Singlish Demystified (end of sentences)
Keng Leong Yeo
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If you ever visit or have visited Singapore, you may be mystified by our mishmash of English, Chinese, Malay and a number of dialects, or what is more commonly known as Singlish mb.

Here's an attempt to demystify at least part of it.

One of the first things you may notice is the myriad of ways with which we end our sentences. In this geeklist, I will make a valiant attempt to explain these, by a series of examples based on the word "on" and my Significant Other:
Christina Ng
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说了又不听,听了又不懂,不懂又不问,问了又不做,做了又做错,错了又不认,认了又不改,改了又不服,不服又不说,那你要我怎麽办?
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P.S. If this geeklist takes off, I may explore other aspects of Singlish in a series of geeklists, time permitting. ninja

Other Singlish geeklists
Singlish Demystified (ordering drinks)
Singlish Demystified (phrases tangentially related to board gaming)
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1. Board Game: All About White Plains [Average Rating:5.00 Unranked]
 
Keng Leong Yeo
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Plain Vanilla "On"

Meaning
Without any additions, "on" is a firm confirmation that the speaker is accepting your invitation. It is not usually used with strangers. Indeed, its usage hints at certain closeness between the speaker and listener and they have probably known each other for some time.

Possible Origins
Shortening of "come on", "switch on (lights)" or "turn on (tap)".

Example
Friend: Tomorrow play Three Kingdoms Redux?
(Would you like to play Three Kingdoms Redux tomorrow?)
Me: On. cool
(Yes, definitely.)

There are other usages of "on" and to not confuse readers, I will not be elaborating on those. The rest of the examples are based on the above meaning.

Note also that the intonation of "play" in "tomorrow play Three Kingdoms Redux" indicates if it is a question or a statement. A higher intonation implies a question, whilst a firm and short intonation implies a statement.
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2. Board Game: A Bold Stroke: The Soviet Liberation of Kiev, 1943 [Average Rating:6.36 Unranked]
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Lah

Meaning
"Lah" is used to emphasize the main message of the sentence. If the "lah" is short and succinct, "on lah" means "ok ok I will join in, stop haggling me". If the "lah" is longer, i.e. "laaaah", "on lah" means "just join in", i.e. urging the other party to join in.

Possible Origins
Chinese word 啦 or Malay word used to soften a command.

Example
Friend: Tomorrow play Three Kingdoms Redux?
(Would you like to play Three Kingdoms Redux tomorrow?)
Me: ... gulp
Friend: No need to think so long. shake On laaah.
(There is no need to take so much time to consider. Just agree.)
Me: On lah on lah.
(Ok ok, got it. I will join in.)
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3. Board Game: Soft Underbelly: Italy 1943 [Average Rating:6.18 Overall Rank:12522]
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Leh

Meaning
"Leh" is used to soften the impact of the main message, and sometimes used to coax the listener to agree with you. "On leh" means "please say you can come along".

Possible Origins
Hokkien word 咧. Hokkien is a local dialect, used mostly by the elderly or in the army.

Example
Friend: Tomorrow play Three Kingdoms Redux?
(Would you like to play Three Kingdoms Redux tomorrow?)
Me: ... gulp
Friend: No need to think so long. On leh.
(There is no need to take so much time to consider. Please?)
Me: OK, on.
(Aright, I'll join in.)
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4. Board Game: I Doubt It [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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Meh

Meaning
"Meh" is used to express doubt and question the listener. "On meh" means "are you sure (subject) is coming" or "are you sure the event is taking place".

Possible Origins
Cantonese word 咩. Cantonese is a local dialect, used mostly by the elderly. Cantonese is of course used widely in Hong Kong, as well as by many Malaysians.

Example
Friend: Tomorrow play Three Kingdoms Redux?
(Would you like to play Three Kingdoms Redux tomorrow?)
Me: On. cool
(Yes, definitely.)
Friend: I ask Christina liao. She also on. thumbsup
(I have asked Christina. She said she is joining us.)
Me: Christina on meh? I thought she busy?
(Are you sure Christina is able to come? I thought she is busy with something else?)
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5. Board Game: Liar's Dice [Average Rating:6.92 Overall Rank:611]
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Arh

Meaning
"Arh" is used to question the listener, often in a rhetorical manner. "On arh" means "are you sure (subject) is coming, I seriously doubt it".

Possible Origins
Chinese word 啊.

Example
Friend: Tomorrow play Three Kingdoms Redux?
(Would you like to play Three Kingdoms Redux tomorrow?)
Me: On. cool
(Yes, definitely.)
Friend: I ask Christina liao. She also on. thumbsup
(I have asked Christina. She said she is joining us.)
Me: Christina on arh? I thought she busy?
(Are you really sure Christina is able to come? I am pretty sure she is busy with something else.)
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6. Board Game: Duncan Hamilton Invites You to Race at Oulton Park [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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Mah
"Mah" has two meanings. The first is read with rising intonation on the "ah". The second has a stronger and longer "ah".

----------------------------------------------------

First Meaning
"Mah" is used in place of the question mark. "On mah" means "would you like to join in".

Possible Origins
Chinese word 嗎.

Example
Friend: Tomorrow play Three Kingdoms Redux. On mah.
(There is a Three Kingdoms Redux session tomorrow. Want to join in?)
Me: On. cool
(Yes, definitely.)

----------------------------------------------------

Second Meaning
"Mah" is used to emphasize that the main message is obviously true. It carries some contempt. "On mah" means "it is obvious (subject) is joining in".

Possible Origins
Cantonese word 咩.

Example
Friend: Tomorrow play Three Kingdoms Redux. Christina on.
(There is a Three Kingdoms Redux session tomorrow. Christina is joining us.)
Me: How you know she on?
(How do you know Christina is joining us?)
Friend: She come every week, sure on one mah.
(She has been turning up every week. It is obvious that she will turn up this week too.)

P.S. See also "One" below.
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7. Board Game: Contra [Average Rating:6.36 Unranked]
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Wat

Meaning
"Wat" is used to express doubt or to contradict the listener. "(subject) on wat" means "that's incorrect, (subject) is joining us".

Possible Origins
Shortening of "what".

Example
Friend: Tomorrow play Three Kingdoms Redux. Lack one person. How? soblue
(There is a Three Kingdoms Redux session tomorrow. We need one more player. Any ideas?)
Me: Christina on wat.
(What you are talking about? Isn't Christina joining us?)
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8. Board Game: Yes! No! Game [Average Rating:4.29 Overall Rank:16291]
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Anot

Meaning
"Anot" is used in place of the question mark, but for yes/no question types. "On anot" means "would you or would you not join us".

Possible Origins
Shortening of "or not".

Example
Friend: Tomorrow play Three Kingdoms Redux. On anot.
(There is a Three Kingdoms Redux session tomorrow. Joining or not joining us?)
Me: On. cool
(Yes, definitely.)
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9. Board Game: Which Is It? [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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Izzit

Meaning
"Izzit" is used in place of the question mark, but for yes/no question types, similar to "anot". "On izzit" means "is (subject) joining us".

Possible Origins
Shortening of "is it".

Example
Friend: Tomorrow play Three Kingdoms Redux.
(There is a Three Kingdoms Redux session tomorrow.)
Me: You ask Christina anot? She on izzit.
(Have you invited Christina? Is she joining us?)
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10. Board Game: Doubles Checkers [Average Rating:3.00 Unranked]
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Hor

Meaning
"Hor" is used to double-check the issue with the listener. "On hor" means "(subject) is joining us, isn't (subject)".

Possible Origins
Hokkien word 好.

Example
Friend: Tomorrow play Three Kingdoms Redux. Christina on hor.
(There is a Three Kingdoms Redux session tomorrow. Christina is joining us, isn't she?)
Me: Yeah, she on. meeple
(Yes, she's joining us.)
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11. Board Game: The Big One [Average Rating:5.23 Unranked]
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One

Meaning
"One" is used to express confidence in the main message of the statement. "On one" means "trust me, (subject) is joining us".

Possible Origins
I'm not sure about this one.

Example
Friend: Tomorrow play Three Kingdoms Redux?
(Would you like to play Three Kingdoms Redux tomorrow?)
Me: On. But need one more person leh. gulp
(Yes, definitely, but we need one more player, don't we?)
Friend: Ask Christina. She on one. meeple
(We can try asking Christina. I am pretty sure she is interested.)
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12. Board Game: Blast from the Past [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
 
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Liao

Meaning
"Liao" is used to express past tense. "On liao" means "has confirmed (subject) is joining".

Possible Origins
Chinese word 了.

Example
Friend: Tomorrow play Three Kingdoms Redux. Christina on liao. thumbsup Wanna join in?
(There is a Three Kingdoms Redux session tomorrow. Christina has confirmed she is joining us. Would you like to join us?)
Me: Ok.
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13. Board Game: Reluctant Enemies [Average Rating:8.01 Overall Rank:2888]
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Lor

Meaning
"Lor" is used to express reluctant agreement with the listener. "On lor" means "ok ok, I will join in *sigh*".

Possible Origins
Cantonese word 囉.

Example
Friend: Tomorrow play Three Kingdoms Redux. Christina on liao. Lack one person. On mah?
(There is a Three Kingdoms Redux session tomorrow. Christina has confirmed she is joining us. We need one more player. Want to join in?)
Me: But I prefer Agricola.
Friend: Both of us prefer Three Kingdoms Redux leh.
(Both of us prefer Three Kingdoms Redux, so please?)
Me: On lor on lor... yuk
(Ok ok... what else can I say)
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14. Board Game: Surprise! [Average Rating:5.71 Unranked]
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Sia

Meaning
"Sia" is used to express surprise. "On sia" means "(subject) is coming?!?!?!".

Possible Origins
Malay vulgar word sial.

Example
Friend: Tomorrow play Three Kingdoms Redux. Believe anot, Christina say she on.
(There is a Three Kingdoms Redux session tomorrow. Believe it or not, Christina told me she is joining us.)
Me: Christina on sia. surprise
(Christina is joining us?! Unbelievable.)
Friend: Yeah. I will believe it when I see it tomorrow. ninja
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15. Board Game: Three Kingdoms Redux [Average Rating:8.01 Overall Rank:858]
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As it turned out, Christina did make it to the gaming session. Here's proof :
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