SinGweesh on Wednesday: Lor

Apr 27, 2016 11.00AM |

by Gwee Li Sui

“LOR” is the most bo power Singlish end-particle. It’s used to signal resignation, as when you bo pian still must go along with something. But this has nothing to do with what is described per se. No matter how shiok or kilat that may be, just end with “lor” and there’s suddenly a wave of melancholy. You will feel damn sian, damn lembek – and “lor” is liddat one! It betrays your personal feeling towards what you ownself just said.

In other words, “lor” is a dampener, and Singaporeans know all about being dampened in mood, right? We understand how, in whatever we do, however hard we go at it, most things will still happen the way they kena decided long ago. No matter how much constructive feedback we may give, it’s like almost always got no effect one. Things will still run like on Groundhog Day, like in a hamster wheel. And “lor” is a product of that sian culture.

In fact – let me complain a bit more can? – the Gahmen may say that Singaporeans dun fight hard and dun hunger enough, but all that is talk cock lah. The bare truth is, Singaporeans kena burnt a lot liao. Say we not productive enough and, when we work harder, say we dun spend enough time with our families. Say we not committed to belonging here, and, when we show we are, say we have entitlement mentality. Say we should feel free to tell our own Singapore stories, and, when we do, whack us for being critical or revisionist. So now we guai-guai, you tell us anything, we just say: “OK lor”.

“Lor” is hardly a complex end-particle – it’s too resigned to be complex anyway! All possible uses of it revolve around the feeling of resignation and ways of encouraging this. I can list three main forms here:

  1. The normal “lor” tends also to come with a casual moral or advice. So, when you say “Now I know lor”, you’re regretting having believed something and also warning against believing easily.
  1. The aggressive “lor” is shouted and often used on a hopeful or stubborn guy who isn’t yet resigned. So, for example, you say “Then you do lor!” to invite someone to experience first-hand the sianness you already feel.
  1. The sarcastic “lor” is said to create distance from one who seems to have good reasons not to feel resigned. So saying “You very smart lor” isn’t really saying “You’re very smart” but “I guess you think you’re very smart”!

A current trending use is the line “Win liao lor”. This invokes the sarcastic form and can be translated as “I guess there’s no losing for you”. “Win liao lor” appears in a situation where someone goes to sibei great lengths to get a favourable outcome. Like when some gila babi walks into a hawker centre and chopes every available seat for his friends with his personal items. You scream with your hands in the air: “Win liao lor!”

But there are also several familiar uses such as what I’ve mentioned earlier, “OK lor”. “OK lor” is said when you want to signal that you’re done engaging and can’t be bothered to listen anymore. Very useful in Singapore! Then there’s “Liddat lor”, which you can use when, after hours spent at baking classes, your cake still tastes like shit (not that I know how that tastes) – so “Liddat lor”. “Die lor” is verbalised when, say, a day before your family trip to Japan, your travel agency suddenly shuts down. And, of course, when the Prime Minister’s sister accuses him online of dishonouring their father’s memory, what do you think goes through everyone’s mind? Probably “Siow liao lor”.


Featured Image by Sean Chong.

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