27 October 2010

The "Lah" Word

Let's us talk lah! By the end of this post, you might even surprise yourself by the extend of 'lah' usage in your daily conversations.

When I was in US, I made an effort to consciously use Standard English. I wanted to let people know that Malaysians are well educated people who can speak proper English, not some rojak English that confuses people. But it was really hard to not let the “Lah” word slip out of my mouth. More than once, I’d have native English speakers around me asking me what I meant when I unconsciously added ‘–lah’ onto words, which made them thought it’s a new vocabulary. They were quite indeed quite baffled by it.

Indeed the infamous “Lah” is so ingrained into every Malaysian’s spoken language; we involuntarily insert this suffix whenever opportunity arises. This happens at almost every other occasion depending on how we want to express ourselves.

The “lah”, according to Malay application, is appended to the end of a word. It is not a separate word by itself. However, according to Chinese usage of “lah”, it can appear solitarily at the end of the sentence, usually followed with an exclamation mark (!). It is said “lah” is derived from the Chinese word ‘啦’. Some even said that “lah” might have Tamil origin as it is commonly used in Southern Tamil Nadu in the same way.

The “Lah” word is very much versatile in its usage. Here are some various usages of “lah” and its meaning:

Eat lah
Come lah!

“lah” here is used to soften the tone of a command. However, if the “lah” is said with a brusque manner, it can sound quite rude.

Yes lah!
Go away

“lah” is used in a brusque, short, negative manner to show annoyance or impatience.

It’s ok lah.

“lah” here is said in a reassuring manner to give comfort.

Got Coke lah, Sprite lah, Orange lah

“lah” is used to emphasize the number of variety in a list.

Please help lah!

“lah” is used in a pleading tone here.

See lah! See lah!

“lah” is used to mock. This phrase is often heard when a mother lectures a child when the child messes something up.

You no fun lah!

It translates to “You’re no fun at all”. “lah” is used to show

“Lah” is so widely used that it can show up anywhere in everywhere in Manglish. Each can add a certain expression or it can mean nothing at all.

For foreigners who want to pretend that they can speak Manglish just by adding “lah”. It’s actually not as easy as one would need to use it in just the right tone, inserted at the right place.

Check out more 'lah' usage here.

Assignment: Record a random conversation among your friends (Natural setting). Analyze the conversation in terms of its 'lah' usage and correct them to standard English.

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