17 November 2010

He Said She Said

"A poet must take as his material his own language as it is actually spoken around him. The music of poetry, then, will be a music latent in the common speech of his time." - T S Eliot
That would mean Singlish to you and me.


  1. yes that's a thorny one isn't it: that how far should one - one being a non-white non-anglo saxon person - go, in localising/re-colonising the English language in writing in general & in penning serious English-language literature in particular?

    personally i've never been comfortable with works that are too localised, as i believe whatever one writes should be understandable to a 'global reader', especially in this age of Internet.

    but i think writers are still having it relatively good. my true sympathy goes to Asian actors/actresses who have perform in English & verbally to say the lines out loud.

    the speech almost always come out sounding in varying degrees of salah-ness, regardless of whatever accent they adopt, be it Oxbridge, American, mid-Atlantic, Singlish/Chinglish/Malayish/Hongklish.

    i often try very hard not to cringe but alas seldom succeed in doing so. :(

  2. sorry should have been 'comes out sounding'. my bad.

  3. Dear Cringing Anon: It's not a thorny issue for me actually. As you know I love Singlish - it's flexible, it's musical, it resonates with humanity and poetry of daily life.
    what is huckleberry finn but 'localised' and yet, it's universally understood, and lauded as a classic. language is communication and i seriously doubt that singlish is so hard to understand - even if you were french.
    I think there is a lot of snobbishness involved the singlish debate. alas, a sad sad colonial hangover/ hang up.