You say To-MAY-to, I say To-MAH-to !

Posted: June 19, 2010 in Culture, Lifestyle

An English lady colleague was walking around her other colleagues’ desks looking for ‘something’.  While everyone else was either busy on the phone or was engrossed in his/her work, an American colleague (a guy) seemed to be her only ‘prey’.   

The English lady came up to the American guy and said, “Do you have a rubber that I can borrow, please?

Oh my God! You should have seen how the American colleague blushed! He was dumbstruck.  Speechless.  Dumbfounded.

“Er…..” that’s all he could say.

Then there was a sudden burst of laughter.  And the penny dropped and it dropped so hard on the American.  Right, a rubber for an English person is simply an eraser, while a rubber for an American is a slang for condom.  LOL!!

And mind you this was NOT a joke. It really happened!

This incident prompted me to write this week’s article 😀

“I had eggplant last night”.  Say what? Eggplant, you know the large plump, oblong, glossy, usually purple-skinned vegetable? Oh I see… you meant aubergine, right?  No lah, it must be brinjal laaa…..

Whatever it is, eggplant or aubergine or brinjal, they look and taste the same (almost)! Only the sizes, lengths and sometimes the colours may differ. An eggplant, or aubergine or brinjal is one of the main vegetables in dishes such as moussaka,  ratatouille or brinjal (vegetable) curry.  But the Thai aubergine or eggplant is really something else. Sorry, but I still have to get used to the awkward, bitter taste of that little whitish green “aubergine or eggplant”.  It tastes worlds apart from the aubergine or eggplant or brinjal I’m used to. Not sure why the Thais called them aubergine or eggplant, though? Anyone?

The first time I made guacamole, I realised I was referring to an “Americanized” recipe.  Why? Because one of the ingredients called for fresh cilantro leaves.  If you don’t already know, cilantro leaves are almost exactly the same as coriander leaves!

British Malaya  and  Malaysian Borneo were group of colonies of Great Britain, so it was and is only logical that the inhabitants embraced the British English language.  If you have read my post “To lah, or not to lah?” (posted 23rd Apr, 2010), I mentioned a Manglish word, “gostan”.  This word is derived from the English word “To go astern” or simply, to reverse (a vehicle). And “gohead” is derived from “To go ahead” or to proceed or continue.

Malaysians are champions in mimicking foreign words and phrases. Just like chameleons. It must be the “confused” system of English language taught in the schools.  Whao! Hold your horses my dear teachers! 😉  Let me finish. I’m not blowing the whistle on anyone personally, but face the truth. We have, or rather, had teachers graduated from the UK, the USA, Canada, NZ, OZ (Australia), India, S’pore and the result of these?  Why, of course, a mouthful of jumbled English pronunciations and spellings! LOL!

Here are some classic examples of English, but not quite English and yet is English.  Er….confused? Can’t blame you 😀

You’re a hard case. Good on ya, mate” (You are a joker. Congratulations, well done), beamed a teacher who graduated from New Zealand.

Where are you? Away with the pixies again?” (Are you daydreaming again?), yelled another who just came back from Australia.

Excuse me?” (I beg your pardon?), began a US graduate.

“Blimey! You’re bloody right” (Oh geez! You are absolutely right/ correct), bellowed a teacher who received her ‘square hat’ (degree or diploma) from the UK.

If you don’t put tempo in your work, you will not go to Univ” (If you are not putting any effort/ motivation in your work, you will not be able to go to the University), advised a teacher who just came back from New Delhi.

I see you’re wicked at your job, eh?” (I noticed that you are really amazing at what you are doing), insisted a Canadian grad.

Class, have you by heart your A to Z of kiasu philosophy yet?” reminded a Singapore graduate teacher.

By the way, here’s the philosophy taken from the website

Always must win Never mind what they think
Borrow but never return Outdo everyone you know
Cheap is good Pay only when necessary
Don’t trust anyone Quit while you are ahead
Everything also must grab! Rushing and pushing wins the race
Free! Free! Free! Sample are always welcome
Grab first talk later Take but don’t give
Help yourself to everything Unless it’s free forget it
I first, I want, I everything Vow to be number one
Jump queue Winner takes it ALL! ALL! ALL!
Keep coming back for more Yell if necessary to get what you want
Look for discount Zebras are kiasu because they want to
Must not lose face be both black and white at the same time

People, be warned when you say the word “fanny” when in NZ. It’s not the same as bottom!

Now what is porridge to you?  Malaysians, be warned! The English porridge is oatmeal (you know, from Quaker Oats?), and nothing to do with rice (bubur or Congee).

Football or Soccer?

Mum or Mom?

Biscuits or Cookies?

Garden or Yard?

Luggage or Baggage?

Autumn or Fall?

Boot or Trunk?

Chips or French (ahem…Belgian) Fries?

Petrol or Gasoline?

Return ticket or Round trip?

Saloon or Sedan?

Sweets or Candy?

Underground or Subway?

Caretaker or Janitor?

Flat or Apartment?

Lift or Elevator?

Realise or Realize?

A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose. English is English is English is English. These verbal bickerings have been going on since time immemorial between using American English or British English or Malaysian English or whatever English. Bah!

I rest my case!

By the way, here’s a song to remind us that whatever or however we say the word(s), To-MAY-to, To-MAH-to, these are nothing but unimportant differences.

Happy listening!

Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off!

Things have come to a pretty pass,
Our romance is growing flat,
For you like this and the other
While I go for this and that.
Goodness knows what the end will be;
Oh, I don’t know where I’m at…
It looks as if we two will never be one,
Something must be done.

You say eether and I say eyether,
You say neether and I say nyther;
Eether, eyether, neether, nyther,
Let’s call the whole thing off!
You like potayto and I like potahto,
You like tomayto and I like tomahto;
Potayto, potahto, tomayto, tomahto!
Let’s call the whole thing off!
But oh! If we call the whole thing off,
Then we must part.
And oh! If we ever part,
Then that might break my heart!
So, if you like pajamas and I like pajahmas,
I’ll wear pajamas and give up pajahmas.
For we know we need each other,
So we better call the calling off off.
Let’s call the whole thing off!

You say laughter and I say lawfter,
You say after and I say awfter;
Laughter, lawfter, after, awfter,
Let’s call the whole thing off!
You like vanilla and I like vanella,
You, sa’s’parilla and I sa’s’parella;
Vanilla, vanella, Choc’late, strawb’ry!
Let’s call the whole thing off!
But oh! If we call the whole thing off,
Then we must part.
And oh! If we ever part,
Then that might break my heart!
So, if you go for oysters and I go for ersters
I’ll order oysters and cancel the ersters.
For we know we need each other,
So we better call the calling off off!
Let’s call the whole thing off

Have a fantastic week ahead!  See you soon!


  1. PingS says:

    Oh I experienced the same thing at work. About the ‘rubber’ story you mentioned. Hahaha. It’s amazing how one word is interpreted differently between Uk English and US English. if I’m not mistaken the word “suspenders’ is interpreted differently in UK and US.
    Thanks for posting the song from Lous Armstrong & Ella F. I was actually looking for this song, but have forgotten the title. Great that you put the lyric out as well.
    Thanks again for sharing this story. PingS

  2. Solo says:

    Yeah, the world cup is on and I am a FOOTBALL fan. Guess I’m British English? Or rather a “To-MAH-to” but as you’ve said, these are nothing but unimportant differences. I definitely agree with that! Food for thought…..thanks!

  3. Nasifriet says:

    Thanks PingS.
    If I’m not wrong, “suspenders” is American English for “braces” in the UK. Yes, there are SO many diff words used for the same meaning. Well, I guess English IS a crazy language after all. LOL! It confuses many foreign students. I have a Chinese colleague at work. He has never heard of of the word “cemetery”. He knows what “graveyard” is. Neither does he know that an “aubergine” is an “eggplant”. That’s why I included this little story in my post 😀


  4. Nasifriet says:

    Thanks Solo.
    BTW, do you know you will win the World Cup this year?

  5. Solo says:

    Well, Argentina of course 😉 !

  6. Nasifriet says:

    Looks like Brazil and The Netherlands are doing rather well as well… 🙂

  7. Dada says:

    what you’ve said is very true. I reckoned the only true english is the queen’s english… Whatever brinjal, aubergine or eggplant, i simply love this vege…lagi-lagi masak kicap manis with garlic. Hehehe…

  8. Nasifriet says:

    Aoklah da. Terong here is in abundance. I’ll leave the kitchen to u when u r here,k? Bet u n mum r counting days, rite?

    R u following the tennis? We’ll see the clash of the 2 Belgian girls in the quarter finals. Clijsters vs Henin on Monday! Can go either way for these 2 come-backers! KimII is stronger than KimI, JustineII has to struggle a bit more. Because Wimbeldon is the only grandslam she has not won, she is highly motivated… fingers crossed. May the best win!

  9. Jacinta Sonesson says:

    Dear cuz, I love reading your interesting blogs! hugs..xox

  10. Nasifriet says:

    Hey cuzzie! Thanks! Will come back to blogging with more stories of our summer hols, so stay tuned 😀
    BTW, what’s mimi’s new email add?

    Hugs xxx

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