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20 underrated Singlish expressions that you should use everyday

Which ones do you use the most?

By Shi Min Xie | Dec 31, 2015

  • 20 underrated Singlish expressions that you should use everyday
    Photo credit: Michael Elleray

We all know that Singlish is incredibly nuanced, but who knew that some words had so many meanings? Here's a look at our favorites.

1. Hong Kan (Liao)

What it means: It literally translates to "screw a dog," and used to express extreme disappointment, anger, and the fact that everything is going wrong.
How it's used: He didn't sent the annual report to boss? Wah, hong kan liao lor.

2. Hoot

What it means: Bet, buy or beat.
How it's used: He's raising the pot. Want to hoot not? / You do that again I hoot you! / You go where hoot this phone? Very nice!

3. Adoi!

What it means: Oh my god! It's used to express pain, grief, or disappointment at someone's stupidity.
How it's used: Adoi ah! Why you go and drink bleach?

4. Guai Lan

What it means: Some say it's a translation from Hokkien to mean "bad egg," while others think it literally translates to "strange dick." It refers to someone who is utter exasperating and annoying.
How it's used: He's very guai lan, confirm will criticize your work like mad after you hand it in.

5. Bo Jio

What it means: "Jio" used to mean "too woo," and then it evolved into "to invite someone out."  And now we have the blame-filled expression "bo jio" to blame someone who didn't call you to go have fun. 
How it's used: Eh, got party at Zouk. Don't say I bojio, hor. Wah, you go watch Star Wars without me! Bojio!

6. Bang Balls

What it means: A particularly vulgar phrase that's derived from Hokkien's "lam pah pah lan," which describes a man's nether regions, um, clashing together.

How it's used: Wah bang balls, i didn't know she allergic to seafood!

7. Dao

What it means: Aloof, slightly arrogant, unfriendly.
How it's used: Wah, she's so dao. I said hi to her she neh reply.

8. Anyhowly

What it means: To haphazardly do something without proper instructions.
How it's used: You read the recipe properly then cook, ok. Don't anyhowly put the ingredients, hor

9. Manja

What it means: Used to describe the whiny and needy behavior of women (hello negative gender stereotypes), but nowadays it also refers to people who whine for attention.
How it's used: My cat is very manja; I come home and already she wants attention.

10. Wayang

What it means: The literal meaning comes from Indonesian puppet theater, but it also means to pretend or to put on an act when nothing is being done.
How it's used: This meeting wayang only lah. You think they gonna promote you meh?

11. (Sibeh) Sian

What it means: Bored. Worse than ennui type of bored. Boredom beyond compare.
How it's used: Wah, sibeh sian. I resign liao but I dunno what kind of job I want to do.

12. Buay Hiao Bai

What it means: Thick-skinned, arrogant.
How it's used: Wah, he so buay hiao bai, I said I met a handsome guy and he asked if it was him. *Eyeroll*

 

13. Ngiao

What it means: Picky, micromanage-y, difficult to work with
How it's used: She's very ngiao; go grocery shopping with her she must see the fruit completely no spots, then she buy.

14. One Kind

What it means: It comes from the phrase, "one of a kind," using it to mean a myriad of negative traits to refer to someone who is difficult, inconsiderate, selfish and unaccommodating.
How it's used: My brother very one kind; I asked him where he buy the ramen he dowan tell me.

15. Own Time Own Target

What it means: An army term used during live-firing practice, but now it means to do something at leisure as there is no deadline.
How it's used: Ok, now you do as many push-ups as you can. Own time own target.

16. Pai Than

What it means: It refers to a task or a job that's not worth what you're getting paid for.
How it's used: Aiya, I do so much sai kang and earn so little; this job very pai than leh.

17. Suka-suka

What it means: Malay for "to like," it means to do according to one's wishes and not follow instructions.
How it's used: Don't suka-suka use the blue pot to cook, or the landlady will kill you.

18. Bo Pian

What it means: It used to mean "no change" in Hokkien, but now it means that you can't do anything about a presumably bad situation.
How it's used: I kicked up a big fuss and they still say cannot give me a refund! Bo pian.

19. Ji Siao

What it means: To annoy, make fun of, ridicule.
How it's used: He oreddy so embarrassed, don't ji siao him and his crush, la.

20. Win Liao Lor/Oreddy

What it means: Something you say to concede an argument, or to say that someone is better than you, or to grudgingly acquiesce to someone's request.
How it's used: Wah siao! You want me to buy so many branded bags ah? You win liao lor.

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