Singlish spoken here - so far

SINGAPORE, THE island state that banned chewing gum as a public menace, has turned its attention to the language spoken by its long-suffering citizens.

The target is "Singlish", a hotchpotch of English and Malay, with Mandarin and other Chinese dialects. Its cosmopolitan vocabulary in a Chinese sentence structure is usually unintelligible to English speakers.

The question "Are you confused?" comes out as "You blur like sotong?" while "Stop messing about" is "Don't pray pray, lah." And the latest Austin Powers film, The Spy Who Shagged Me, was released here as The Spy who Shioked Me: "shiok" means any enjoyable experience. The basics of Singlish are easy to pick up: just add "lah" to the end of your sentences - although this can change to a "leh" or a "lor" depending on the meaning.

The Senior Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, responsible for the ban on chewing gum, has called for Singlish to be actively discouraged in favour of Mandarin Chinese - which Singa- poreans have been told is "a modern and vibrant language that is a key to a whole world of opportunities".

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