Queues! Queues! Queues! Everywhere you turn, it seems there is almost always a line of people… Wait a sec, this activity of waiting in line is recognized as a Singaporean past-time. Suddenly it all seems to be clearer, doesn’t it? 🙂

This national hobby — it’s more like an obsession — was in full play recently inside a bustling Orchard Road mall. What were people up to there? Listen close: they were queuing for food! Waiting for hours, jostling for space to hit the latest imported food craze. Sure looked like marketing hype had peaked!

There’s another popular venue to witness this herd behaviour — property launches. Cooling measures notwithstanding, large crowds can be seen cramped inside show flats (local term here), eyeing a piece of that coveted luxury to call their own. When the market was red hot, queues started forming overnight before doors opened; and there were those who paid proxies to “chope place”! (Singlish term)

With the annual Great Singapore Sale coming soon, the situation isn’t gonna get better as shoppers fight (literally) over deals and claim freebies too. Will you be joining the queues too? For sure, I’d give this a miss!

Singlish — Lesson Five

And so the story goes that Singaporeans like to be first. So being in a queue just to beat the Joneses isn’t that unthinkable. Case of the early bird catching the worm? Or just plain kiasu-ism at work?

But what are you really doing when you are queuing? You are waiting! Waiting to move nearer to whatever “target” you are aiming to get to….


So, it ain’t surprising that the word “wait” has a place in the Singlish vocab. Don’t be fooled though, it isn’t as lame as using it to mean the passing of time. “Wait” has its characteristic purpose, much like the other innocent-looking words like “one”, “got”, “then” and “already” which you already (ahem!) know.

Word for word, “wait” in Singlish is more like “wait a sec”, after its Chinese namesake 等一下. But it isn’t exactly what it says! Confused? Well, “wait” is actually used to warn of consequences, for example, should one not comply or heed advice.

Like when a mother admonishes her child: “Don’t anyhow jump up jump down; wait you fall down then you know!” By the way, that’s a real classic application of quite a few Singlish words 😉 Let’s take it from here…

  • 别乱
  • 跳上跳下,
  • 等一下
  • 你跌倒
  • 知道(痛)!
  • Don’t anyhow
  • jump up jump down;   
  • wait
  • you fall down
  • then
  • (you) know (pain)!   
  • 已经
  • 迟到了!
  • 等一下
  • 错过
  • 班机
  • 怎么办?
  • Late
  • already! *   
  • Wait
  • miss
  • the plane
  • then how?   
  • * Note word order swap here — in Chinese, it says “already late!”

Speak Good English

How do we say those sentences using proper English?

Don’t say this: Don’t anyhow jump up jump down; wait you fall down then you know!
Say this instead: Don’t jump up and down haphazardly; you will get hurt when you fall!

Don’t say this: Late already! Wait miss the plane then how?
Say this instead: I’m running late! What if I missed my flight?

Already Call Taxi, Then Got to Wait One

Patience, my friend. Everything also got to wait one. There are others waiting too (pun intended), if that’s any consolation. At least you are first in line, mah. “Good things come to those who wait,” they say; I must add: “and put in effort.”

It is the same with learning a foreign language, albeit a so-called broken one. Mastery takes time and patience, so take it one step at a time with my Singlish Primer lessons, available only on WittyCulus.com.

When you can use five Singlish words in a row like in the heading of this section, you know you have arrived. Meanwhile, have a look at what I’d covered previously:

Don’t just sit around. Practise and get good at Singlish, while I prepare the ingredients for Lesson Six…

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