My own little Singlish dictionary

Singlish – the English spoken by Singaporeans. Extremely hard to understand when spoken to for the first time. Doesn’t have grammar rules. Just take off all your articles, prepositions and similar things out of your speech. For e.g., you don’t “go to the canteen”, you “go canteen”. Got the drift?

Now, let me introduce you to some of the Singlish words commonly used that I have picked up to some extent. Woman, help me out here if there are any mistakes, ok? :)
Lah – the mother of all Singlish words. It can be added almost anywhere and to anything. Used most commonly with can and no. Has other variants like lor, leh and meh. I do not know where these can be used. I use them whenever they ‘sound’ appropriate.
Can – Short for anything affirmative. Can substitute yes, we/I can do it, it’s possible, etc. e.g., ‘Wanna go can (canteen) 1 now?’
‘Can, lah…’
Can be very confusing, if not accompanied by you or I. I got confused when somebody messaged me asking ‘If the time is ok wid u, can msg ----?’ I didn’t know whether she or I had to message -----.
wif – that’s how with is pronounced and written in chat/SMS language. Many Singaporeans have trouble pronouncing the ‘th’ (personal observation) and hence the ‘f’ substitutes in many such places.
How – it’s not the normal how. It could mean ‘so how should we proceed’, or ‘how someone else managed something’, etc. Changes according to context. This especially has the capacity to throw me off guard, as I don’t know what how they mean.
Tomolo – tomorrow. I still don’t know why it’s molo.
e’ – this is the in SMS language.
Oredi – already. When spoken fast, already sounds like ‘oredi’, but that’s how they write it too.
Chope – reserving seats. Someone could ‘chope’ a canteen seat for me.
Makan – food. Or eat. We go canteen and makan.
Blur – not the one we usually know. If someone doesn’t know or is confused about something, she is ‘blur’.
Paiseh – getting embarrassed or ashamed about something. So every time I forget the name of a Singaporean friend I know very well, it’s paiseh.
Kiasu – used and studied in my course very often. Almost every communication course has something to add about the ‘kiasu-ness’ of Singapore. Basically means taking extra care not to lose out on something. So kiasu Singaporeans will go borrow a book out of the library as soon as the prof announces we need it. ;)
Shiok – something that’s really good. Food can be shiok.

**Updated, important word forgotten**
Die-die - extremely bad state, something that you must do even if you die in the process. :)
Now let’s try to put these into use.
‘She come so early so she get front seat, so kiasu lor’
‘Exam was terrible. Confirm fail oredi.’
‘Let’s go can A makan.
Will be crowded, lor…
Jasmine choped seats oredi lah.’
‘We gotta submit report tomolo. You do e' introduction can?
Can, lah.’
‘She doesn’t want e' report lik this. So how?’

Author updates: I got exam tomolo. Die-die muz finish today.

Check this for a proper Wiki definition. Will help!


Sheks said...

I'm blur after reading this.i cant say whether this is shiok or not.let me assume this is post is shiok.good work paiseh.

Harish said...

me blur.
it's tomolo oredi for u lah!

me prob wif e' clock. battery drained. is that paiseh or what!

Ramanujam said...

shoik post lah!!!!
oredi thala sutthing reading the last ten lines....
la la laaa la la lala la...

Vishnu said...

That was very Scholarly.

I Now accept that you are a very good Communications Student indeed.

Ramya said...

Enna lah! I'm blur too...

Aravind said...

aahaa... thala suthing!!

Manoj said...

How come 75 to 85 percent of the communication is around canteen and eating? Is it you or does singlish have a side for food?

OuTlaW said...

haha.. in chennai ishtyle.. ore confusings.. but goood post.. :)

Vani Viswanathan said...

y u say good work paiseh? :(

lol, romba use pannita!! :D

Vani Viswanathan said...

oh no, the last few lines were to simplify the explanation! :P

*takes a bow* thank you!!

Vani Viswanathan said...

will get bettah, lor!!

aiyo, poi okkarunga, computer-a vituttu! :)

Vani Viswanathan said...

isn't that the most interesting thing in life? ;)

indha bashaiya naa daily kekaren...en nilamai? :P

shekys said...

tch tch!i 4got ur name,paiseh.

rsubras said...

e' blog updated lor. expected u atleast tomola.. Tis may not b that much shiok lah.. Just a Kiasu :D, so that u wont come wif expectations oredi la and be blur after reading

P.S : Wait, wait..... i know me ularifying...itz not exactly after seeing ur post, but after seeing some weird comments for it... Tora - Tora l oru 10 round suthina maathiri irukku.. naan solla vanthathu blog updated, see u there nu :)

Wetfingers said...

this reminds me of a mail which dealt with Tamil slang etymology (like savu-cracky and kasmalam).If anyone has it jus give me a comment.Lucky you, i am a budding mechanical engineer, yeah sounds funny.

Bharadwaj said...

Reminds me of the wikipedia entry on Madras Bashai... maybe you can contribute your own to wiki...

kausikram krishnasayee said...

* mark sings* chennai sentamizh marandhen un naalae .......

Jack Yan said...

Fascinating. I like blur. Might have to use it!

Vani Viswanathan said...

:O my name! $@^%^ i'm scolding you in singlish :P

aiyo, en thalai sutthuthu!!!

Vani Viswanathan said...

savugraki-ku etymology-a? interesting....if you get it again, make sure u forward it to me!!!

bharadwaj, frnd did a mini-thesis of's been published and we're asking her to make it a booklet that can be given to all intl students here :P so maybe she'll be a better person to wiki it!

Vani Viswanathan said...

>>>un naalae
ipdi padina unakku munnadiye theriala nu artham....nice-a en mela pazhi podariya? :)

:) :)

Sadagopan said...

Hi Vani,

Like this piece of yours and have referenced this in a post in my blog as well - you may see it here

the woman said...

LOL. Vani... I can't stop laughing. Okay, you know, this 'singlish' is mostly used by the chinese... esp their lah, lor, lei, hor... goodness, so darn irritating. My children are taught not to use such in their schools. When i talk to my babies, i talk like that only for the fun of it but still not encouraged.

Kiasu-ism is mostly practised by the chinese too. Indians won't 'kanchiong' in any situation. Hah, (kanchiong) :P

Makan is commonly used, it's in malay actually.

And all that you wrote here.. are spoken by the chinese. They just can't pronounce the words with "th" and "R" in them. But can't help it lah, once you in singapore and you have too many chinese friends.. you tend to speak like them hor? You know I know lah. :D

Ps: Haha, what a post! Thanks for making my tuesday morning. Hope you have a nice day.

Manoj said...

Don't you think its too long since you posted a kid story? :p (நேயர் விருப்பம்)

Vani Viswanathan said...

thank you!!! :)

hahaha...u laughed that much seeing this post? yeah, even malays speak this, don't they? indians i've seen just stick to lah, 'enna lah,' illa lah kinds...and hey, i don't know what kanchiong is! :(
btw, is there some name i can call u wid? it feels wierd calling someone just woman! :)

when i write one, i shall post it...

Bharadwaj said...

I was totally surprised by this lah stuff... Got used to ra and da here (thanks to the gult and tam gumbal) but the moment someone called me lah i was like hello? Took me sometime to believe it was indeed a legit slang in s'pore... what might have been the root of such vilitthal sorkal?

dante said...

hmmm.... quite an interesting post based on the perspective of someone looking in .... but i guess for singaporeans, it's sorta of like second nature ..... and most of the words have either malay, tamil or hokkien backgrounds .....

makan - malay for eating
paiseh - hokkien for shameful
shiok - malay for wonderful

and how could u have left out the colourful hokkien expletives ... it's almost as common as a particular four letter word in western countries ... by the way, u gotta say "blur sotong" not just blur (sotong is malay for squid) ....

and how about the local tamil slang where every other guy is addressed as mike ... example "hey mike, eppadi lah erukka ... makkalz lah ... " .... well personally i dun speak it tat fluently other than the ocassional "mike" with my indian frens .... and there a whole lot of colourful terms u pick up in the army .... numerous to mention here .... on the whole i feel that they make boring staid ol' english much more colourful and expressive ... dun u agree ??? *grin*

(p.s. wanted to add my five cents worth on your entry about gender inequality but unfortunately was too busy with work sooo would it be too late to add anything now ?? )

Vani Viswanathan said...

vilithal sorkal-a? apdina?

whoa! back after a hiatus? and such an enlightening comment that too! :)
yeah, singlish as it is i've heard being spoken mostly by the chinese and malays only...indians stick to the lah...and mike? sounds interesting!
and the mcp post...if u're gonna give me some justification as to why men do that or how women also say such things, no. anth different, mail me, coz i'm tired of having discussions there in the post!

kuttichuvaru said...

I totally agree with the 'th' thing.... I hav seen Chinese ppl here say 'sank u' instead of 'thank u'!!

nice one!!

Bharadwaj said...

vilithal in tam is exclamation... like you say adada or haiyo etc... equivalent to the hindi arre and english hey... da is a screwed up version of adaei... was askin if lah might also have a similar root...

Vani Viswanathan said...

yeah! t-ree and wi-f....

ah, innum avalo araichi seiyala, will let you know once i do!

Nandita said...

Haha, Chennai girl- that was very funny- landed up here while I was generally browsing outside the closeknit foodblogs- I'm gonna check in here regularly :)


Agent Shaik said...

Wah, chennai gal, your singlish so powderful har! Ha Ha Ha! I was doing a school project on Singlish when i chanced upon your blog. I believe you are in Chennai now. So how did you get to pick up Singlish? Just curious : )

Anonymous said...

Interesting! I m a chinese singaporean in Chennai and was doing a search for when I came across the site. Very paiseh after reading but shiok tat it reminds me of home la

Anonymous said...

aiyar, i bochup dis f*** olledi lah. get me a cup of orleng joo leh. paiseh de u noe. 3 days i stuck wif abeng in a soopermmucket and he sthave to deh one u noe. but i smut i go steel foot de. veli plo hor?

RamNarayan said...

Yeah, its not proper english, what to do once here gotta live with singlish, i got adapted to it too. was a indian before, now a singaporean. after serve 2 years ns. ok lor, time to go back - bye..