top of page

What Singaporeans Say vs What They Mean - Mispronunciations

What Singaporeans say vs What they mean

1. Askew me

Used when: They need someone to give way.

Loose translation: Excuse me / Sorry for pushing you.

It’s like we leave the house every morning with a piece of hot coal in our shoes – Singaporeans walk fast. They’ve got somewhere they’ve got to be at and they’ve got no time for the scenery, the birds and the ones who cannot walk fast enough. We’ve established this system that usually works – Don’t talk, just walk.

If you want to jalan-jalan ( read: walk leisurely), head down to Orchard to shop or to East Coast Park because slow-pacers ruin the system anywhere else.

Every Singaporean’s peak hour public transport nightmare? Getting stuck behind a group of slow pacers – they’re talking and taking up the entire walkway, and could they be any slower? (Points if you read that in Chandler’s voice)

We’re usually in this default zombie-mode, so our instinct is to find the weakest link in the group – the two people with the biggest gap in between so that we can slip right through. But if that’s not possible, we do the next best thing.

Clear our throats, angle our heads up slightly, and in a tone that’s pretty lifeless, mutter:

Askew me.

What we really mean is, excuse me, either move aside or start walking at a decent pace.

Ah, but that can also mean a different thing.

Picture this: You’re doing your weekly grocery shopping at a supermarket. It’s a busy morning and the place is filled with people. You’re standing in the middle of the aisle looking for a specific brand of mushrooms (I don’t know why I said mushrooms but just go with it, okay?) when someone pushes you slightly.

Askew me.

What they really mean is, sorry for pushing you but you were in my way.

But honestly though, standing in the middle of the aisle? What were you even thinking?!

2. Tree P.M

Used when: Setting a time to meet for tea / Giving a deadline

Loose translation: 3 pm, but depending on who you’re meeting, +/- half an hour.

When you’re at a restaurant – Tree glasses of cold water please.

When you’re at work – Make sure it’s done by tree pm please.

When you’re counting the number of trees in your garden – Tree trees.

It’s no wonder why people think Singapore’s insane about trees, green country and all.

Bonus point: chelve o’clock.

What we really mean: 12 o’clock.

3. Macdonna

Used when: We’re drunk and want to go for supper

Loose translation: Macdonalds / Maccas

Or if Madonna made her own burger at Macdonalds, this is what she’d probably call it.

On Friday nights at 4 am, if you strain your ears and listen really carefully in the direction of Zouk, you could probably hear very faint whispers of ‘Swee Choon or Macdonna?’

4. M AH T

Used when: We’re complaining about another train breakdown

Loose translation: MRT - That 'annoyingly unreliable thing' we need to be more grateful for.

The phrase 'packed like sardines' needs to move aside for the new colloquial term- packed like Singaporeans on the train.

I die a little bit inside when I have to take the train during peak hour periods but honestly, you haven't experienced the Singapore culture if you haven't been pressed up against three different people on our MRT train at 7am on a Tuesday.

As much as we complain about the breakdowns and unreliability, we cannot do without our M Ah T.

5. Wah the Fak

Used when: Surprised, angry, happy, sad, shocked, disappointed, scared...

Loosely translated: What the fuck?

Also the world's most expressive phrase, I like to believe that Singaporeans have given it another level of meaning when they replace what with wah.

wah the fak means wow! What the fuck!

We don't mispronounce it unconsciously, we do it on purpose.

bottom of page