Singlish is the one language that every Singaporean speaks, regardless of their demographic. Its charm and ubiquity is such that Singlish phrases have made their way into the Oxford English dictionary. Of course, the Singlish we speak depends a lot on which generation we belong to. There are terms floating about that are so specific to our age bracket that others outside of it would “catch no ball”, as some might say.
Heck, just this week, I learnt a new Singlish term – swee chai. According to my younger colleagues, it’s synonymous with swee (nice, pretty). The addition of chai is superfluous, aside from adding a nice ring to it. Sort of like the phrase bom bom at the end of fatty bom bom.
In no particular order, here are 5 Singlish phrases Zoomers might struggle to comprehend.
A combination of the word “horrible” and “incorrigible” to denote that something, or someone, is beyond horrible. Famously used in the 1996 movie, Army Daze.
Many iconic Singlish phrases, like Own Time Own Target (OTOT) come from the military. Lobo is one of those phrases that seems to have fallen out of favour in recent years. Purportedly, it comes from the term LOB or Left Out of Battle. Describes a lazy guy who doesn’t carry his own weight.
Up until the late 1970s in Singapore, National Servicemen were separated according to the language they speak. Naturally, you’d be asked if were English or Chinese educated. For some men who belong to the latter group, they struggled to answer. According to the BBC, educated became helicated, which eventually became helicopter. Thus, a Chinese Helicopter refers to a Chinese educated National Serviceman.
A game of competitive rope skipping, played by children. But it’s not just any skipping rope they use. Instead, the skipping rope of choice was made entirely out of rubber bands.
There are also a dizzying amount of rules that accompany the game, such as when you are allowed to touch the rubber band and the manner in which you must hop over the rope.
Completely unrelated to SPC, the Singapore petroleum company. Instead, SPG stands for Sarong Party Girl, a trope so established it has its own Wikipedia page. This one is especially interesting because the Zoomers in my office were completely unaware of the term and we millennials had different ideas of what it meant.
For one guy, he thought the term referred to party girls who loved going to the beach and hanging out with white guys.
Another girl concurred with myself that any Singaporean girl who will only date white guys qualifies as a Sarong Party Girl.
According to Wikipedia, the SPG is also found in Malaysia and Thailand.
Want to brush up on your Singlish? Consider getting The Singlish Coxford Dictionary, written by the very same folks who brought you Talkingcock.com. Fun fact: they later went on to make the 2006 movie, Singapore Dreaming.
Have you heard of any of these phrases mentioned in this article? Do you have a completely different understanding of what they mean? Tell us on our Facebook page.