Food Singlish: You last time Jiak Kali Png wan issit?
By KF Seetoh - Thursday, Aug 13, 2015
Prof Kishore Mahbubani of the LKY School of Public Policy recently said in an interview about Singaporean-ess, “Singlish is now very sophisticated”. I agree, it’s not quite the pasar patois we once saw with disdain anymore. You see and hear politicians slip in a term or two these days to emphasis effect and endearment, and even their support for it. It was also featured in songs and viral foreign online videos dedicated to this fantastical jumble of a language. In very simplistic terms, Singlish is dialect and local languages expressed in English, using the lowest common denomination. Where English words do not fit, they just hantum some local Malay, Chinese, Indian, Peranakan or Eurasian term, to boost the feel and effect. Because food is so loved here, many culinary terms are used in one form or another to express daily life and situations. Here are 12, both old school and newer adaptations, for starters..
1/ Fry Cuttlefish or Chao Yao Yue (to fry cuttlefish) … the Cantonese say “Chao Yao Yue” to mean getting fired at the job. Way more loco and more feeling than that comb-over US President candidate wannabe lout who wanted to copyright his “Your Fired” term, just because it’s the only words he can string together to tell someone off. Usage – “ You come late so many times, you kenachao yao yu then you know”
2/ Goreng Goreng la (to fry about) … the art of worming and winging your way around a situation. It also about the way how one talks his way out of a tight spot. Usage- “ Customer damn tough la, so I goreng goreng him until he give me deposit liao.”
3/ You Jiak Kentang (you eat potato) … It means you are unnaturally ang mo or westernised in your ways. Like when you speak with an ang mo twang, only eat with fork and knife and date ang mos only. “ Eh, u macam talk so slang slang, you jiak kentang wan ah?”
4/ Salted Fish Com Alive … the Chinese term “hum yue fan sang” means an old fading business or service getting a fresh lease of life. Usage- “ Last time his business nearly went bankrupt liao, then suddenly hum yu fan sang..so many people line up for his food every day.”
5/ Boil Telephone Porridge (po din wah chuk) … When they say you boil telephone porridge, it means you are spending too long on the phone. Usage – “ Eh, tonight you don’t boil telephone porridge ah. Better do our homework”.
6/ Eat Curry Rice (jiak kali png) … The Hokkiens use this to mean going to or someone who has been to prison before (because that’s what is known to be commonly served in “Changi Hilton”. Usage – “ That fella last time kena caught for loanshark work, then go jiak kali png for 6 months”.
7/ One Chicken, One Duck (jit jia kway, jit jia arh) … A Chinese term to denote the stark difference between two persons. Like when they converse but can’t speak each other’s lingo or if when the twain will not meet. Usage – “ Wah, I see the Indian talk to the Korean ah.. like one chicken one duck lidat.”
8/ You Eat Air (sik fung in Cantonese, jiak hong in Hokkien or makan angin in Bahasa) … it simply means one is going on a holiday or on travelling for leisure. “ Ho seh la, this long weekend I go Penang jiak hong.”
9/ Eat Sharksfin Rice (sik yu chi fan) … sharksfin soup, being an “affluent and elitist” dish, when eaten over rice is used to denote extreme affluence. One is so rich, they can treat sharksfin soup as peasant fare, over the humble bowl of rice. Usage “Wah, you eat sharksfin rice wan ah? “
10/ No Fish Prawns Also Can (bo her hay ah ho) … the Hokkiens say this to mean that one can settle for less or it’s better than nothing, as prawns are cheaper than fish. Usage – “ Alamak, I kena 4D consolation prize only.. bo her hay ah ho.”
11/ Blur Sotong … a Malay term meaning one is not very bright nor clear in the situation. When a school of sotong or squid gathers under the lights of a fishing boat, one cannot see them all clearly… they look like a mass of translucent blur wiggling about. Usage – “Ask you to turn right, you go left. You blur sotong lah.”
12/ I Only Ikan Bilis … a Malay term for someone who’s low in the rankings or position.. a small fry or in this case ikan bilis (or anchovies). Usage- “Don’t ask me la, ask my boss.. I only ikan bilis.”