Dec 20, 2011


A couple of days before my flight to Malaysia I met Ruta Žukaitytė in a Couchsurfing meetup at Dhaka. She is from Lithuania (the real name is Lietuva) but lives and works in Singapore. She's been to Malaysia several times. She shared some important observations about Malaysia and it's culture with me, things that only a foreigner would notice. One such observation was "Can!".

While speaking English, if the response of a question is positive, the Malaysians would often say "Can!" instead of "Yes". And the "Can!" is blurted out with a sense of urgency. For example :-

Q : Can I have a cup of coffee ?
A : Can!

Later, I realized that the reason behind this is that they are doing literal translation of what they would have said had we been speaking in Bahasa Melayu. Because in Bahasa the answer is "Boleh", their word for "Can". So in Bahasa the conversation could have been :-

Q : Boleh saya (blah blah blah) ?
A : Boleh!

Another quirk of Malaysian English is "Just because". It is from the fine country of Malaysia that I learned "Just because" is considered a full length, meaningful and fully functional English sentence. Why is that so ? Just because.