I’ve been living in Singapore for a mere three months, and I have probably heard this word at least a thousand times already — chope. No, it’s not a typo; there really is an awkward little “e” clinging for its life at the end, and that’s what makes this word so specially Singaporean. Chope means to reserve, to pre-book, or to claim. It’s basically American’s “callin’ dibs”. Singaporeans like to chope seats at hawker centres by leaving tissue packets or umbrellas on the seats or tables to reserve them while they go order. It seems easy enough to understand, but chope is not a universal language. Sometimes people come back to find their seat taken, and when they hold up a packet of tissue, you know their next sentence will be, “Oi! This seat I chope already. Cannot see meh?” The reason why Singaporeans tend to take such an aggressive stance is because “chope” has become as good as law. I’ve seen tissue packets designed with the word “chope” on it with big bold font; I wouldn’t be surprised if all the silver “reserved” signs are changed to “choped” signs.
This slang is not only used to reserve seats but is used everywhere else as well. It’s always a disadvantage when my classmates chope a presentation topic before me because I didn’t chope, or when they chope a group mate beforehand. I always burst into laughter when Valentine’s Day comes around, and “I chope you as my valentines” cards go flying around. Surprisingly, the word chope has become so orthodox that it integrates in further than just Singaporean culture; chope has become a social rule. If someone chope a seat, the seat goes to that person without argument or doubt. The Singlish word “chope” has more weight and authority than just a local slang.