SinGweesh on Wednesday: Mugger
by Gwee Li Sui
BEING a born-and-bled Singaporean means that you must have gone through our world-crass education system. Means that you must know all about the quest for model answers, the Ten-Year Series, question-spotting, exam-smarts, chow kuan, chow keng, afterschool tuition, and school ranking. You may also know about this hantu-like creature called the mugger.
The mugger is a certain breed of learner – who will become a certain breed of adult. Top schools here are full of muggers one. The mugger is someone who knows all the answers even before a lesson begins, and he or she does all the homework religiously… and more. He or she gets As all the time – and A-minus cannot! He or she bo personality one except when it comes to showing kiasu pleasure at having beaten everyone else. Importantly, the mugger has a kiam pah face.
To be sure, the mugger isn’t the same as a nerd or a geek hor. A nerd or a geek may be antisocial, cannot friend-friend type, but he or she is at least intelligent. The nerd’s or geek’s passion for knowledge is fixated on one subject, his or her excessive commitment to which makes him or her look gila. But the mugger isn’t really intelligent as he or she just processes a lot of information fast. He or she isn’t interested in learning; all he or she wants is to win-win-win!
The mugger is only called “mugger” to be objective. To be subjective, we more often call him or her “chow mugger” or “mugger toad” or – best – “chow mugger toad”. “Mugger” doesn’t mean the same as in England hor, where it points to a robber. It is more the Singlish noun form of the England “mug up”, which refers to learning as much of something as humanly possible in a short time. But then you wonder why angmos can say “John mugs up on his Pure Maths over the holidays” but never arrive at saying “John is a mugger”. That’s why Singlish is superior!
Now, “mugger” may seem to be a label, but it’s first an abstract curse, used to warn someone of what he or she is looking like. So, in numerous contexts, people take turns to call another a mugger: today you’re one, and tomorrow it’s me. The curse functions via peer pressure – to save one’s friends from becoming the monster the Singapore education system is powderful to turn one into. So to say “You chow mugger!” or “Dun be a chow mugger!” or “Stop mugging lah!” is a good thing. Life truly happens when you’re not chow mugging. You need to go smell the roses, play some football, or enjoy cosplaying!
But, if someone keeps mugging despite every warning, then eventually there’s no hope liao. He or she will become the very embodiment of mugging: a mugger toad. The mugger toad is a king or queen mugger. The “toad” reference may relate to a toady, someone who sar-kars an important figure, but here it is way more teruk. A mugger toad studies to carry the balls of people who can empower him or her, such as his or her teachers or parents or the System. When a mugger toad grows up, well, he or she becomes a very familiar kind of Singaporean.
Featured Image by Sean Chong.
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