Devi’s heavy Indian accent

From ‘Don’t squeeze fun out of a person’s accent’, 8 Sept 2010, ST Forum online

(K Rajamani): AFTER watching the Fried Rice Paradise musical recently, I was disappointed that the producers made the actress playing Devi speak with an unusually heavy accent.

Singaporean Indians don’t speak in such a manner and as far as I am aware, Indians who come from abroad also don’t speak like that.

While I understand the producers need to make the musical funny, should a person’s accent be made the “laugh factor” in a musical that is meant to celebrate racial harmony in Singapore?

I feel that the producers could have done better research to reflect the races more accurately.

The concept of caricature is apparently lost on Ms Rajamani, for the only reason why we find accent mocking funny is because somewhere out there, sometime now or in the past, there are/were real people who talk the way exactly as we portray them to be for entertainment. I have never watched Dick Lee’s musical, but I’m sure there’s more in his mixbag of comedic tricks than relying on heavy Indian accents. Of course, poking fun of Indian accents and culture is not exclusive to Singaporeans, but to most countries with a substantial Indian diaspora e.g the British Goodness Gracious Me. Accusing non-Indian radio DJs of mocking it is one thing,  to call to arms over white men mocking it ‘blackface’ style is reasonable, but to complain about an Indian performer doing it is like berating Chinese men for manually slanting their eyes and wearing pigtails. For God’s sake, how many family-themed comedies do you know where actors speak like normal people? If exaggeration were the spice of life, I can’t imagine how bland the complainant’s existence must be.

El Bongnino

From ‘Hang Loose’ 24 June 2010, article by Germaine Lim in New Paper

PARODY breeds contempt.

The cast of the Channel 5 satirical variety show The Noose, now in its third season, is known for its exaggerated accents and comedic impersonations.

But some local netizens are unhappy over certain characterisations, particularly actress Michelle Chong’s depiction of female foreign worker Leticia Bongnino.

The charge: That Chong’s “fake pinoy accent” is “racist”.

Not a fan, but the Noose is essentially accent porn. Strip away the mockery and you have a run-of-the-mill hit-or-miss current affairs satire. Sometimes even the Malay actor exaggerates the Malay accent, which nobody seems to have a problem with, but if a Chinese exaggerates a Honkie accent, it becomes derogatory. Michelle’s impersonation is pitch perfect and it’s painful to know that honing your craft in what’s a linguistic impossibility for most people not only goes unappreciated but labeled a hate-crime. Maybe the pinoy community is still bitter that their favorite Orchard Road hangout has a gaudy retail behemoth built over and under it, which probably explains why they’re spending more time in front of the TV and complaining about the plight of domestic workers. As if the hot water scalding and bully-torture by employers isn’t enough, now they’re making fun of our language! More accent oversensitivity here.

Indian accents

From ‘Why pick on Indian accent for cheap laughs on radio?’ 7 April 2010 ST Forum

The (Class 95 FM) deejays seemed to find it very funny to mimic the way Indians speak (during Harvey Norman traffic updates). And they have done it lots of times.

In fact, for most of Singapore’s modern history, radio deejays who are not of Indian descent have enjoyed doing mock-Indian accents on English radio.

The defining factor is that I have never heard radio deejays on English stations mock Chinese or Malay accents.

Bold assumption, but it’s highly unlikely that the Chinese/Hongkong accent was never mocked on radio. Think of all the ads poking fun of kungfu masters or Confucius dispensing wise words. And is Ravi Veloo suggesting that it is fine if an Indian exaggerates the Indian accent but not other races?If laughs were cheap they would soon wear themselves out, like cross-dressing. Accent mocking, the bread and butter of comedy whether you like it or not, is here to stay.  Unlike the scourge of mispronunciation, accent mimicking is relatively harmless.


What would Veloo think of ambassador to local music Dick Lee nonsense lampooning of the accent in the Mustapha video at 2:45?

And you don’t hear Chinese complaining about Chandhi Chowk’s mutilation of the kungfu culture either. It also doesn’t matter which race does it, as evidenced by the immortal parody that is Mind Your Language.

More accusations of discrimination over pastry here

Rojak accent

From No rojak accent for me 13 August 2004 Forum ST

I would tune in to the BBC World Service instead of listening to our local DJs putting on a fake ‘ang moh’ accent to sound posh or hip in the case of American English

And, I can improve my Mandarin listening to Chinese radio stations instead of cringing at rojak American and British English that some ‘high-class’ Singaporeans use on air

Fake accents

From Why do some who return from overseas sound so non-Singaporean? 26 July 1996 Forum ST

I avoid many of our locally-produced TV5 programmes because of the fake and exaggerated American accents of many of the commentators such as Leong Lai Yee and Jasmine Tan on News5

How does one live in a country for 20 years, go overseas for three or four, and come back sounding totally non-Singaporean?

SIA Singlish

From Speak plain and simple English 26 March 1984 Letters to ST

On a recent SIA flight from Brunei, the passenger in the aisle seat next to me asked for a newspaper. The trainee stewardess replied. “All finished one already!” I was amazed at the standard of spoken English.

Some stewardesses, however, feel they have to put on an up-market slang. Why can’t they just speak plain, clear, simple English , instead of horrible slang?

‘All finished one’ is not just broken English, but broken Singlish


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