To lah, or not to lah?

Posted: April 23, 2010 in Culture, Family, Lifestyle

That is the question 😀

Lah is perhaps, the most renowned bastardised form of English word in Malaysian English.  Any ang moh ( literally translated as red head referring to a caucasian) who have lived in or worked in or visited Malaysia or Singapore will recognise this word immediately, which is a kind of a suffix, but not quite, because lah is not an affix to the end of a word, such as -ing, -s, -ness. Although, “lah” is used, or more so, spoken at the end of a word or sentence, it is simply an expression (“Yah lah” or “No lah“) or a way to put emphasis on a word (“Terror lah you ni” meaning someone who is looking or doing great in an adventurous way, or simply put, a dare-devil) or used to affirm a statement (“Don be so suku lah” or Don’t be such an idiot!)

My ang moh colleagues who have (ever) been posted to Malaysia for work, would more often than not, made sure that they ended up with a “lah” when starting (and ending) a conversation with me.  Funny, eh?  But it just came naturally, after knowing that I came from Malaysia 😀 ! “No lah, I din feel so sia-soi wan lah” (No, I was NOT humiliated or felt disgraced or ashamed at all). Infact I was quite amused. Indeed, “lah” is THE most reminiscent of all  Manglish (Mangled English) or Malglish (Malaysian English) word used outside Malaysia ;-).  I don’t think “lah” has been dictionarised.  Try googling for “lah” and you end up with “la” which takes you to the 6th note of any major scale.  Remember the song “Do-Re-Mi” from the acclaimed musical film, The Sound of Music ? Even Fräulein Maria (played by Julie Andrews) could not find a proper definition of the word “la” when teaching the musical notes to the Von Trapp children. In the song, “la” is simply, “a note to follow Sol or Sew in this case“.  The rest of the notes were defined with meaningful words which are dictionarised: Doe, Ray, Me, Far, Sew, La (bingo! the odd one out), Tea and back to Doe.  As with the “la” in the song, “Do-Re-Mi”, the manglish “lah” has no legitimate meaning at all.  My DH and both my boys, especially, tend to use the “lah” quite sparingly sometimes  😀 .  I once asked my older son what “lah” meant to him. And this was his answer.  “If you have a “lah” after a word or sentence, it brings the word or sentence to life, making it more cheerful”.  Then he said, playfully, “Yes lah, la la la la lah”  Not one “lah” but 6 “lah’s” and he was in seventh heaven! Hmmmm… I never thought of that.  So, do I care about them ending a word or sentence with a “lah“?  “No lah, y shud I k ar?” If it makes them delirious saying it, I’m thrilled!   With my younger son, this was his reply, “Mama, because you say lah, I follow you lah“. LOL!  He’s darn right, the cheeky little devil ;-). Oh dear, I have to be very careful in what I say…  Godverdomme, “lah” is not even a four letter word. Mind my language there, my Flemish-/Dutch-speaking friends 🙂 . “Lah” is probably one of the coolest and wittiest things to say. Yep, Malaysia’s very own trademark.  So, get real, man. We should all know our roots.  Malaysia is a multi-racial country and the result of this is the birth of Bahasa Rojak,”, an English-based creole language consisting of words originating from English,  Malay, Hokkien, Foochow, Hakka, Henghua, Teochew, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tamil, Eurasian , Melanau, Iban, Kadazan-Dusun, Bisaya, Bajau, Kedayan, Bidayuh, Kayan, Kenyah, Kelabit, Murut, Lun Bawang, Penan, and the list goes on and on and on! 

In old Malaya, English was the language of the administration, while Malay was spoken as the lingua franca of the street. Just imagine this: a Hokkien Ah Pek trying to strike a conversation with a Malay Pak Cik .  I would imagine them ending up saying something like this: “Lu tau ar, wa gostan gua punya motor and gua punya motor masok lalam longkang. Mata mali and gua kena saman. Alamak, how ar?” Try to decipher this one yourself. Maybe you are on your way to becoming a true Malaysian. LOL !

I believe I can vouch for being a living proof of one who grew up listening to and using the Rojak language.  With my colourful background of Melanau, Teochew, Hokkien, Hakka, Dusun, and Bidayuh, I was used to the most disfigured form of the English language.  Here’s one: “Sori laaa. Debei naseng aku gi shopping ari tok bor. So bladi juak wan” (Sorry, I have no mood going shopping today. It is bloody hot).  For the record, there were 6 different dialects/languages consolidated in that statement: English, Melanau, Bahasa Malaysia, Sarawak Malay, Iban, and Hokkien !! How polluted can that be? Let’s face it.  This is putting Malaysia on our lips and in our heart.  Living as ONE Malaysia! Why can’t Belgium learn from Malaysia? The unending crisis on the issue of Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde, (BHV) has really gone overboard. Imagine a ship in that situation.  We all know that the ship will SINK! Wake up Belgium!  Instead of splitting up the electoral districts of BHV into Flemish speaking and French speaking, would it not be better to integrate? Speak one language? Hello? I, for one, will be the first to vote for the Brussels dialect as the lingua franca of BHV. Period! 🙂

By the way, Malglish is a street language.  It’s hip-hop, ridiculous, hysterical, amusing, absurd all rolled into one. Let us also not forget the soul, the honesty, the simplicity and the magnetised impact it has on all Malaysians as this is one language that brings us together! Cheers to One Malaysia (a sum total of all races)! Sure can wan 😀

Have a nice day!

  1. Cynthia says:

    I support you on this one! Brussels BIG DIVIDE can really learn from us Sarawakians. Shame on them and a waste of tax money too!

    Maybe we should form a coalition?


  2. Dada says:

    of cos what, sure can do wan..hoh. i guess che you put the ‘lah’ definition in the net wikipedia. love reading it. what u wrote is very true lah. … ooppssss…ahh you see lah… memang Malaysians can’t live without ‘lah’ in their life…no matter how good they can speak English. the ‘lah’ is our daily vocabulary, no matter which language or dialect you speak. Ya lah ya owh.

  3. Nasifriet says:

    LOL! Eh Cynth, coalition party oredi form wan leh. The KCC 😀 All for one, one for all. Lu ey travelling anchua liao? Hope Ok liao laaa . Hee3x! C ya soon…

  4. Nasifriet says:

    Can can! No problem wan mah! Aiyah, no need lah to put on wiki laaa… Sapa mok baca blog aku tok, baca lah. Appreciate if u leave a comment or 2, so at least I know my blog does not go to waste lah, otherwise close shop. Die lor. LOL! A dua laieh aniek kou are looking forward for ka’ou jegem a tina tapak gak gitou. See u soon, Da!

  5. jules says:

    Wahlau yeh!!I have a feeling this blog has blown away all spectrum of the socio cultural fabric of what we see in politics, economics and tradition. Double thumbs up on this subject of “Lah”. BTW, my dearest Che, on our family blood /background,…you have inadvertantly missed out our Indian roots (from Karala)as I’ve been told. .

  6. Nasifriet says:

    Hahaha! Thanks for the heads up! There you go, another “distant” bloodline….Indian roots! We are really the United Colours of Benetton! LOL!

  7. jules says:

    Yeap!! But that’s not all…Niels and Kevin have got a couple more right…I believe they have got German, Dutch..and champur our roots, its just the greatest colourful, looking Rojak ever!!

  8. Nasifriet says:

    Precisely! And your boys, too (plus Henghua) 😀

  9. Jacinta Sonesson says:

    Cuz….after reading this one, I laughed so much…aiyoo…gia pandei kau toh lah! LOL…aku tidur pun pandei tawak pikir-pikir itu apek gostan motor, bikin gua tawak lah !! LOL !!!!

  10. Nasifriet says:

    LOL! Maseh ingat kau apa meaning gostan? Actually it came from the definition, go astern (to go backward, to reverse…) . Only Malaysians know this word. Mesti preserve tok bor.. 🙂

  11. Jacinta Sonesson says:

    Dora, I remember so well my first class with the driving instructor…nya bilang…OK…gostan sikit kereta…gostan sikit! LOL !!!

  12. Nasifriet says:

    LOL! Sama lah kita tok. My driving instructor pun pakei word ya when nya maok aku reverse aku pun kereta. It’s a very active word used over and over again for decades dah… Stay well, my dear 😀

Let me know your thoughts...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s