Singapore’s Singlish and Acronyms

In Singapore, we have a different brand of conversational English referred to as “Singlish”. Generally, it is English mashed with colloquial, dialects and/or Malay words commonly used by the population. It is not exactly a slang but actual words and lots of exclamations imported from its multi-racial society (Check out a short post on this here).

In the late 1960s, the Singapore government built public housing to resettle the population as part of their urbanisation plan to maximise the land use for population and economic growth. My family had to relocate to public housing estates built by the Housing Development Board (HDB – infamous for their legendary stories) or Housing and Urban Development Company (HUDC, now a legend). My kampung (village) was eventually demolished to make way for more housing and the tracks of our inexhaustible train system called the Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT). Politically, we were exposed to PAP, WP, SDP and some others I cannot recall. We had our utilities looked after by PWD and PUB and public buses by SBS. You would be able to sense by now how our country would become `notorious’ for its acronyms (abbreviations or short forms).


We used to have fanciful names for our roads and our first highway was named Nichol but it was too short to be regarded a highway in today’s standards. Thence began the onslaught of expressways slashing across the whole country like a game of `Snakes and Ladders’. The genius behind the naming of these highways somehow made it a 3-letter word series that resulted in the following inexhaustible list :

  • PIE – Pan Island Expressway runs from East to West
  • ECP – East Coast Parkway runs along the east coast
  • AYE – Ayer Rajah Expressway runs mostly along the west coast
  • MCE – Marina Coastal Expressway runs undersea, underground and along the marina bay area
  • KPE – Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway runs under and above ground in central to north eastern area
  • KJE – Kranji Expressway cuts away from PIE to across Choa Chu Kang and Kranji area
  • BKE – Bukit Timah Expressway cuts away from PIE to the north
  • TPE – Tampines Expressway will come from PIE and join the SLE
  • SLE – Seletar Expressway continues where TPE ends
  • CTE – Central Expressway cuts in the middle from AYE to PIE and TPE
  • ERP – Electronic Road Pricing – this is not an expressway but the snake that coils around motorists using all the expressways.

Perhaps to outclass the 3-letter acronyms for the roads, the train lines used 2-letter acronyms as shown below:


Why are we so hung up with acronyms? Is it because we are progressing so rapidly we need to create an index or code? Perhaps it was more efficient or less boring than using number or alphabet sequence such as Highway 1 to 100 or A to Z.

However, with the internet and smartphone  generation joining the fray, the written form has also been pulverised with short forms found in writings of both students and working adults and the way Singapore has progressed in the last 50 years or so as shown earlier, only added coal to the fire.

So we should not be too concerned with:

  • xoxo, :P, =), (:, (.<_ _>.)
  • and the numerous emoticons

Should we be concerned now that Singapore is number one in Smartphone use? No kidding, check out the report  here.


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