This is the grandaddy of all the other books on Singlish. This paperback, containing reprints of two originally separate volumes from 1982 and 1986, contains a wealth of acronyms, onomatopoeias, words, phrases, and chants in or derived from English, Malay, and the locally spoken Chinese dialects Hokkien, Cantonese, and Teochew.
Goondu in 2020
I can attest that many expressions are still commonplace here and now in Singapore, but many pertain to Malaysia or other contexts that don’t overlap with mine, or perhaps have withered away in the intervening years.
The explanations are whimsical and occasionally so elliptical as to be useless for understanding the phrase in question, which I found mildly frustrating. Many definitions use local terms explained earlier in the text, so it’s necessary to retain what you read as you move through the book—or to to be somewhat familiar with Singlish before you crack it open.
From the back cover:
Goondu: Meaning “big stupid”, “retardate”, “lummox” or “dullard” but with endearing overtones.
The Complete Eh, Goondu! brings together two of Singapore’s best-selling humour titles Eh, Goondu! and Lagi Goondu!
Eh, Goondu! published in 1982 was the original book on Singlish. A compilation of local patois (English and vernacular dialects and languages), it was the first to put in print Singlish words that previously were only spoken.
Eh Goondu! sparked national debate among Ministers, academics and the public. Eventually, it was accepted that Singlish was part of the Singaporean way of life.
Now you can own a piece of Singapore’s social history with your personal copy of The Complete Eh, Goondu!
About the Author
Sylvia Toh Paik Choo is one of the most well-known and beloved names in Singapore writing, possibly because she has been at it for more than 40 years — they can’t get rid of her. She has authored, reported and written on almost every subject that Singaporeans and Malaysians can relate to and identify with. That is her unique voice. A journalist since 1970, hers is institutionalised memory, even though she sometimes can’t remember where she lives — which is not in the Bahamas.
When and Why I Read The Complete Eh, Goondu!
This is a list of Singlish words and phrases with explanations, grouped into chapters.
Genre: Reference (English, Singapore)
Date started / date finished: 26-Oct-20 to 19-Nov-20
Length: 221 pages
Originally published in: 2011
Amazon link: The Complete Eh, Goondu!