I’ve been a subscriber of this particular web service that sends me a word a day, in an attempt to boost my vocabulary, one word at a time.

Today, I was stunned for about 2.586 seconds when I opened the email for the day and was faced with something that looked distorted, mangled, but yet so familiar.

The word of the day was “Orrery“.

The reason for my surprise was that I had been under the impression for a moment that Singlish had made its way into an internationally recognised website that specialises in the English language.

You see, I mistook “Orrery” to be the Singlish equivalent of the word “Already“. “Huh?” you say…?

To our many athletes and officials who will be coming to Singapore, at some point in time, you will be communicating with Singaporeans who may or may not be completely comfortable in Queen’s English. Those who don’t speak perfect English may come across as speaking some strange, abbrieviated, somewhat-curt form of English, sprinkled with “la”, “leh”, “lor”. This, my friends, is Singlish.

Phua Chu Kang

Mr Phua, ex-Singlish icon, now speaks good English

Academics call it Singapore Colloquial English, and it has its roots in English, Malay, Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Tamil, Bengali, Punjabi, and to some extent, American and Australian slang. (See wikipedia)

While the government is serious about getting Singaporeans to speak good English so that we may be better understood, I think it’s fair to say that it’ll be awhile before Singlish is in any danger of being wiped out.

So, I thought this might be an appropriate time to introduce some of the most likely Singlish terms you’ll hear during the Games.

Alamak: An exclamation of dismay, surprise or alarm. e.g. “Alamak! I left my gold medal in the toilet!”

Catch no ball: Means to completely not understand. e.g. “When the new coach talks, I catch no ball

Shiok: Expression denoting extreme pleasure or the highest quality. Note that this is also the way that SYOGOC (short for Singapore Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee) is pronounced. E.g. “That chicken curry was shiok!”

Horlumpick: A common mispronounciation of Olympic. e.g. “Are you here for the Youth Horlumpicks?”
(Definitions derived from http://www.talkingcock.com)

If you’re interested in finding out more about Singlish, check out this link.


Ohhhh... so that's what it is.

And for your information, an Orrery is the actual term for “a mechanical model of the solar system that represents the relative motions of the planets around the sun.”

Now you know orerry.