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Talk the Talk - Malaysian Slang

25 Jan 2012

Rojak is a famous salad dish with an electic mix of ingredients in Malaysia, it is also the perfect term to describe the concoction of words from the country’s various cultures that has given rise to “Manglish” – an English-based creole that was born out of words and phrases from Hokkien, Cantonese, Malay and Tamil.  

Here are some Manglish terms to know before you visit Malaysia:

Balik (bah-lek) – Malay for “to return home”. It is generally used after a day at work. Sometimes, “kampung” (literally meaning village) can be used at the end for more effect.

Chin chai (chin-chye) – Means anything goes, or whatever.

Half past six – Used to describe an incompetent person.

Kacang Putih (ka-chang pu-teh)- Fried peanuts traditionally sold in paper cones in the country, but it can also be used to describe a situation that is really easy. For instance, “How did your driving test go today? Kacang Putih right!”

Kaki (Kah-kee) – Means “legs” in Malay, and “mine” in Hokkien, but the term has come to mean “buddies”.  Used in the context of, “Call your usual kaki to come over and watch the football match.”

Kopi-o license – While kopi-o means “coffee without sugar”, the term “kopi-o license” is used to describe a bad driver.

Mat Salleh (mat-sah-leh) – An affectionate term for “Caucasians”

One leg kick – Perhaps a direct translation of the Cantonese phrase, yat kiok tek, it describes a job or situation where one has to do everything, and not usually by choice.

Pai-seh (pai-say) – A term used when you’re embarrassed after doing or saying something wrong. 

Solid – This term is commonly used to commend someone for being impressive. Similar to how Singaporeans use the term “steady” to praise someone.

Tai ko (tai-koe) – This term describes a situation where someone wins by luck or chance.

Under a coconut shell – This phrase is derived from a Malay proverb. It describes a person who is out of touch with the latest happenings.  For example, “Why don’t you know that? Don’t live under a coconut shell lah.” (Lah is added as a tail word to punctuate the message) 

This list is by no means exhaustive so feel free to add to the list by commenting in the box below.

Tiffany Sandrasageran

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