Lingo Lingo music video not reflecting Singaporean way of life

From ‘Still no go for Lingo’, 22 Aug 15, article in TNP

…The video was uploaded onto YouTube on Aug 4. It features Ah Boys To Men star Tosh Zhang, local singer-actor Bunz and their entourage flanked by a fleet of supercars and sexy girls in lingerie, rapping about Singlish.

It was criticised by some netizens, who said it did not reflect Singaporeans’ way of life as it promoted a super luxurious lifestyle with scenes of well-dressed young people hanging out by a private jet.

Lingo Lingo Where You Go was screened for free at the National Library on July 25. The short film, which cost close to $100,000 to make, is about a man who wakes up from a 10-year coma to a world of unfamiliar Singlish terms and phrases.

…Freelance model-actress Melody Low, 22, who is the main female star in the video, is not affected by the negative feedback. She told TNP: “It is quite common these days for people to have differing views as they have different tastes and mindsets.

“Some netizens say that the Lamborghinis do not represent Singaporeans. However, we are a First World country and Singapore has one of the highest rate of people buying supercars, so I think it is okay.”

Melody doesn’t do much except pout and preen for a few seconds in the Lingo video, though what she said about supercar ownership in Singapore is not too far off the mark. For anyone familiar with the rap genre, it’s all about swag posturing with fast cars, bling, babes and booty. You even have a singer in there who calls himself ‘Bunz’. Definitely not something to sign off graffiti with. If the private jet scenes look familiar, it’s because the director was clearly inspired by the video for ‘I Want it That Way’ by the Backstreet Boys. Well at least it’s not THESE dandy guys rapping instead.

Some of the verses in here are truly cringeworthy, like ‘Wassup Lah Leh Lor’, or ‘I love my Singlish like my Ferrari/Just like my mee rebus, teh peng and curry’. The problem with the video is not the blatant ripoff from Fast and Furious, the use of Autotune, or Bunz singing about his Ferrari, but that ‘Lingo Lingo’ takes itself way too seriously.  And ironically, this vulgar glamourisation of Singlish would be an effective way of getting Singaporeans to STOP using it, whether its echo is louder than the Lambo or not. And nothing irritates me more than the cocky vroom vroom of a supercar on a small street. Kao peh la!

Here’s a curious history of the genre known as ‘Singlish rap’, ranked in ascending order of personal preference. Note that this is not ‘Singaporean rap’, but rap incorporating elements of Singlish (lingo, intonation) and inevitably some low-brow humour. So the unwatchable MDA rap is thankfully excluded.

Special mentions:

An interesting companion to the ‘Lingo Lingo Where you Go’ video, where Mr Brown and his podcast gang lament about COE and ERP. Or should I say, the E to the R to the P.

A rap about not wearing pants. Not much different from most commercial rap songs nowadays.

6. ‘Excuse me ah, while I give you a kick!’ – PCK (A happy journey starts like that, 2009)

The irony of this public service announcement rap is that it’s not typically Singlish to say ‘Hey you over there’. In terms of effectiveness, this video did nothing in terms of commuter graciousness, but it paved the way for the Dim Sum Dollies. Phua Chu Kang also appears more than once in this list. Which says a lot about the genre.

5. ‘Some say Leh, Some say Lah’ – PCK (The Sar-vivor rap, 2003)

Here’s PCK again telling you wash your hands to ward off SARS. Unfortunately people remember the ‘some say lah/leh’ lyric more than the rest of the stuff that’s actually important. Yes, there’s an album for this, and ‘lah leh lor’ is still as frequently used as ever. ‘Don’t be a Regretter’, thankfully, didn’t ‘Sar-vive’ as a catchphrase for long. The lingo Gods have spoken.

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4. ‘I’m just a recruit so I really bobian’ – Recruits’ Anthem, Ah Boys To Men

Another Tosh Rock rap from the Ah Boys soundtrack. Propaganda much. Retired generals can use this as their entrance song when they conduct rallies.

3. ‘Some say we kiasu, some say we kiasi’ – Limpeh, Shigga Shay (2013)

The above line sounds like a nod to the SARS rap, but this is a better effort from Tosh Rock, who guest stars on this track. I suspect the reason why this put ‘Lion City Kia’ Shigga Shay firmly in the limelight is that it’s rapped mostly in Hokkien. Of course it would be even funnier if veteran actor Richard Low performs this. He’s totally wasted on Tanglin.

2. ‘No chai tau quay then kai fan lor’ – Rasa Sayang, Dick Lee (1989)

Moe Alkaff is hilarious here. The Singaporean-ness is strong on this one, though it comes from a musician who’s not exactly known for busting gangsta rhymes. Apparently in the late eighties, according to Dick, ‘life is like a holi-holiday’. We also could afford pagers and ‘cordless’ phones. However, it mentions Sang Nila Utama and Raffles, not no LKY. WHHHYYY.

1.’I always give you chocolate, I give you my Tic Tac, but now you got a Kit Kat, you never give me back’ – Why you so like that, Kopi Kat Klan (1991)

The mutha of all Singlish rap. Charming, timeless and sibei funny.

Singaporeans not using verbs in the past tense

From ‘Reverse trend of speaking poor English’, 28 April 15, ST Forum

(Amy Loh Chee Seen): IT IS unsurprising that netizens derided the Singapore and Asian Schools Math Olympiads question for its poor English (“Maths question catches world’s attention”; April 15). The standard of Singapore’s English has sunk so low that poor English has become acceptable, whether in spoken or written form.

Despite years of campaigns to “speak better English”, parents and teachers unintentionally propagate ungrammatical English. If this continues, the language that current and future generations speak here will bear little resemblance to English. One mistake is the utter disregard for the way a verb should be used in the past tense in reported speech, in the passive form and as an adjective.

New hoardings at a condominium construction site proudly promote its proximity to a “shelter walkway”, restaurant menus list “steam fish” or “grill pork chops”, and shops announce hours when they are “close”.

We write as we speak, and conversations are replete with past events told in the present tense. A Singaporean interviewee on CNN once described his grandmother making herbal soup for him as he “studies” for exams, even though he had mentioned earlier that she died years ago.

Why does our society accept this? It is accepted because we speak more and more Mandarin or Malay. Our Asian verbs do not have different forms for tenses, causing us to fail to recognise incorrect English.

As long as our spoken English stays uncorrected, we will continue to speak and write poor English. A friend of mine was even mocked for her clear enunciation of words in the past tense. It has become “uncool” to speak English correctly.

Unless we reverse the trend, we may well need to produce a dictionary or provide translation services to make our Singapore version of English intelligible to foreigners.

The ‘Cheryl’s birthday’ question is an example of poor tense management (Albert and Bernard just BECOME  friends with Cheryl..), but even the best speakers and writers of the language make such errors occasionally. It’s not necessarily a Singaporean problem as the writer believes; bad tense, a misplaced ‘s (as in womens’, childrens’ or it’s) and comical “quotation marks” are textbook bloopers that happen everywhere else in the English-speaking world.

It’s a goldmine for purists out there. I still see construction signs that read ‘Sorry for the Inconvenient’ or ‘Inconveniences’, or shops that say they are ‘Opened’ for business. And then there’s this:

You have movies titled ‘Honey I Shrunk the Kids’ (it should be ‘shrank’), and Two Weeks Notice (Weeks’), which may be too subtle for the non-English professors amongst us to sniff out as mistakes.

There’s no evidence, however, that we have been speaking ‘more Mandarin or Malay’ in recent times, nor has poorly written English become ‘acceptable’ today. Someone who writes in his CV ‘I have make $1 million for my last company’ is looked upon less favourably than another candidate with impeccable grammar. A boss is not going to earn anyone’s respect if he writes in email ‘Please make sure you met the timeline’. If you write in your Tinder profile that ‘I like women who reads books’, you’re going to be left-swiped into oblivion. If you garble your grammar in public, you will be picked on, which is a healthy sign that people here still care about the language, that speaking and writing well correlates with one’s social status. 

Bad sentence construction is one thing, but using words inappropriately in an attempt to sound sophisticated like ‘I will revert irregardless after I have actioned on our teleconversation’ is equally painful to the ears, nevermind how familiar you are with the usage of ‘lie, lay, laid and lain’. Don’t get me started on ‘I LITERALLY blew my top at the bad English in this passage!’ or neologisms like ‘value-add’. Bad English doesn’t mean just sloppy grammar; in the examples above, it’s getting the meanings of words utterly, inexcusably WRONG while believing you’re ultra-cool using them. Some have become so embedded no one ever attempts to correct them, especially if they come from your superior.

Some of our deliberate bastardisations of the language have become standard Singlish. ‘Understooded’ is a blatant hyper-correction of the past tense of ‘understand’. We ‘verbalise’ a noun like agar to ‘agarate’ (estimate), and then turn it back into a zombie noun like ‘agaration’. We tell a friend after a bad fight ‘I don’t friend you’, instead of ‘I’m not going to be your friend anymore’. There is ‘confirm’ and ‘double confirm’, not ‘confirmed/double confirmed’. Our censors even once tried to replace the title of an Austin Powers movie from ‘The Spy Who Shagged Me’ to ‘SHIOKED Me’. Thankfully, Shiok has since remained an expression of pleasure and nothing more.

Another possible culprit for our declining standards in English is the rise of internet-speak and texting, where not only is there a criminal neglect of tense, but the spawning of spelling variations and abbreviations in a bid to save time, like ‘tomolo/tmr‘. We order ‘roast chicken’ not roasted chicken, but we retain ‘fried’ not ‘fry’ chicken. We add ‘already’ to indicate a past event so that we don’t have to change the present-tense verb, for example ‘ Yesterday I already pay you what!’. We don’t articulate the ‘-ed’ when we say stuff like ‘Last night I wash my car’, or ‘ I wrap the present yesterday’. Instead of watching stuffy British drama serials we are entertained by cat videos or downloaded Korean soaps with bad subtitles. In place of books, we have Facebook updates, influencer blogs and baby photos with nonsense for captions. In other words, we’ve become lazy. ‘Yes that would be great!’ is now being replaced by a single ‘thumbs up’ emoticon. If emoticons are left to fester and evolve their own syntax like some sentient virus, we’ll start talking to each other with ‘lols’ and facial expressions, and eventually be forced to relearn the alphabet song, not to mention revise our present and past tenses.

Singapore Girl announcing that she’s from China

From ‘Stewardess making announcements:Why the need to specify her origins?’, 25 May 2013, ST Forum

(Kua Bak Lim): WHEN on board a recent Singapore Airlines Beijing/Singapore flight, I was puzzled when the flight stewardess who made announcements in Mandarin identified herself as someone from China. It struck me as odd that the airline found it necessary to make such a distinction when it came to announcements in Mandarin.

I then asked the in-flight supervisor whether the stewardess or steward on board an SIA flight to London needed to declare that he or she was from the United Kingdom when making announcements. The answer was no. This piece of personal information about the staff is completely irrelevant to the announcements, regardless of the language spoken.

This, in my view, tends to be divisive for the staff on board. I also find it disconcerting for SIA’s image as a world-class international airline. One also cannot help but notice that there seems to be the subtle insinuation that Singaporeans cannot speak good Mandarin, which is certainly not true.

Would the SIA management please comment?

There’s no need for an SIA stewardess from China to announce her origins simply because her accent and grammatical precision would be a dead giveaway, if the intention is to cater to PRCs on board. SIA has been hiring foreign staff for a while now so it’s no secret,  though they still insist on keeping the ‘Singapore Girl’ moniker.  As of April 2013, 7 out of 10 cabin crew are locals, with Malaysians, Thais, Chinese, Indians, Japanese and Koreans making up the numbers. It is perhaps the only airline in the world to brand their attendants after a nationality. Even Air India doesn’t call their ladies ‘India Girl’, nor China Airlines ‘China Girl’. The latter is also derogatory in the local context, often associated with mistresses and illegal immigrants than a glamorous profession that involves pushing foodcarts up and down a aisle asking if people want the chicken or the beef.

Interestingly, according to the SIA recruitment site, it’s a prerequisite to be ‘proficient in English and Mandarin’ if you’re a Taiwanese, whereas the requirement specified for candidates from China is just ‘a HIGH level of English proficiency’, though I believe the average Chinese or Taiwanese native could deliver any announcement in Mandarin without much difficulty at all. No such language criteria has been set for the Singaporean candidate, though you’d need to have A and O Level credits in General Paper and English respectively. Which means you can fail your Chinese exams and still become a successful Singapore Girl. But having splendid passes in GP or even Chinese doesn’t necessarily make you proficient in ANY language. The writer above seems highly optimistic about our locals’ standards of spoken Mandarin, but if we were that good we wouldn’t need ‘Speak Mandarin campaigns’. Even ang mo children put Chinese Singaporean adults like myself to shame. I can only remember one Chinese nursery rhyme during my childhood, the one that goes ‘san zi lao hu’ (Three Tigers, Three Tigers, run very fast, run very fast, one has no eyes, one has no ears, very strange, very strange), compared to today’s non-Chinese kids reciting Confucian EPICS like San Zi Jing.

So how many Singaporeans you know are actually up to the task of delivering a message to international travellers over a PA system? How many can deliver a simple interview to a Mandarin news crew in full sentences? How about telling a Chinese tourist the TIME? Not a lot, apparently.  Ex Mediacorp actor Ix Shen says we have a TOTAL DISREGARD for grammar and sentence construction. Sumiko Tan posits that English educated folks like herself lacked interest in the language because it was forced down our throats and not promoted in a fun, lively way. Journalist and film-maker Pek Siok Lan mocks our ‘half-baked English and half-baked Chinese’. Back in 1981, a Taiwanese professor urged us to ‘DROP Singapore Mandarin’ because we were over -‘translitering’ it. We could consider a Speak Mandarin mascot like Water Wally or Singa, but it would be hard to conceive of a character related to Chinese culture without making it a dragon or coming across as racist and xenophobic.

From a business and customer service standpoint, it’s better for SIA to let a ‘professional’ handle a Mandarin announcement than risk an unseasoned Singaporean butchering it in front of PRCs, generally thought to be so proud of their language they wouldn’t stand for anything slipshod and ‘half-baked’. It would also be a hassle for the cabin crew if PRCs started throwing up their meals because they heard us speak. But you don’t have to tell people you’re from China because it’s obvious and it would confuse everyone about what ‘Singapore Girl’ means. I suppose with enough practice, a true ‘Singapore Girl’ would be able to deliver Mandarin with striking confidence. Maybe that would be the ‘makeover’ that we locals can truly be proud of, a bilingual SIA stewardess who knows what is Chinese for ‘mild turbulence’ and ‘fried mee goreng’, rather than say, toning down on blue eyeshadow.

Singapore Shiok ad makes Caucasian look like a schmuck

From ‘Singapore Shiok, or just silly?’, 28 April 2013, article by Nicholas Yong, Sunday Times

First, Singapore was marketed as uniquely itself as a tourist destination. Then, it became yours. Now, it is “shiok” too. The Singapore Tourism Board’s (STB) latest marketing video on YouTube revolves around the Singlish expression – derived from the Malay word “syok”, which means nice – for extreme pleasure. Cold ice kacang on a hot day? Shiok. The adrenaline rush of sky-diving? Shiok! Being massaged at a posh spa? Shhh…iok.

…In the Singapore video, a Caucasian man struggling to pronounce “shiok” – defined helpfully on screen as “a Singaporean expression denoting extreme pleasure or the highest quality” – opens the clip. When he finally succeeds, his Singaporean friends applaud him…Branding expert Tim Clark, a Briton in his 60s, thinks “using the local language to help visitors to connect with a country is a good thing”.

…Professor Gemma Calvert, a British professor at NTU’s Institute for Asian Consumer Studies, agrees with Mr Clark that the video makes the featured foreigner struggling to pronounce “shiok” look “a bit of a shmuck“. She says: “The phrase isn’t particularly difficult to pronounce and therefore may come across as slightly patronising to outsiders. As a Caucasian myself, I admit I cringed to some extent at the representation portrayed by this particular individual.”

…Creative director Hanson Ho, in his 30s, of H55 studio also notes: “‘Shiok’ is sometimes expressed somewhat artificially in certain scenes, making it seem quite unnatural.” For instance, having a little boy whisper “shiok” at the sight of zoo animals at the Night Safari seemed to be stretching it a little.

…Lawyer Samantha Ong, 31, wonders if the video could have varied its local vocabulary a little. “There’s a serious overuse of the word ‘shiok’ that’s kind of cheesy and annoying,” she says of the yelled, purred and breathed incarnations in the video.

“Aren’t there other ‘uniquely Singapore’ words or ways to express pleasure, such as ‘sedap’ or ‘ho chiak’ (delicious in Malay and Hokkien)?”


By attempting to globalise the word and sell it to visitors, ‘Shiok’ has become as problematic as ‘Lah’: Both also ‘ANYHOW use one’. If a kid exclaimed to me that watching animals in a zoo is ‘shiok!’ I would instantly correct him that he should have used the more generic ‘Wahh’ instead. I may even tolerate the Americanised ‘Awesome’ or ‘Whoa!’. Other scenes where the use of shiok is exaggerated and unnatural include Singaporeans showing off their shopping haul, ‘shioking’ at a club, or marvelling at the LV island in MBS. A simple ‘Wow’ or ‘Niiice’ wouldn’t stick as well, but these poor examples of shiok are as misplaced as getting locals to yell ‘Yahoo’ or ‘Yippee’ while exhibiting ‘extreme pleasure’, though ‘yahoo’ is something I often say in my head with an imaginary fist-pump whenever I manage to board an MRT train during peak hour.

Singaporeans also tend to be bad teachers of their own beloved lingo. When UK boyband The Wanted popped by to perform, fans cheered when they said ‘Singaporean girls are SHIOK’. Totally wrong and even demeaning in today’s context, but the fans don’t care, and this mistake will be perpetuated to every celebrity the world over, who’ll pepper their concerts with forced Singlish like ‘You’re such a SHIOK audience, LAH’. Ugh.

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When singer Demi Lovato was in town, DJ Divian Nair decided to teach her how to use shiok (like ‘awesome’) as a warm-up during an interview, with the superstar obliging with ‘I’m feeling shiok right now’. Lucky Divian. Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine says Singapore is ‘like, TOTALLY SHIOK’. Neither of these Caucasians has difficulty pronouncing the word, which is like replacing the C in Coke with Sh- (unless you want to be picky and insist that there should be a ‘-yee-ok’ sound). We seem to have an obsession with trying to get foreigners to speak Singlish with the same sadistic enthusiasm as teasing a kitten with a laser pointer. It may well be pride on our part to promote Singlish, but it does make a sporting goon out of non-Singaporeans when they mutilate it, be it shiok, lah or ‘Ho-Say’.

The worst abuse of shiok, however, comes from our Board of Censors. In 1999, when they found the use of ‘Shagged’ in the movie title Austin Powers:The Spy who Shagged Me objectionable, they proposed to replace the offensive word to the verb-form ‘SHIOKED’, as in The Spy who SHIOKED me, which would suggest to those unfamiliar with Singlish that shiok is a euphemism for the F-word. Thanks to our authorities, IMDB now thinks that shioked means ‘to be treated nicely’. If they had really pulled the title edit off, this ad, with the zoo kid whispering a potentially foul word into Daddy’s ear, wouldn’t exist. Max George from the Wanted would have said: ‘I’m here to Shiok some Singapore Girls’. To some cheers still.

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Yet, it’s not so simple defining when exactly shiok should be used. It’s like trying to teach someone when to use ‘lah’, ‘leh’ and ‘lor’. We have been known to use it in various contexts outside of food from which I believe it originally evolved (Humorist Paik Choo described ‘shiok’ mee rebus in a 1979 ST article). Enjoying rainy weather, lying on a hard cold floor on a blistering hot day or even sprawling out on a king-size bed in a hotel room may qualify as ‘shiok’ activities today. It’s often an interjection ejaculated reflexively, like the opposite of ‘Ouch’, and preceded by a period of anticipation or suffering, specific to a relatively quick, pleasurable stimulus. Nobody goes to a club and yells ‘SHIOK’ while dancing, nor experiences shiok-ness after staring at a fancy floating building for minutes. A massage after a long day? Shiok. A hot bath after a marathon? Lagi shiok! But saying ‘Singapore is SHIOK’? GET LOST LAH.

My First Skool’s spelling is cruel and nonsensical

From ‘Teach kids proper spelling from young’, 11 March 2013, ST Forum

(Estella Young):…A renewed interest in proper English might push pre-schools and childcare centres with misspelled names to reconsider their policy. Names like “Twinkle Kidz Kindergarten”, “Kidz Playhouz”, “Jenius Kindergarten” and NTUC’s “My First Skool” are not modern or cute. They are an eyesore.

Reifying common spelling errors only imposes an adult’s definition of creativity upon a young child already struggling to learn the basic rules of his world – ranging from social behaviour to grammar to mathematics.

Teaching him that his school’s name must be spelled “skool” is as cruel and nonsensical as telling him that red is blue, or that one plus one is four. Such a child would have a nasty shock when he enters primary school and discovers quickly that correct spelling does matter.

In 2009, NTUC childcare rebranded itself as ‘My First Skool’, explaining the deliberate typo as reflective of its philosophy of ‘encouraging children to be creative’ and ‘not penalising them when they make spelling mistakes’. That’s over-explaining it. I think it’s just simple marketing in an attempt to make pre-school sound, well, ‘kewl’. Critics bash the Skool for confusing small children and setting a bad example, but this ‘skool’ trend was started way back in 1994, by another brand known as ‘The Little Skool-house’. Well that explains our generation’s horrible shorthand spelling on Whatsapp and Facebook then; It’s because our educators told us it’s OK to spell something the way it sounds, u know, like dis. Wadever.

Purists argue that distinguishing variations in spelling to deliver tone or ‘style’ wouldn’t work for kids, who need to develop the fundamentals in the language before they start listening to rap music and get traumatised when they find out that ‘dog’ can be spelt ‘dawg’. Some work, while others, like the writer complained, are indeed an eyesore. ‘Kidz’, for example, has a zany exuberance to it, and is the ‘fun’ plural you’ll find on children’s TV, camps or breakfast cereal. ‘Playhouz’, on the other hand, sounds like Nazi kindergarten where they serve booze instead of milk and cookies, while ‘Jenius’ is the kind of slangy abomination that bimbos type on their status updates, as in: ‘Einstine is such a Jenius!’ I guess the people at Jenius have good reason could deny that they mis-spelled ‘Genius’ on purpose. I mean, who would have the ballz to give themselves that sort of pressure? J is also not a ‘hipper’ G. Joat, Jorilla, Jirlz all look jod-awful.

People who frown on ‘skool’ are also likely to take offence at neologisms like ‘skratch’, ‘rox’, ‘luv/lurve’, ‘teenie-weenie’, ‘midnite’ and argue over ‘hurray’ and ‘hooray’, yet are unable to account for the numerous ‘errors’ that abound in the same literature text that they hug to sleep with. Even if one did drill into kids that Skool should be ‘sCHool’, they will have to find out the hard way that the ‘CH’ sound is different in ‘chair’ vs ‘choir’ vs ‘chaise lounge longue’. English itself is exasperating in its usage, as explained in a 2009 piece by ST’s Janadas Devan, who revealed that the old ‘school’ used to be spelt as ‘scole, skule, skoole, skoll, scolle, scoile, scwle, schoule and scool’. Skoole, in particular, sounds like a nursery for pirates. If there’s anything that’s ‘cruel and nonsensical’, it’s not just the people at First Skool screwing up the language and hence the way we spell for the rest of our lives, but the creators and contributors to a confusing universal language themselves. Blast you, ye ole swill-sippin’ dandy scallywags!

Besides, which kid would want to go to the grave sounding ‘My First SCHOOL’ anyway. It’s like celebrating puberty with ‘My First Period’.

Singaporeans not pronouncing Singapore correctly

From ‘Pronounce Singapura correctly’, 18 Dec 2012, ST Forum

(Mohammad Yazid): IT IS strange that many Singaporeans, be they media hosts, broadcasters, celebrities and even some politicians, do not seem to know how to pronounce the country’s name correctly.

Singapore or Singapura is a combination of Malay and Sanskrit words. Singa, meaning lion in Malay, should be pronounced “si-nga” as in “singer”, instead of “sing-guh”.

It is important that they say it right by virtue of their positions in society. How they say it may be taken as the right and official way of pronouncing Singapore.

According to and contrary to what the writer claims, Singapore SHOULD be pronounced ‘sing-GUH-pawr’, with the hard G, while others use ‘GAH-pore’ instead. Amazingly, this petty confusion over whether it’s ‘ga’ as in ‘manga’ or ‘galore’ goes all the way back to the 1930’s, when some called the country ‘Singgah-pura’, which means ‘Port of Call’ instead of ‘Singa-pore’ (Lion City). The ‘correct’ way of pronouncing Singapore/Singapura wasn’t initially the ‘British’ way either. In the early 20th century, British seamen reportedly referred to the island as, incredibly, SINKAPORE, which many of us still use affectionately, cynically or in sing-song jest. Just ask any uncle or auntie on the street. I would love to hear a demonstration by Mr Yazid himself.

Let’s see how SinGAHpore is bandied about in Parliament by our very own MPs, courtesy of Lim Swee Say and Low Thia Khiang:

How do our National Songs fare when it comes to accurately articulating the country’s name? Here’s ‘We Are Singapore’ from 1987, which pronounces Singapore the ‘proper’ way. Try singing it with ‘GAH’ instead and note the difference; using ‘-er’ sounds subdued, while the cathartic ‘AH’ can be ejaculated with much more gusto and pride.

How about ‘Singapura, Sunny Island’? Not so clear here. I still hear some ‘Gah’ moments, though it still sounds perfectly natural to me.

Listen to the National Anthem closely, written and sung entirely in Malay. In my opinion, there’s not a single word of Singapura in the track sounding like ‘Singerpura’.

So, if the writer is right in claiming that the proper way to saying ‘Singa’ is ‘Singer’, is ‘singing’ it as ‘Sin-GAH’ for melodic effect, especially in the National Anthem, OK? How would foreigners sing it? Listen to Manhattan Transfer below. Pretty vague here.

You would expect an American, European or African to pronounce Singapore differently, but will anyone correct them on the spot, or our fellow countrymen for that matter, for making this ‘mistake’? The French, for example, pronounce it the ‘heartland’ way.

Here’s how Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean says it:

And Prince William during his State Visit. Nothing out of the ordinary here.

I think the phonetic difference is trivial, insignificant even. Most of us express it somewhere in the spectrum between ‘er’ and ‘ah’, which has since been formalised as the non-commital ‘uh’. We have more important things to worry and complain about than saying our own country’s name one way or the other, like what the anthem even means or how the Merlion came about. I would use the softer ‘Singerpore’ when introducing myself to an immigration officer or someone in a foreign land, while the brash, uncouth ‘Sinkapore’ is what I’ll use with family and friends. It’s almost like Singlish really, which makes it oh so uniquely SinGAHporean.

‘Double confirm’ more catchy than ‘confirm confirm’

From ‘Double confirm, double confusion’ 18 Aug 2012, article by Melissa Kok, ST Life!

When it first aired last year, television gameshow We Are Singaporeans made the catchphrase “double confirm” its trademark. Such a phrase went down well in the light-hearted show, which tests contestants on their general knowledge of Singapore history and culture.

“Double confirm” is what the show’s host, Hossan Leong, said to ask contestants to lock in their answers. But now that the show is back for a second season on MediaCorp Channel 5, viewers have noticed that Hossan uses the phrase less often.

Hossan now uses a new catchphrase – “confirm confirm“. The change has got some viewers wondering if it is because the original catchphrase is “too Singlish” for mainstream broadcast.

…When contacted by Life! last week, host Hossan Leong admitted that he was told to use the phrase “double confirm” “less frequently”, but did not give a reason.

But Ms Choo (Mediacorp Vice President) said Leong was advised to do so as they “had planned to introduce the new catchphrase in Season 2” of the show, which started airing in May. A problem that English language experts find with “double confirm” is that the “double” is redundant.

‘Double confirm’ has entrenched itself in the vernacular of Singaporeans as ‘non-standard’ English, but Hossan Leong’s catchphrase has drawn flak previously for being ‘bad English’. Technically, it consists of two legitimate English words merged in a ‘redundant’ manner, though most of us would understand what someone means by ‘double confirm’, like how we ‘get’ a salesperson telling us we’re entitled to a ‘free gift’, instead of the less enticing GIFT with every purchase. It’s just a pidgin way of emphasis, though it loses its meaning once we ply another layer of ‘confirm’ to make it ‘triple confirm’. In fact, replacing the favourite ‘double confirm’ with yet another tautological ‘confirm confirm’ would make it more similar to Singlish than Anglophiles would care to admit, as the use of repetition is a hallmark of many troublesome Singlish and non-English phrases which purists often frown upon.

For example, Phua Chu Kang’s catchphrase Don’t PLAY PLAY (or the deliberately mispronounced ‘Don’t PRAY PRAY’) was used in a gracious commuter campaign, much to the annoyance of some people who thought it should be rephrased, or rather neutered, to ‘Don’t fool around’. The Malay language is also chockfull of rhythmic repetitions, such as SUKA-SUKA, MASAK-MASAK, AGAR-AGAR (a gelatinous dessert) and AGAK-AGAK ( estimate). If your boss gives you a dressing down, it’d best that you ‘DIAM DIAM’ (keep quiet), and if you want to say ‘I knew it!’, what better way to express a self-pat on the back by ‘ZAI ZAI (eh)’. You’d better be careful what you say online, in case you ‘SUAY SUAY’ (by bad luck) get caught and posted on STOMP. Perfectionists like their tasks done ‘SWEE-SWEE’ (flawlessly). The Chinese use ‘Q-Q’ to describe springy noodles, as well as SK-II models’ cheeks which also happen to be ‘BAI BAI NEN NEN (fair and soft)’. The use of redundant repetition also has its roots in how fairy tales use ‘A long, long time ago’ ‘ many, many times’, which serves not so much to quantify time, but rather for melodic, even poetic, effect.

Some words, however, are not meant for rhythmic repetition. You can have a ‘No-no’ but not a ‘Yes-Yes’, a ‘Boing-Boing’ but not a ‘Thud-Thud’. ‘Confirm’, too, is NOT one of those words you could multiply in a bid to sound cute (1 CUTE would suffice). It’s like saying ‘ARMADILLO ARMADILLO’, or a doctor telling an unfortunate patient that he has ‘AIDS AIDS’. It’s fine if you want to scrape ‘double confirm’ off telly altogether, though Singaporeans are likely to switch to ‘SURE OR NOT’ or ‘YOU SURE AH’ if saying ‘double confirm’ became a crime. Even if you insist on pitching this new phrase, at least HYPHENATE it. You can’t explain it, but Confirm (x2) just sounds, well, WRONG WRONG.


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