Sunday, December 9, 2007


The other day, I was shopping at a supermarket when I overheard the following conversation between a mother and her son.

Mother: You got tell your dad that we are going to the stationery section?

Son: I got tell dad just now.

Mother: You never follow what I tell you one.

Son: Where got? I always do what you call me to do what.

I could not bear listening to them any further and walked away from them. If any foreign English-speaking man or woman happens to catch what they are saying, he or she will certainly get confused and cannot understand them.

The mother and son are actually talking in Penang Manglish (Malaysian English). If you think of the sentence structure they use as Hokkien ( a Chinese dialect), then their conversation is comprehensible.

The two conversationalists used 'got' to mean 'wu' (have) in Hokkien. Hence the sentence "You got tell your dad we are going to the stationery section?" was translated from "'Lu wu kong hor lu A pa chai lan lang khee boon khee por boh?'' in Hokken. The correct English sentence would have been "Have you told your dad that we are going to the stationery section?"

The first answer given by the son, that is, "I got tell dad just now." comes from Hokkien which is "Gua wu kong hor papa chai ta ma." However, it would be standard English if he had said "I did tell dad just now." [Note: 'ta ma' in Hokkien means 'just now']

The second sentence uttered by the mother contains 'one' which is redundant but rampant in Manglish.

As for the second reply by the son, the standard English should be "That is not true. I always do what you ask me to do." instead of "Where got. I always do what you call me to do."

"Where got" actually resembles Malay structure, that is "Mana ada" and in Penang Hokkien which invariably mixes Malay with the Chinese dialect, it is 'Mana wu". The word 'call' is also often used in place of 'ask' in Penang Manglish.

Penangites who speak Manglish like to end a sentence with 'what' which is redundant too.

If there is a word I can coin to describe the Manglish spoken by Penangites it will be 'Penanglish'.

So much for Penanglish for today.

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