Malaysian Slang and Gestures

12/06/2023 by No Comments

Are you wondering about Malaysian slang and gestures? In a vibrant, multicultural society like Malaysia, it is unavoidable that vernacular languages find their way into how Malaysians speak in their daily lives.

From a local expression, an intriguing word hybrid, or directs translation of local languages. Here are some of the charming Malaysian slang phrases and gestures you might hear or see when you visit.

Manglish | Malaysian Slang and Gestures

Manglish is an abbreviation for Malaysian and English. This isn’t to say that Malaysians speak “mangled” English. Most Malaysians who speak English understand how to speak proper English and when and how to switch to Manglish.

It will appear natural for Malaysians to switch to Manglish without worrying about present tense, past tense, punctuation or other rule in the English language. These vibrant Malaysian Slang and Gestures have made daily conversation much more interesting here.

Malaysian Slang You Need to Know

Malaysian Slang and Gestures
photo credit: | Malaysian Slang and Gestures

Here are some Malaysian slang phrases you will almost certainly hear here.

  • 1. Tapau/Bungkus

Tapau is derived from the Chinese word [打包] da bao meanwhile bungkus is simply Malay word for wrap. To tapau or bungkus food means to “bring back home” or “take away” food instead of eating in.

You can use these words to order takeaway from the stalls or ‘mamak’ restaurants.

  • 2. Who is Mat Salleh? Ang Mo?

Mat Salleh is a Malay slang term for white people (European/Caucasian). The term Mat Salleh is said to be derived from the phrase mad sailor. The term eventually came to refer to white people.

Ang Mo is a Hokkien Chinese term for white people that means “red hair.” The term is commonly used in areas where Hokkien is the dominant Chinese dialect, such as Penang, Kedah, and Johor.

  • 3. Boss?

Everyone here is a boss, whether it’s the stall owner serving your favorite noodles, the traffic cop writing out your parking ticket or the server at the mamak whose attention you’re attempting to gain.

It can be difficult to get their attention if you say, “excuse me” (not to mention awkward and too polite), so we recommend you wave and shout, “Boss!” followed shortly after by your food or drink order.

Malaysian Unique Hand Gesture

We Malaysians had made it a performance art when it comes to ordering food. Most people believe that requesting the menu verbally is sufficient, but not us!

We take it a step further by including some visual aid. Watch this video for a few classic gestures we can’t help but make when we’re in a Mamak restaurant.

video credit: TV3MALAYSIA Official

So, there you have it; bookmark this article for future reference if you ever need a refresher when you came for a trip here.

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