Monday, May 02, 2005

Ab Origine

The whole debacle was over a racist comment, wasn't it? Because E@L is Ang Moh, and I had used the word Ang Moh to describe, well, Ang Mohs, he's taken offence but also kindly pointed out that Ang Moh is also a racist tag. Any nickname derived from the physical attributes of the members of a race or an ethnic group is a racist tag. And racist tags are bad. It is going to be a difficult change to eradicate this racist tag from my vocabulary because my Hokkien grandmother is going to have to make do with my explaining that my business partners are from overseas, from America. She's going to ask in Hokkien, 'So, they are Ang Moh, lah?' And I will have to say, 'No, actually, their Moh is not that Ang, but they are from America'. But she will probably say something like, 'American people are Ang Mohs, what!' And it will go on. Then the cows will come home. Then a new advertising company will be formed amidst pledges that the rights of workers remain paramount throughout decades of change and advancement. (Actually, E@L is not so much an Ang Moh as he is a Boh Moh. With my fragile patch slowly but surely growing, I'm a-gonna be one too. So, we're gonna be brothers, he and I! It's gonna take some time, but it'll happen. I'm already made of 10% beer, and closing in on his composition too.) Her Moh also quite Ang, what!
Surf stop: Val
Vale, Wee Kim Wee; Vale, Krishen Jit
iTunes' party shuffle is playing a copy of: Caught in the Middle - Cerys Matthews - Cockahoop, of which I have the original CD and therefore didn't steal music.


Blogger Evelyn said...


Why my picture so big there!?!!!!

It's not ang moh...

Gim moh.

Brown, golden, etc....

5/02/2005 08:53:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Miyagi said...

Hahaha. Isn't that near Holland Village?

5/02/2005 08:55:00 PM  
Blogger MysteryTanLines said...

Hmm Ang Moh is actually not meant to be taken literally. But of course I think that is not the crux of the problem for E@L who feels that any kind of physical reference to a group is artificial and should not be done because it perpetuates the myth of "races". On one level i understand that but on the other hand its a tough order. For example, today we still have "black people" calling themselves Black (well theoretically not all of them are literally black too) and having folks like CNN comment about Black actors and actresses being recognized with an Oscar as a breakthough. Should African Americans refer to themselves only as African Americans. Will that promote the myth less or will it only disguise it some more? Tough questions.

5/02/2005 09:30:00 PM  
Blogger Evelyn said...

It never crossed my mind. Whahaha....


5/02/2005 09:46:00 PM  
Blogger expat@large said...

MysteryTanLines has it right, in that unless a person's "race" is relevant to the point at hand, why bring it up? Mr M, maybe your grandmother needs some serious re-education! - she wasn't the at the Carrefour in Plaza Singapura today was she? Just joking about your no doubt wonderful grandmother! However, I would be disappointed if YOUR grandchildren used the same argument in 20 years time...

And if people read my post, they'll see I didn't actually take offence at your story, I was merely querulous. I just wondered how it contributes to the story. Still do.

The more people think about these issues, the better. I just want to highlight the fact that SOME people are going to be offended when someone uses even mildly racially based epithets in a public place, such as a blog. And they should not to be surprised when these people have a less than positive opinion about Singaporeans because of behaviour like that, and that certain preconceptions about Singapore are reinforced and that negative connotations will persist.

(The commentor at BigF*ck blogspot for example who called me a "bloody ang moh" and told me to "n* b*h" without making any useful contribution to the argument... well he can bite me.)


An Irishman, a Scotmans and an Englishman walk in a pub. The bartender says: "What is this? Some kind of joke!"


5/02/2005 10:04:00 PM  
Blogger MysteryTanLines said...

Honestly, I felt that it wasn't a big issue at first but yeah I can see that if you turn the situation around, it could be offensive to some people. ie Lets say you read this an it was a white guy writing (or American, or caucasian or whatever you want to call the non-asian-person-of-fair-skin) and he related the same story, but instead of saying Ang Moh, he said "chinese guy" and proceeded with the rest of the story. "Chinese guy" isn't insulting in itself as a name, but presumably, the story is possibly made funnier by the fact that there is some racial stereotyped implied (not deliberately of course but subconsciously so). ie white folks are loud etc. If it was purely a physical descriptor E@L's point is that why focus on skin color (well, hair color), and not say, length of eyelashes :P My 2 cents. Just thinking aloud.

5/02/2005 10:28:00 PM  
Blogger fuck SAF said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5/02/2005 10:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People, next time just refer E@L as the follically and horizontally challenged caucasian bloke, ok ?

5/02/2005 10:29:00 PM  
Blogger expat@large said...

MTL - exactly the point I made - instead of Holland village, make it Greenwich Village and instead of ang moh, say negro...

& I'm not so-much horizontally challenged (I'm not that short) as circumferentially malt-augmented...

Mr M, carrying on from your last link to Andy Ho's ST comments about racism, Nazism and eugenics (which I thought was actually rather lame - but still better than I could do!) - your readers should look out for RageBoy Chris Locke's allegedly forthcoming revelationary book about New Age crap and the mystic roots of Nazism and eugenics... Some of the recent and older posts of this and its sister site are fascinating, except when RB goes off in some LSD flashback (maybe some will prefer these bits!) Plus Chris writes like a total f*cking wizard.

FYI. Off topic a bit, but interesting.

N.B. Chris wrote the definitive books on Internet Business savvy - "The Cluetrain Manifesto" and "Gonzo Marketing"... which of course naturally segue into his interest in eugenics.


5/02/2005 10:37:00 PM  
Blogger J Schnorng said...

Wah lau, ang moh, gim moh, sio siang lah! Lu kua ji dao eh miyagi ga e@l, neng kor ma si bo moh liao....

And in other news, bo moh is do what? Make potion and put hexes on people is it? Scary, sia!


5/02/2005 10:50:00 PM  
Blogger kachuaz said...

ang mo ang mo loh.

big deal.


5/02/2005 11:30:00 PM  
Blogger - said...

At least we do not discriminate these so called ang mo(s) unlike how some of them snigger at Asians overseas..

5/02/2005 11:48:00 PM  
Blogger Postmaster-General said...

Hiyah.., call them Mat Salleh lor. I dunno. I already told my Ang Mo friends who are coming that they will be called any number of terms to their faces and their backs. It doesn't quite have the punch of nigger or chink or gook or kike. Perhaps your friend might prefer the term Caucasian. or Yang Gui Zi. Or Gwei Lo... Tell him Ang Mo is far better.

5/03/2005 12:13:00 AM  
Blogger Edwin said...

i am linking ur blog,

any objections?

5/03/2005 12:33:00 AM  
Blogger chrischoo said...

I think anybody who takes the Ang Moh term too personally is someone who does not understand Singapore culture enough. This is a country where many people believe Westerners are superior, where they get better treatment, and similar perks are dished out due to the colour of their skin. In a twisted sense, having an Ang Moh fart really loudly shows that we are all equal, that nobody is immune to farting, and everybody will still laugh at someone who farts loudly regardless of the colour of their skin. If this does not show that we are equal (although I guess that can't possibly have been the original intention of the post), then I don't know what is.

In Singapore the term is not derogatory and should not be construed as a racial slur. Anybody who thinks otherwise probably does not know the people here well enough. Let's focus on more pertinent issues than to nitpick Singlish technicalities in that are so widespread in our culture. I for one disagree with TalkingCock's definition that it is a "pejorative term".

Almost everybody I know uses it, and almost every time I have heard it the term was never made in the context of a racial insult. To mistake MM for showing signs of racism is missing the point really.

5/03/2005 01:19:00 AM  
Blogger jettykey said...

I agree with Chris Choo.

I have use the term "ang-moh" frequently and didn't once think of it as a racial slur. To me and my friends, "ang moh" is the Singlish equivalent of the word "Caucasian".

5/03/2005 03:42:00 AM  
Blogger j said...

i had noooo idea ang moh was derogatory in any way. gee. you learn something new everyday.

5/03/2005 06:26:00 AM  
Anonymous FF said...

My ang moh friend calls himself chao ang moh. Luckily you never say chao ang moh.

I don't think ang moh is racist wat. If it was a Chinese man, you'd have said Chinese man also wat.

5/03/2005 07:41:00 AM  
Blogger MysteryTanLines said...

Hmm some take offense to Ang Moh because the word originates from another term, possibly Ang Moh Kow (red haired monkey) or Ang Moh Gui (red haired devil ie similar to Gwailo- strange devil). Recently there was a similar debate about the use of the word "Nigga" by black youth. Some use it to mean "my friend, my nigga", while others object because of the roots of the word. Ang Moh is not discriminatory in intention now but its use could support the view that different races have different specific attributes. Again, to understand this, you have to also know that scientifically, the concept of myth as a definable biological grouping has been debunked by scientific studies and surveys.

But E@L's point is not focused on name calling as an objection. He says he first found the passage funny after all (so it did not even feel insulted the first time round). Just that in principle, he feels that any reference to a racial group perpetuates the myth of race (ie that race exists).

5/03/2005 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger MysteryTanLines said...

Interestingly, "Jap" is supposed to be derogatory according to many Americans. I think because it might have been started by the Americans as a slur during WW2. Ironically when the manga-mad/anything-J-is-cool community here found out, they were like "really?". I dont think these japanese loving kids at any point feel the word is insulting whenever they use it. In this case, I have not heard any objections from japanese but that could also be because they arent focused on the japanese language so this is off their radar.

BTW the fact that chinese people also get called racial slurs doesnt justify us using them (even if it's less jialat unintentional type)? my 2 cents.

5/03/2005 09:21:00 AM  
Blogger Postmaster-General said...

Hey MysteryTanLines, JAP is a not such a good word because it means Jewish American Princess.

5/03/2005 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger cour marly said...

True, 'Jap' is derogatory in the US, its usage stemming from the internment of Japanese-Americans back in WWII. Although the 'sting' is very much lessened in the younger set these days.

Incidentally, the term 'Jap' also has anti-semetic connotations. The acronym JAP also refers to Jewish American Princess, and though a descriptive stereotype, it is often used derisively against rich, upper-class Jewish girls and young women.

And makes for unintentionally 'funny' moments when one has to verify if someone is insulting a Japanese or a Jew.

5/03/2005 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger MysteryTanLines said...

haha well I guess if you were using the term to refer to a japanese jewish girl, you might want to be careful. This was a point of big contention on the anime/manga forums when it was highlighted that you shouldn't called Japanese "japs". I don't think in that context (as i had explained before), it was referring to the jewish usage (interesting, I knew the phrase but was unaware of the acronym. kinda like WASP I guess?)

5/03/2005 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger Mr Miyagi said...

Good points, MTL. The myth of race is perpetuated here, and most of us aren't quite conscious of that. When visitors fill out immigration and other forms, they're usually shocked to see a 'race' column. (One put 'The 2.35pm at Kranji' for a lark).

5/03/2005 11:07:00 AM  
Blogger expat@large said...

I cant' comment on Japanese words - I work for a Japanese company and my father fought in the war! He was stationed on Borneo I think.

So can anyone explain reasonably WHY you have to fill in the race part of the immigration from?


Despite what the Singaporean commentors here think of the term Ang moh - whether you disagree with the Coxford definition or not - that is how THE WORLD reads it, and by extension how the world sees and makes its judgements on Singapore! Hmmm...

We have to remember that this discussion is happening on the World Wide Web, not the Singapore Narrow Web... unless we all get sued and have to give up blogging.

Chris: I probably don't understand the "culture" of South Africa either, but I saw and heard some pretty interesting things there. You can only judge on the evidence in front of you.

J Schnorng, speaking Singlish to bald people in an English language thread is very 'ah beng' behaviour...

Yeah, I do go on.


5/03/2005 11:32:00 AM  
Blogger The Facetious Cap'n Intrepid said...

So that some higher up authority will know if you are a C, M, I or O, the better for them to feed into an obscure database which performs a SORT BY Race.

I can understand E@L's point of view (which many may miss unless they read his longer blog entry), but even though we know we are on the WWW, we don't stop to think of how our words/ actions can be construed differently by others.

This is entrenched everywhere, not just in Singapore I think. We can't all be internationally politically correct all the time... else we risk losing our "flavour", becoming a homogeneous glob.

This is not to say that we should be blind to all the underlying subtleties that we take for granted (what MTL has mentioned), merely that we shouldn't over-compensate and hypercorrect.

And no, E@L, I'm not even to try debating "ang moh" with you again.


5/03/2005 02:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Has it occurred to you that some of us are 'beng' and proud of it ! Since you're an Aussie, can I know why 'sledging' the opponents is part of aussie sporting culture ?

5/03/2005 02:02:00 PM  
Blogger Ah 9 said...

ok...something new today for my brain. hehe...

5/03/2005 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger chrischoo said...

E@L: I concede that this being a blog, the impression on readers outside of Singapore is just as, if not more important than the perception of Singaporeans. Interestingly, I did not realize that the term is used outside of this region. I suppose that we should be more careful with our choice of words, although I'm still quite surprised that this discussion even began! Nice to hear from so many people about this - quite an insightful discussion.

5/03/2005 03:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Cowboy Caleb said...

I've yet to meet any red-haired caucasians in Singapore. So why the 'ang' in the 'mo'???

5/03/2005 05:16:00 PM  
Blogger MysteryTanLines said...

haha Cowboy C. ya gotta scroll up lah. a lot of ground covered liao including why the ang. Of course we assume that the name came about coz many of the early caucasians which our ancestors came across had red hair? Many irish tourists to singapore back then? who knows :) BTW Ang Mo Kio could be a name that needs changing hmmm haha

5/03/2005 06:00:00 PM  
Blogger Agagooga said...

I think political correctness is a great bane of modern living.

5/03/2005 08:55:00 PM  
Blogger expat@large said...

agagooga, how come your posts are so long and your comments so short?

I only brought it up caused I just noticed how commmonly it is used on blogs here, so I thought people might want to examine their motives for using it - as a consiousness raising exercise. Next time you are about to say it, think as to WHY you are saying it, and as to whether there is any possibility of causing offence... Of course if it is just for a harmless joke or story, all is fair game!

You're right, politial correctness can be a bane if it taken too far for sure, but in moderation it might be considered just a form of socially enforced politeness as well (a meme?)

The whole "Singlish language" schtick is notable for its marked lack of conventional politeness.

The book of the Coxford Singlish Dictionary for example gives this useful tip for travellers:

Checking into a Hotel:
Singlish: (silent stare)
Translation: Good day! Welcome to the Grand Hotel!

I note that "ah beng" is not marked as a pejorative term.

Anonymous: why do Austrlian cricketers sledge? Because they are a embarassing bunch of morons who think that sporting success is somehow important in the greater scheme of things. I like when Aussies win, but I dislike the sledging (abusing the other team with under the breath comments so that only they hear and not the umpires). I played cricket and never sledged.


5/03/2005 10:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why can't all Ang Mo be like my flend Tele..

He even calls himself that. LOL.


5/04/2005 11:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not another culturally-challenged foreigner in Singapore shoving their Western propriety and manners down our throats? I would like to ask E@L why is it that I and some of my Singaporean colleagues experienced in his "lucky country":
1 racist abuses?
2.being spat at?
3.telling me to get the f*ck off his country

while walking down the road knowing full well I was a tourist? So which is worse, being called an Ang Moh based on the presumption that all Singaporeans are racist? Or being spat at and called "Yellow Fever", "Gook" and "Chink"? Or even threatened with rape? The work of ignorant country bumpkins??

Double standards at work here, eh? Oh and the way he reminds us that our so-called narrow-mindedness will reinforce the prejudices of outsiders. Oooh, so I must feel loss of face, ah? BTW not everyone in the world likes the Aussies as well. And they are just below the Yanks - oooh sue me - for being one of the most hated nationalities on this side of the Universe.

E@L remember you are a guest here. So don't be conceited by telling us to re-educate whomever (How are you going to teach old dogs new tricks? Anyone?)just so to statisfy your Western propriety and common sense. Also what is the problem of filling in the Race column? If we had to fill in our Bank Account details for US Immigration - so that we don't become a bleeding nuisance YET they failed to detect those 11th September terrorists!! Good golly - I don't see why they have to make so much noise about the Race bit. Which is more invasive and insulting to your intelligence? Race or having to divulge how much is in your Bank Account?

Anon the Third

5/04/2005 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger expat@large said...


just don't tick the YES box on the "Are you a terrorist?" question!

In Australia that behaviour you experienced is illegal (and very reprehensible!)

In Singapore you can specify that you don't want Indian security guards working at your block of flats.

(And I never said ALL anybodies are anything... Sheesh, for the four hundredth time!!!!)


5/04/2005 05:21:00 PM  
Blogger Tempest Blue said...

You've got a great thing going on here. Love reading your blog.

Actually I've never understood what the big deal is regarding those so-called 'racist tags'.

Taken objectively, calling someone a negro or chink is about as offensive as calling someone a nerd, or geek, or Sarong Party Girl. They're all tags to negative stereotypes. Why is race especially sensitive? In my mind the intent of the person saying it is more important than what is actually said. It can't be that hard to tell if someone is being insulting or just joking, whether they say 'ang moh', 'nigger' or 'strawberry mousse'!

5/04/2005 09:57:00 PM  
Blogger Agagooga said...

It's the perversity that is partly behind the misery of the human condition.

5/05/2005 02:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Guofeng said...

5/05/2005 08:34:00 AM  
Blogger expat@large said...

Guofeng, so because some Australians have racial intolerance somehow my arguments are invalid?

Or are people saying that because there is racial stereotyping in Australia, its OK to have racial stereotyping here?

Or that because I am Australian I just be racially intolerant too?

Or that because I am not a Singaporean I should shut up?

Or perhaps some people here think that when people from the rest of the world critized the Nazis in the 1930's for their anti-semitic beliefs and behaviour were they being "culturally insensitive?"

I don't deny that Australia is a shocking place for that sort of behaviour - I hate such behaviour and the (lack of) thinking behind it! I hate it there, and I hate it here.

Agagooga, is not the failure to see yourself in others that is behind real human misery in the world - wars and conflict based on acceptance of racially and culturally (including religion) based beliefs.


5/05/2005 12:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Guofeng said...


It is in today's papers. I read it, thought it was related to this discussion and decided to post the link.

With regards to your arguments, there is no doubt that you are against racism, which is great. I think the reason why anyone bothers to argue with you is because probably most Singaporeans, at least the younger generation, do not use 'Ang Moh' as a derogatory term. It is very much a non-issue for most of us and by saying that it is an issue for you or might be an issue for others, folks here may take it as an accusation of racism. I think most do not appreciate that, hence the reactions, appropriate or not.

5/05/2005 02:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exactly, and if I were to make loud noises like being *not hired for certain jobs just because of my colour in Australia, it would be very likely that I'd be told to either deal with it, shut my gob, or get the f*ck out of there.

* As expat@large had kindly pointed out about some condominium's refusal to hire ethnic Indians. Just because of some bunch's racist attitudes - or truly past bad experiences - we are all tarred with the same brush!

I mean, won't you not hired like for example Indonesian domestic helpers because most of them lie, steal and generally still seen pecariously wiping kitchen windows in spite of repeated warnings not to do so? Oh and please don't call me a racist just because I said that.

I seem to notice that these expats are very eagle-eyed when it comes to nitpicking Singaporeans. Eh? Yet they would lamely defend themselves that they don't possess similar mindsets as their racist counterparts.
Anon the Third

5/05/2005 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger expat@large said...

Anon III: do you have ANYTHING to say that doesn't involve stereotyping people?


5/06/2005 01:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pray tell, stereotyping who? nitpicking expats? Aussies? or Indonesian maids??

Who's stereotyping who I wonder?

Anon the THird

5/06/2005 12:35:00 PM  
Blogger Agagooga said...

The failure to see yourself in others is another factor accounting for the misery of the human condition :(

5/08/2005 06:54:00 PM  

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