Sunday 8 November 2009

Singlish 'sounds like chattering chimpanzees fighting over bananas'

As a narcissist (a pre-requisite for being a columnist), I frequently go to YouTube to read the comments on the videos of Phua Chu Kang episodes that I produced.

The comments are usually positive because it’s mostly only fans and narcissistic columnists who would search for PCK videos on YouTube.

So I was taken aback a week ago when I came across this comment by someone called KaydenKolldy.

He wrote: “What kind of language is this? It sounds like chattering chimpanzees fighting over bananas. Do Singaporeans speak this? I don't know how you gooks understand anything.”

For the kicker, he ended with: “PS You Asians are fucking ugly.”

KaydenKolldy posted this same comment on at least three different PCK videos, which suggests that he was trolling for a fight – and found it.

One YouTube user responded in kind: “You Australians are fucking stupid.”Another wrote: “Fuck you asshole...don’t be a racist douche bag.”

Another managed to address KaydenKolldy’s query without any expletives: “This is ‘Singlish’, a kind of English mixed with Hokkien and Malay.”

To which the alleged "racist douche bag" responded: “Geez, it sounds horrible. You Asians seem to rot everything you touch. Languages included.”

According to his YouTube profile, Kayden John Koldy is 23 and from Australia.

He reminds me of someone I know from university in the US who called me “ricehead” all the time. His name is Darren and he became my best friend.

I was too young and innocent then to know that “ricehead” was a racial slur. I just thought it was funny.I was more offended when supposedly “politically correct” Americans referred to me as “people of colour”. I have a colour?

For all his white supremacist posturing, Darren had befriended me because he was interested in Asian martial arts and thought that since I'm Asian, I could teach him some kungfu.

Unfortunately for him, the only Asian art I know is the traditional Japanese art of paper-folding, origami. I don’t want to brag, but I can fold a mean paper crane - blindfolded. So you really don’t want to mess with me.

Darren and I used to shoot pool with a couple of freshmen from Japan whom he called "nips". He explained to me that "nips" was short for Nippon, which was another word for Japan. I didn't know that. I thought Nippon was a brand of paint.

I believe Darren learned these, uh ... "nicknames" from his father who fought in the Korean War. I have met both Darren's parents and have become very fond of them.

I lost contact with Darren for a few years after I returned to Singapore, but he got in touch again recently through the miracle of Facebook.

To my surprise, the guy who used to call me “ricehead” is now not only teaching English in Taiwan, he even married a Taiwanese woman. My guess is he doesn’t call his wife “ricehead”.

I can only hope that one day KaydenKolldy will see the light too. What troubles me about his comments isn’t so much his vicious bigotry, but the viciousness reciprocated by those attacking his comments. Hate begets hate.

Even PCK would be appalled.

- Published in The New Paper, 8 November 2009