Tuesday October 2, 2012
Oddities in Malaysian English
By PEGGY TAN
MALAYSIANS have their own brand of English which is quite distinct from that spoken by the native speakers in Britain.
Since the emphasis in Malaysia has been on communicative English, the teaching of grammar to students in schools has been somewhat neglected, leading to some oddities in Malaysian English.
There is a tendency by local speakers to reduce the number of syllables in certain words. Thus Malaysian speakers have contracted “spectacles” to “specs” and “darling” to “dar”. Indeed, when my auntie was calling my uncle “Dar! Dar!”, my British friend, Rose, was startled.
“What on earth is ‘Dar’?” she enquired with a quizzical look.
When I explained that it means “darling”, she giggled and pointed out that Malaysians have interesting ways of changing English words.
While such words have been shortened, another useful form of contraction is the acronym.
Some off-beat Malaysian ones include:
PhD: Doctorate in Permanent Head Damage
MBA: Married But Available to others
MC: Medical Certificate or Male Chauvinist
Other oddities in our English includes using the word “horn” as a verb. This reveals how language use may be changed by a group of speakers, whereas standard English uses “horn” only as a noun.
Take “trumpet” for example: “She is always trumpeting the cleverness of her daughter; or “drum”: “Peter drummed on the table with his fingers”. Here, the words can be used as nouns or verbs; whereas neither “horn” nor “guitar” can be used as verbs.
Here is a list of local expressions and words which are not standard English:
Local use: The man horned loudly.
Standard English: The man sounded his horn loudly.
In standard English, horn is a noun, not a verb.
Local use: Chop this form, please.
Standard English: Please stamp this form.
In standard English, chop means “to cut into pieces”.
Local use: Please off the lights when you leave the room.
Standard English: Please switch off the lights when you leave the room.
In standard English, on and off are not verbs.
Local use: We cannot cut buses on this busy road.
Standard English: We cannot pass (or overtake) buses on this busy road.
Local use: Open the lights. Open the screw.
Standard English: Switch on the lights. Loosen the screw.
In standard English we cannot “open the lights”, though we can “open the door”.
Local use: I will follow you to the party,
Standard English: I will go with you to the party.
In standard English, follow means “to go behind”.
> Peggy Tan is a lecturer by day, a writer by night, as well as a mountain climber and scuba diver on weekends.