Angry … What??
When I started my blog and spread the word overseas to my friends and family, the first question always was “What??? How do you spell that and what does it mean, angry … what?”.
Even in Singapore I still meet people, expats (Ang Mohs to be precise) that haven’t heard of the term yet or if I drop it during one of my Singlish attempts, look at me as if I just called them Nazi.
Without question the term “Ang Moh” lies somewhere in the Grey zone and is discussable, however I have the feeling that I need to do some “cleanup” work for the term “Ang Moh” as it is used mainly in Singapore and Malaysia and too few people really know its meaning.
Ang Mo(h) – A Definition
Plain and simple translated “Ang Moh” doesn’t mean more or less then “Red hair(ed)”.
When and where it appeared for the first time stays unclear but since the term “Ang Moh” is used to describe a white or Caucasian person in general, drawing a connection to the 18th century, British sailors exploring the island Singapore for the first time sound more then reasonable.
(Read: What You Must Know About Singapore’s History)
- • Ang Mo(h) – Means translated “Red hair(ed)”
- • Originated most probably from the 18th century british settlers arriving in Singapore for the first time
- • Is widely accepted and used as a simple term to describe Caucasian / White people
The translation “Red haired” might be confusing in the beginning since it is used as a general term for all Caucasians, regardless of their hair color, but it starts to make sense later when learning that Asians like to cut short their words, and “Ang Moh” (two syllables) is definitely shorter and easier to pronounce then “Caucasian” (three syllables).
The Big Question: Racism?
Since I can remember the question of “racism” hovers over the term “Ang Moh”. Is it used in a racist and negative way or is it really just a plain term for a Caucasian in Asia?
The question must probably be answered on a personal level, where I can speak for myself that I have no problems what so ever with the “Ang Moh” term. I use it myself with my local friends and as you can see it was an inspiration (although meant provocative) for this webpage as well.
I know of people who don’t like being called Ang Moh (same as you wouldn’t call an African American friend just simple the “black haired guy”), and I know of situations where it really was used and meant only in a racist way.
“He’s a bloody stuck up ang-moh” or “Hey Ang-Moh, you wanna get out of the way lah?”.
A friend worked in an office as the only white person and whenever the secretary wanted something from her, she just shouted “Ang Moh!!” as loud as she can… not nice lah and definately different to funny chatting between friends.
Ang Moh … Gui? Dan? Kao?
There are however some terms you should try to remember, that are clearly racist.
Ang Moh Gui or Ang Moh Kao adds a nice “Devil” to the term, making you a “Red Haired Devil”… which probably isn’t in your favor of joking around then anymore.
It happened to me once, and the culprit was a maybe 5 year old kid sitting in the MRT next to me with his mum, the kid was obviously not the real culprit here, but having an official law against “Racism” in Singapore, you shouldn’t expect this kind of insult anymore.
Another theory of the origin of the term “Ang Moh” actually comes from the word “Ang Moh Dan”, which is the local “Rambutan” fruit, red hairy skin on the outside, white fruit flesh on the inside. If that doesn’t fit, then what?
Ang Mohs In The Mainstream
Regardless of the racist accusations the term “Ang Moh” is widely seen as a simple way of describing a Caucasian person these days.
You will hear the term in local TV and Movie productions, Radio shows and read it in the Magazines or books.
There is even a landmark in Singapore which is officially called “Ang Mo Kio”, referring to a bridge that was build by Westerners in that area providing the prominent name and a reason for me to tell my local friends “I’m back in my hood” whenever we cross “Ang Mo Kio’ with the car.
How Do You Feel About The Term “Ang Moh”?
Please let us know in the comments below if you think Ang Moh still connects to a racist term or if you believe that ‘Ang Moh” is just another part of the Singaporean pop culture and general understanding.