Languages rock - Foreign terms which mean completely different things in Singapore - Alvinology

Languages rock – Foreign terms which mean completely different things in Singapore

In increasingly cosmopolitan Singapore, languages can be really fun across culture and usage. Here are ten examples which I encountered myself:

1. Kani Nabe.

Languages rock - Foreign terms which mean completely different things in Singapore - Alvinology

In Japanese, it refers to delicious crab hotpot. In Singlish, Kani Nabe means “fxxk your father”.

2. Paul Lampard

Languages rock - Foreign terms which mean completely different things in Singapore - Alvinology

In English, Paul Lampard is the name of an ordinary English lad. In Singlish, it is used to refer to any lad who likes to carry balls and ass lick.

3. Chicken Pie or Cheese Pie

Languages rock - Foreign terms which mean completely different things in Singapore - Alvinology

In English, the former is a pie with cooked chicken filling while the latter is a dessert pie. In Singlish, they are both euphemism for “Cheebye (vagina in hokkien)”. The former was popularised by online comedian, Steven Lim when he cursed someone as a Chicken Pie in one of his videos.

4. Go Fly Kite

Languages rock - Foreign terms which mean completely different things in Singapore - Alvinology

In English, it would literally means going to fly a kite. In Singlish, it is a term used when asking someone to buzz off and go do something else instead of standing around being a busybody.

5. Blue Bird

Languages rock - Foreign terms which mean completely different things in Singapore - Alvinology

It’s the name of a cab brand in Indonesia. In the English world, it can refer to Twitter, whose company logo is that of a blue bird. In Singapore, it’s translated as “lan jiao” in hokkien, with the same pronunciation for a penis.

6. Ne Ne

Languages rock - Foreign terms which mean completely different things in Singapore - Alvinology

In Korean it just means “yes yes” and there is a popular fried chicken chain called Nene Chicken. In Singapore, ne ne is breasts in hokkien, which makes Nene Chicken, Chicken breasts.

7. Hum

Languages rock - Foreign terms which mean completely different things in Singapore - Alvinology

In English, it refers to humming of music. In Singlish, it refers to cockles. The term is popularised by Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong and his catchphrase, “Mee Siam Mai Hum (malay noodle with no cockles)”.

8. Sian

Languages rock - Foreign terms which mean completely different things in Singapore - Alvinology

Pronounced as Shaun in English, it is a common female name. In Singlish, it is read as “si-an” which means bored.

9. Michael Jackson

Languages rock - Foreign terms which mean completely different things in Singapore - Alvinology

In English, refers to the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, famous for songs like Black or White. In Singlish, you can order it as a mixed beverage consisting of soya bean milk (white in colour) and grass jelly drink (black in colour) at the local food centre.

10. Papaya

Languages rock - Foreign terms which mean completely different things in Singapore - Alvinology

In English, it refers to a tropical fruit. In Singapore, it is also a derogatory name for supporters of the ruling party, PAP (People’s Action Party). The party’s colour is white though, not orange.

If you have more such interesting terms to share, do share them in the comments. If there are enough interesting shares, I will put up a part 2 for this post or maybe even serialise it. 🙂

7 comments
      1. Kani Nabe came from Kan Nin Lao Bu Eh CB. Over time it has shorten to Kan Ni Nao Bu Eh… And eventually Kan Nin Na Bei to Kani Nabe.

  1. Dude, a lot of your references are off. “Go fly a kite is not English (England), but American English and it is a “figurative” expression that translates to both. “Go fly a kite!” = beat it, etc as you noted and “You/We/I (subject) goes to fly a kite is literal action. Hope it helps. As for the rest, I’ll leave for another day. Singapore while cosmopolitan, has a terrible use of Engiish considering it’s the main language thanks to the Brits (or not depending on your position). It’s messy English over there, with an odd memory loss that forgets we all speak it (even Americans) because of our mates hailing from that little island of Great Britain. Cheers man & do more research before informing your readers. A

    1. It’s just because they speak not just English but also Hokkien -and- Malay -and- Mandarin (and sometimes something else too) and those are just the basics that they use, not taking into account the fact that some people take language classes like German, Frech, Japanese, Italian or Spanish so its fun playing with words and using slangs like that haha. I dont think it’s terrible use it’s just local culture like you probably have yourself in your own region and I don’t think anyone forgets that almost everyone else speaks it too bc they know whats proper english when they need it (like professionally maybe) so I wonder what personal experience made you think all that 😀

  2. 7-Mee Siam where got hum? It’s char kway teow lah 😝
    8-Shaun and Sian say it out loud sounds the same meh? 😛
    9-must be something new? Never heard of it
    3- I don’t get it ???🧐
    10- is for people who show off ya ya papaya the term for PAP is pay & pay 😂

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