The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) which is widely regarded as the accepted authority on the English language, recently added several Singlish words when it updated and revised the entries in its dictionary. Among the Singlish words added is the word ‘Chinese Helicopter’.
The dictionary explained that the word ‘Chinese Helipcopter’ is a derogatory term in Singlish which describes “a Singaporean whose schooling was conducted in Mandarin Chinese and who has limited knowledge of English.”
On May 29, Goh Beng Choo, who was a bilingual journalist for The Straits Times took issue with the Singlish entry in OED. She described the term as degrading and insulting and started a petition to gather signatures to appeal to OED to remove the word from its entry. To date, the petition has gathered over 450 signatures.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s wife and head of Temasek Holdings, Ho Ching, has now thrown her weight behind the petition. Writing in her Facebook, Madam Ho Ching said that she was “so surprised” by OED’s inclusion of the word. She added:
“I had only heard this being used in my late teens in the early 1970s, listening in on the chatter of NS boys from English stream schools explaining this term they had learnt during their BMT about their NS mates from Chinese stream schools.
They had also told stories about being scolded by their sergeants for being “blur like sotong” too, not to mention the expectations and disciplines of “stand by bed”.
However, with a bilingual education system since, we no longer have separate English and Chinese stream schools for decades.
Most if not all of the younger generation of Singaporeans would not have heard of “Chinese helicopters”, while “blur sotongs” remain alive and current in their vocabulary (even though we now know better that sotongs are actually quite smart and not at all blur).
Mr Adam Reutens-Tan also described it as a “rediscovery” of the term, when he wrote to the Straits Times forum on this topic recently.
Unlike blur sotongs, the Chinese helicopter has obviously fallen into disuse for decades.
Hence my surprise to see this term resurface in the OED of all places.
Given its lack of currency in the Singlish lexicon today, I would support the petition to remove this term from the OED entry.”