Life and Holding The Baby are both published by Pan, they are available through Amazon UK.

John Huggett
is an artist and illustrator whose works are available through his website at

Desi's last kopi of his Midnight Voices and Other Pomes goes under the hammer&chisel at Lenardo da vinci's studios tonight @2400hrs. Minima prize:20mil oh,oh! No money, no tokkok. Bring that plastik thingy they say: Don't live @home without it!:(

Chow, which means Seeya,:)
OR Come Eat,:):)
OR Go away,now!:(:(:(

Filip's flied lice, anywan?

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