Denise Li, Opinions

The One Singlish Term That Galls Me – Denise Li

Denise Li loves everything about Singlish except for this one term …

Few things make me feel more bonded to Singapore than when I use Singlish or hear it being spoken. I love that it’s such an efficient mode of communication, and I love that there is a variety of sentiments that can only be expressed fully in Singlish. My Belgian partner is ever amused that I can switch from speaking standard English (when talking to him) to a mangled, incomprehensible variety of it (when I speak to my friends) without skipping a beat.

Confused Christian Bale

There is one Singlish term I’ll never use though, and which I find irksome when other people use it:



It’s a term derived from Hokkien and people use it when they find out that a friend has gone somewhere or partaken in a particular activity without inviting him or her.

I hate it when someone uses “bojio” because it puts the other person in a tight spot.


I mean … What exactly is the appropriate response when someone says “Bojio” to you?

“I’m sorry I didn’t invite you.”


“I’m sorry you weren’t my first choice for company when I was thinking of going to this place.”


“I’m sorry, but I really didn’t want to hang out with you in this particular instance.”


“Maybe it’s cos I don’t really like you that much?”


Because really, it has to be one of the reasons stated above, right?

But if I go somewhere, or do something, I really don’t feel like I have to justify my actions to anyone. I should be able to do as I please and not worry about hurting someone’s feelings by omission.


Basically, “bojio” is a needy (if passive aggressive) way of expressing your frustration at being left out.


So the next time you feel an urge to say “Bojio”, please, rein yourself in; or you can be sure you never get invited to anything ever again.


About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.