What's a 'Chinese helicopter'? Latest Singlish entry in Oxford Dictionary has us scratching our heads

What's a 'Chinese helicopter'? Latest Singlish entry in Oxford Dictionary has us scratching our heads
PHOTO: A Curious Teepee

UPDATE: After some digging around, AsiaOne has managed to uncover the origins of the term 'Chinese helicopter'.

So just how did the strange term come about? It turns out the term, which refers to a person who received a Mandarin education, is actually a mispronunciation.

Apparently, the phrase originated in the army, when many soldiers and sergeants had problems pronouncing English words properly.

When the men laughed at the sergeants, they would respond by saying: "I'm Chinese educated." Unfortunately, their poor pronunciation resulted in 'Chinese educated' sounding like 'Chinese helicopter'.

Singaporeans often take pride in our ability to converse with others using 'Singlish' - a unique amalgamation of various languages from different races and dialect groups in the country.

When Oxford English Dictionary announced its latest update, many found it quite 'shiok' (cool) to see 19 of these commonly used terms and phrases appear in the esteemed tome's lexicon.

We can now 'lepak' (hang out) with family and friends after a long and busy week of work and school, while foodies can check out local fare at the 'hawker centre' which offers yummy dishes such as 'char siu' (roast pork) and 'chili crab'.

Other terms that made it into the dictionary include: 'ang moh', 'blur', 'HDB', 'killer litter', 'sabo', 'sabo king', 'sotong', 'teh tarik', 'wah', and 'wet market'.

However, most of us at AsiaOne are scratching our heads at 'Chinese helicopter,' which, according to Oxford's online dictionary, refers to a Singaporean who received their education in Mandarin and has limited knowledge of English.

Earlier mentions of the term in The Straits Times referred to it as a local slang with derogatory nuances.

Have you ever heard of or used this term? Let us know by taking the poll below.

For those who are interested in brushing up their Singlish skills, check out the Inter-Hood Singlish Charades Competition 2016:

on Facebook

Hahaha, watch the actors explode at the end! See the whole video to understand why! Another classic Singlish Phrase.

Posted by HoodChampions on Thursday, 28 April 2016


More about

Purchase this article for republication.



Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.