My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Before I bought the book, I heard a lot of it. I mean, in terms of it being adapted into a Hollywood movie and it’s all going to be filled with Asian actors and was shot in Singapore – that part of it.
I thought: “Oh, that’s cool! I should read the book before the movie releases then.”
I should not have done that. Why did I waste SGD 27.77 for this book?
10 pages in and I was bored but I thought, maybe it’s not that bad and I should give it a chance.
28 pages in and I actually sighed in the middle of my train ride to work and rolled my eyes, really rolled my eyes.
I am fine with tiny annotations at the bottom explaining the Singlish, Hokkien, Cantonese and Malay terms mentioned in the book. Totally fine with foreigners who read the book and give them a slight taste of Singapore culture.
But what I’m not fine with is butchering my ethnic language – Malay. The author butchered it.
28 pages in and I saw the word “ta pah kay”. I thought: “Hmm… is it a Hokkien or Cantonese word?” So I went and read the annotation at the bottom: “Malay for ‘not accurate'”. I was suddenly hit with a possible ethnicity crisis. I am born Malay, talk in Malay language for 33 years of my life, worked as a Malay language translator for 4.5 years out of 12 years of my working life, scored a distinction in Malay language and never have I came across the word “ta pah kay”.
So, I re-read the statement in the book “Daisy, your information is always ta pah kay.” I went through it over and over in my head and I realized the author is trying to say “Daisy, your information is always tak boleh pakai.” Malays would use this to let someone know that their words are not useful and/or not trustworthy. “Tidak boleh pakai” is more grammatically proper. “Tak boleh pakai” is words used in everyday conversations. It could also mean not able to wear something. For example: “Baju ini tidak boleh pakai lagi” – “This clothes cannot be worn any longer”. “Ta pah kay”, on the other hand, is a Singlish term used by literally anyone and everyone who is born and bred in Singapore and/or lived here for so long and used Singlish like it’s their second skin. It’s Singlish. Not Malay.
What irks me and made me stop reading the book and put it into my “We are never ever ever getting back together” book bin is that the author did not even show any effort in trying to find out the correct Malay term for it and just plainly and falsely put the information that it’s a Malay word for everyone to read. Foreigners would think that’s a Malay word and will go to Malaysia or Singapore and say the word and will be hit with confused Malays.
Apart from that, the writing is quite slipshod. I was not enticed to read further and seeing the above made me give up completely.
Whether I would give the movie a chance is another question. After the book, I’m not so sure.