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Peculiar usage of words in Singaporean vocabulary

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Strong Eagle
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Postby Strong Eagle » Sun, 11 Aug 2013 2:34 am

A significant number of the "oddities" derive from the fact that Mandarin verbs do not have past or future tenses. Chinese speakers without full grasp of English will use phrases like "can already" to mean the work has already been done, "cannot already" meaning it is not yet ready.

Similarly, to ask a question, Chinese takes one of two forms. One is the use of "ma" to the end of a statement. So, "I eat noodles" becomes a question in the form, "I eat noodles, can"? The other is the addition of "not". The statement, "I am going" becomes a question, "You are going, not going"?

Chinese verbs don't have different forms for singular and plural, so again, mismatching of nouns and verbs or use of singular in place of plural really isn't surprising.

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Postby katbh » Sun, 11 Aug 2013 8:32 am

The one I think is the most logical is 'on the lights'. It makes sense. Why do we in the west still say 'turn on the light' or 'switch on the light' when light switches are no longer turned etc.

But by far the best is 'can can' for an emphatic ability to do something - always feel like flashing the petticoat at that one!

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Postby nakatago » Sun, 11 Aug 2013 8:40 am

katbh wrote:The one I think is the most logical is 'on the lights'. It makes sense. Why do we in the west still say 'turn on the light' or 'switch on the light' when light switches are no longer turned etc.

But by far the best is 'can can' for an emphatic ability to do something - always feel like flashing the petticoat at that one!


Because 'on' is a preposition?

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Postby x9200 » Sun, 11 Aug 2013 9:40 am

katbh wrote:The one I think is the most logical is 'on the lights'. It makes sense. Why do we in the west still say 'turn on the light' or 'switch on the light' when light switches are no longer turned etc.

It is not about logic and has never been.
Besides, switches still switch the light.

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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Sun, 11 Aug 2013 11:51 am

The Pennsyltuckey Dutch in PA in the US normally say "outen the light" Which for them I reckon means blow out the candle or turn down the wick. ;-)

For those who don't or haven't lived in the area, that's an affectionate term for the Amish in Pennsylvania/Ohio area of the US.

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Postby zzm9980 » Sun, 11 Aug 2013 1:47 pm

nakatago wrote:That is a Singapore/Malaysia thing. Probably came from manuals where the units that you hold up to your head were often referred to as hand sets. But everybody else used mobile phones or cell/cellular phones or just phones.

First time I saw a sign, I also thought home phone. I was like, "Why would contractors/dentists tell everyone their home phone number?"


I think it is an adaptation from Chinese, where you say: 手æÅ“ºï¼Œshou ji, which is literally 'hand machine'.

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Postby zzm9980 » Sun, 11 Aug 2013 1:53 pm

BedokAmerican wrote:It's just that when you ask for the "toilet," you're implying you need to pull down your pants and "do your business." If you ask for the "restroom," you could be implying that you need to wash your hands, look in the mirror, maybe use the toilet, etc. Therefore, in my opinion, restroom is just a more general term and less invasive than "toilet" because people don't want to know exactly what you're going to do in the bathroom/restroom/toilet. But I'm pretty sure that 99% of the people who go to the restroom use the toilet.


This is just because Americans are a bit more prudish or sensitive about a lot of things than the rest of the world. In Asia, It's nothing to talk about the characteristics of your stool in front of strangers for example.

I also notice that a lot of the words you're shocked at aren't really local vernacular, but British English. Give it more time, you'll soon make the easy distinction between what is Queen's English and Ah Beng's English.

I'm an American, so don't take offense. (As an American I feel I need to make that disclaimer)

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Postby maneo » Sun, 11 Aug 2013 3:34 pm

sundaymorningstaple wrote:The Pennsyltuckey Dutch in PA in the US normally say "outen the light" Which for them I reckon means blow out the candle or turn down the wick. ;-)

Makes sense.
Even shows up in the online Merriam-Webster dictionary:

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/outen[/i]

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Postby BedokAmerican » Sun, 11 Aug 2013 4:27 pm

Here's another: "Nets" instead of "debit."

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Postby nakatago » Sun, 11 Aug 2013 4:29 pm

BedokAmerican wrote:Here's another: "Nets" instead of "debit."


Brand name: http://www.nets.com.sg/

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Postby BedokAmerican » Sun, 11 Aug 2013 5:00 pm

"Way out" vs "exit"

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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Sun, 11 Aug 2013 6:35 pm

BedokAmerican wrote:"Way out" vs "exit"


Guess it depends on what yer smokin'!

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Postby BedokAmerican » Mon, 12 Aug 2013 7:51 am

Some people tend to use the word "dear." Such as "hello dear."
Also, sometimes junk mail is addressed to "dear owner" or "dear resident."

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Postby PNGMK » Mon, 12 Aug 2013 9:33 am

BedokAmerican wrote:Some people tend to use the word "dear." Such as "hello dear."
Also, sometimes junk mail is addressed to "dear owner" or "dear resident."


Another colonial hang over.... even in PNG as a kid we were taught to address everything that way - even in jest or malice; 'Dear Mr BedokAmerican - you may be an asswipe, but I'm a douche'.

Just be grateful they don't call a 10c piece a shilling and the one cent pieces pennies.

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Postby the lynx » Mon, 12 Aug 2013 9:40 am

Gostan = Go a stern

I've never thought that I will ever hear that word in Singapore. Not until I took a cab recently. The driver went to a dead-end road and he said, "Oh, wrong place. Must gostan!"


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