Friday, February 20, 2009

Don't Keep Me in Suspenders

Lydia Teh's latest book Do You wear Suspenders : The Wordy Tales of Eh Poh Nim is now out and it has my blurb on the back (I seem to be making a profession of this!) :
Learners of English cannot be said to have a mastery of the language until they are able to use colloquial expressions with ease and familiarity and have a wide vocabulary. Acquiring this, of course, takes time. Lydia Teh’s very clever Eh Po Nym columns on the Mind Our English pages of The Star not only help learners build up their stock of language, but do it in a fun way and with a decidedly local flavour through the accounts of the adventures and misadventures of the eponymous hero.
Eponymous /Eh Poh Nym ... geddit?

If you want a taster, Lydia has archived some of her columns here.

And the always enterprising lady actually created this fun bookformercial to promote it:

And on her blog, Lydia has a competition with some tasty prizes - go see.

An aside. Lydia and I were debating this word "suspenders". In Malaysian English guys sometimes use the term to mean "underpants".

"That's wrong," said Lydia "it refers to the things that men keep their trousers up with."

"Nope," said I "It's the thingies that keep up ladies' stockings when they want to look sexy."

She was arguing for the American definition of the word (which seems to be the most widespread in Malaysia), and I was arguing for the British English definition.

I actually find it quite a hoot when Malaysians say they follow British English, because although the spelling system might follow the later, the accepted vocabulary is a mix of both - influenced strongly by the media. (There's a great academic study in there for someone ...)

But this diversity gives Malaysian English it's character ... something that the book celebrates very well indeed.


Chet said...

I thought the thingies that keep up ladies' stockings are called garters.

Well, according to, a garter is:
1. An elasticized band worn around the leg to hold up a stocking or sock.
2. A suspender strap with a fastener attached to a girdle or belt to hold up a stocking or sock.
3. An elasticized band worn around the arm to keep the sleeve pushed up.
4. The badge of the Order of the Garter.
5. The order itself.
6. Membership in the order.

Amir said...

"Acquiring this, of course, takes."

Takes what, ah?

bibliobibuli said...

chet - in british english suspenders are for stockings and braces are for trousers.

i had never heard the word "supsenders" used for "braces" till i came to malaysia, though i knew "garters" as the american eng word for "suspenders". in brit english a "garter" is an elasticated thingy that goes roudn your stockings and is worn to look extra tarty and sexy (a blue one is worn for a wedding for the "something blue good luck thing)

thanks Amir - dunno how that slipped

Kak Teh said...

Congratulations Lydia, I am in suspenders too, waiting to get the book!:)

Chet said...

>> in brit english a "garter" is an elasticated thingy that goes roudn your stockings and is worn to look extra tarty and sexy

Well, that's the first definition offered by
1. An elasticized band worn around the leg to hold up a stocking or sock.

Tho' the sock part is wrong.

YTSL said...

Hi Bibliobuli --

I wonder whether it's not just a Malaysian (and American) vs British thang rather than a generational thing in Malaysia. FWIW, I grew up thinking that suspenders were something my father wore (i.e., what in the US would be called a "jockstrap"). So I just about fainted when a friend in America commented that she liked the suspenders I was wearing... only to find that she had meant my bright red braces. ;b

Eli James said...

Somebody should do a book about the in-betweeners of English - we've got Malaysian English, which professes to be Brit but isn't, not entirely ... and if I recall Canadian English has the same challenges - some words replaced and others pronounced differently ...

bibliobibuli said...

not really chet. when i was a kid and wore socks to my knee my mum made me garters to stop them from slipping down. this was a simple band of elastic.

very probably canadian english has the same challenges. but in the end it matters not a bit. malaysian english is what the community speaks and it is valid in its own right just as australian english or jamaican english is. sometimes though we have to be aware of how certain words might give the wrong impression.

another great one is "pants". my malaysian friend announced to some british colleagues "i don't wear pants" - and they were terribly shocked 'cos in british english "pants" = "panties" = "knickers" so they thought she was going around without any on. she, of course, meant "trousers"!

Anonymous said...

In school, Malay boys used to call their underpants 'spenda' as in 'fuhlamak, member pakai spenda calvin klein'. Always thought that came from a misuse of 'suspenders'. Anyway, congratulations Lydia.

bibliobibuli said...

spenda? love it! we really don't know the origin of this use of "suspenders" when used for underwear, and i'm really intrigued.

btw my husband used to call them by this name till i laughed at him!

Amir said...

Malaysian children used to take 'rubbers' to school all the time, too. And this had nothing to do with safe sex.

Anonymous said...

But "rubbers" is definitely British. "Suspenders" seems to have a more complex heritage. I remember "suspenders" just meaning underpants at school.

-- Preeta

Lydia Teh said...

Sharon, thanks for posting this. I've rephrased the b.t. as Bookertisement.

You remembered wrongly. I know that suspenders refers to underpants but not as the sexy garter you mentioned. The equivalent for 'spenda' used by Chinese boys is 'spender'.

Thanks for the well wishes, Kak Teh and anonymous.

bibliobibuli said...

"rubbers" is british english for "eraser" ... but don't say that in the US (and malaysians look at you kinda funny too)

no, Lydia, the garter isn't a "suspender" in any definition

bibliobibuli said...

Lydia - oh and as for the "book trailer" thingy, i went looking for examples on the internet and found that the term has become pretty widespread so "circle of seven productions" would have a very hard time if they tried to enforce their trademark!

btw, did you know that someone has trademarked the expression "freedom of speech"? so you can only use it with permission? that is not a joke, but the guy who took out the trademark only did it to show how stupid this whole trademarking system is.

Lydia Teh said...

I agree with you there. (I did plenty of googling too on this subject). So many authors used the term book trailer including some famous Americans. Maybe they don't know about the copyright or they don't care if they do. Yes, c.o.s will have lots of work to do if they want to enforce their trademark.

Anonymous said...

Garters are no just for ladies.. for the Scouts, green garters (elastic bands with green tags hanging off them) was part of formal Scout wear.