Former Write The World young writer hoping to help other young writers to improve through peer reviews.
Also a retired teenager. Semi-sweet and a little nutty.

Message from Writer

Hello you who read this line! Have you had a smile today?

Singlish Insight

March 11, 2016

PROMPT: Local Tongue

Before an NTUC Fairprice outlet was built near my home, I will head downstairs and get some sundries from the Mama Shop. Usually, there will be a few candy-apple red racks filled with traditional treats like Murukus and prawn crackers. Along the sides of the store are those lucky draw machines where a 20-cent coin can exchange for useless but awesome little toys like finger-lights or a scented-croissant keychain. The middle-aged, Indian shop-owner would be perched over the aged linoleum counter, reading a Tamil newspaper through rusty-rimmed spectacles that slid half-way down his Roman nose. His cosy store smells fondly of a musky concoction of Curry and Lemongrass. Every time I came along, he will lift his head and look at me through those worn lenses before pushing them up with a thick sausage finger.

"Girl ah, what you finding today?" He would ask in a benevolent voice in Singlish. 

"Hi Uncle! No lah, I just looking for milk and salt." I would reciprocate his greeting with the same tongue. 

"Oh, milk finish already, that one you come back tomorrow and see. Salt is over there." He points to one of the ochre-coloured shelves with the iconic yellow-white-red stripes and the trademark double pagodas of the namesake brand salt. I was astonished when the price of the salt was raised to $2 per packet. 

"Wah, uncle why so expensive? Yesterday still $1, inflation so fast I cannot tahan leh!" I protested. 

"Uncle sell cheapest already! You go see the other store all $2.50!" He instantly becomes a salt-price guru even though his store is the only one in the neighbourhood. 

"Really ah? Uncle you're damn nice!" I would beam at him. Feeling good at being praised, the Uncle gave me a 50-percent discount on the salt. We would bade each other goodbye and know that in another 24 hours, I would show up again at this little store. 

It has been seven years now, and the Mama Shop has since closed down. Some skeptics may think that Singlish dilute the essence of English. But I think many precious memories of Singaporeans young and old are encrusted in this version of language we have invented, like bargaining for salt at the Mama Shop on lazy afternoons. Perhaps that is the true spirit of language--it brings back tender and warm memories, for there are no days more full than those we go back to. Hence, Singlish is easily my favorite form of English. 
NTUC Fairprice: One of the largest supermarket chains in Singapore, where NTUC stands for National Trade Union Congress. 
Cannot tahan: unable to take it/unable to stand it. 


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  • March 11, 2016 - 8:06am (Now Viewing)

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