Was visiting Studman at Changi Hospital the other day and said to my wife, something to the effect of, "You don't kacau wo lah!" And the Malay visitor at the next bed laughed, saying that I just did that sentence in three languages.
Oh my. He was so right. That is so Singaporean, speaking like that, and we all do it naturally, without knowing it. It becomes even more obvious when Ang Moh colleagues look at us blankly as we rattle off in our high-speed mixed-mode English.
"That wasn't in English, what you just said to him, right?" my expat friend would say very often to me as he tried to tune in to what we locals said to each other.
Incidentally, I was surprised to know that "kacau" is not a Chinese dialect word but Malay. So is the word "gostan" (meaning "reverse", which began as Malay contraction of the nautical term “go astern”, c.f. Malaysia's premier satirist, TV Smith) .
Another Malay word that has been co-opt into Cantonese: "Pasat", or market, from the Malay word "Pasar".
And "Loti" (bread) is not Hokkien but is from "Roti" in Indian. I have heard of Singaporeans in Taiwan trying to buy Loti thinking it is Hokkien and never getting their bread.
Speaking also of kacau, neurotic teacher-on-holiday Ondine has a post on her mom discovering the world of SMS (Ondine thought kacau was Chinese dialect too) and also a neat Teachers' Day post that combined a description of her gifts and a lesson on the correct use of apostrophes. To which Tym posted a comment on Tomato Nation's take on apostrophes.
Heady stuff, all.
Excerpt from Ondine, the Languishing Cat:
The funniest gift I got, 2 mangoes, in a MANGO plastic bag with a note that said, they knew I liked Mango clothes but since they were poor students, they couldn't buy me something from there and here were two mangoes! The irony was that, they were the really big expensive mangoes which would have cost more than a $13 t-shirt at MANGO. But it was sweet and I laughed very very hard when they presented it to me in all earnestness.
Excerpt from Tomato Nation:
The Apostrophe That Came In From The Cold. Ask yourselves: why is the apostrophe there? "Uh…because it's a plural?" Survey says…EHHHHHHH. "Green bean's"? No. "Welcome shopper's"? Absolutely not! Wrong, wrong, wrong. Ignorant, ignorant, ignorant. An apostrophe is used to shorten ("cannot" becomes "can't") or to employ the possessive ("Sarah's"). It is NOT USED in the plural. EVER. It is used at the FRONT of a decade abbreviation ("'80s"), NOT in the middle ("80's"), because you don't mean that something belongs to the number 80. See? Because "eighties" is a plural. It's NOT a possessive. So don't USE the apostrophe, because you don't NEED it. And when you use an apostrophe to denote a possessive with a name or place that ends in "S," you need to add another "S," unless it's a plural ("the Joneses' house"). "The princess's car." "Cletus's truck." The only names that don't take another "S" at the end: Jesus and Moses. Don't question it. Just learn it. Once more, with feeling: PLURALS do NOT take an APOSTROPHE. Under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. At ALL. No, they sure don't. No, they still don't. No. NO!