Funny Malaysian English Or Manglish, Why Cannot?

When we say our funny Malaysian English, we actually mean Manglish aka “mangled English”. This distinctive form of English language is a colloquial form of Malaysian English. It has its own quirky collocations, syntax, vocabulary and even its unique brand of idioms, question tags, metaphors and hybrid of words.

funny Malaysian English language

Our funny Malaysian English or Manglish is strongly influenced by other languages/dialects spoken by Malaysians, which includes Malay, Mandarin, Hokkien, Cantonese, etc

Today, let’s just take look at the word “can”.

1. Can
Instead  of saying “It can be done.” We just simply blurt, “can”. It simply mean “yes”, to indicate ability. One word says it all. For this instance, I think it is because we are strongly influenced by our national language Bahasa Melayu (boleh), Hokkien dialect (eh sai) and Cantonese (tuck).

Then, there is this a more confident or an enthusiastic “Yes”, by repeating the word “can”.

Example: “Can you do it do this for me?”
“Can”. Or you can answer, “Can, can”

2. How can?
The expression “how can?” is use to express disbelief, incredulity, or to replace English phrases like “That’s impossible!”, or “I don’t believe you!”.

Example: “How can? I think is nasib (luck) lah!”

3. Can Hor?
Add the Hokkien “hor” after the word “can”, and we have “Can hor?. It actually mean “It can be done right?” It is similar to a question tag , like “Is it?” or “Isn’t it?”

Example: “Just make a simple excuse, then quickly cabut (flee) lah. Can hor?”

4. Can or not?
This is how Malaysians make request, seek permission or asking for favor. They just merely ask, “Can or not” or they use it like a question tag. The proper way would be: “Can it be done?”

Example: “Diam lah. Can or not?
“I want to lepak (chill out) with friends, can or not?”

5. Can what?

This is to reinforce a question to make sounds more confident or full or assurance. When one actually means, “It can be done. Shouldn’t you know this?”

Example: “Can what? Every time I also do like that one.”

6. Can meh? Can ah?
The both “meh” and “ah” are definitely from Cantonese and Hokkien dialect respectively. They are used as a question with a hint of doubt or uncertainty. Of course the proper English would be: “Are you sure it can be done?”

Example: “Agak, agak, can meh?”

7. Can also
It is a nonchalant of response,  which means “Sure” or “Can do”.

Example: “Want to tumpang (lift) my car? Can also”

8. Can leh…
By adding a short lingering “leh” after “can”, it adds a reassuring tone, pleading that it is possible or it can be done. The right way should be: “Can’t you see that it can be done?”

Example: “Do for me one time lah. Can leh…”

9. Can mah?
The “mah” is definitely from the Mandarin word. By adding “mah” question tag  it gives an assurance or confidence to question that it is possible or it can be done. It is just like saying “See?! It can be done!”

Example: “Just copy and paste. Can mah?”

10. Why cannot?
Malaysians answer “Why cannot?” instead of “Why not?” so often in their daily conversation, is because we use the word “can” in so many contexts in our funny Malaysian English or Manglish. We love to say, “Cannot one lah” or “Where can, man?

Example: “Why cannot? He can, I also can, what?!”

Quote About Language: “The tongue is but three inches long, yet it can kill a man six feet high” – Japanese Proverb