Sgprns luv abbrvtns & nrs

4 May
Euh, so where does this lead me?

Euh, so where does this lead me?

I told you that Singapore is full of signs, whether it is traffic signs or public convenience signs. But what’s worse is that most of the signs (and other written material) contain abbreviations, so that to the outsider the signs are virtually un-understandable…

But the Singaporeans don’t only have a weak spot for letters, they are also crazy for numbers. Everything is numbered: exits of metro stations, the directions of the metro lines, the lanes on the highway, even the urinoirs in the station…

Bus and Metro numbers at City Hall

Bus and Metro numbers at City Hall

Street signs have to be able to be read quickly and fit on a limited space. So it’s only logical that you would abbreviate words. I don’t have any problem with the following

  • st = street, rd = road, av = avenue, ln = lane – so far no problem
  • but in local language it becomes more complicated: jl = jalan = street, bt = bukit = quarter, kg = kampong = village
  • add to that some practical abbreviations: cpx = complex, opp = opposite, blk = block
  • and the cities/areas in Singapore are abbreviated by 3 letters, like airport codes.

So on the buses or bus maps, you might find something like: bus nr 124 dir. ERW- S Jl Kg Bahru opp. bt Batang. So give it a try… I challenge you ;-)   **Answer at the bottom of this page** Or “ppl cpx” for People’s Complex in Chinatown…

The MRT EW line Dir 2 with Station Nrs

The MRT EW line Dir 2 with Station Nrs

The metro in Singapore is not called metro, but MRT (Mass Rapid Transport) or sometimes SMRT (read ‘smart’ and the additional S stands for Singapore, I suppose). Or some trains are called LRT (Light Rail Train or so) – I don’t have a clue what the difference is? All metro stations have letters and numbers: first the station has the letters of the line (EW for the East West line, etc) and then the number of the station e.g. EW15 is Queenstown. That’s OK, but the interchange stations e.g. Outram can then both be referred to as EW16 and NE3 – still following?

Even urinals have numbers - practical

Even urinals have numbers - practical

And then there is this obsession with numbers. Parking spots have numbers, so do the lanes on the highway. Even the public toilets have numbers. Maybe it eases communication: “Did you see that hunk at number 4?”  “no I prefer number 2”.

If you think it would only be a concern for the public administration to get things organized, then you’re wrong. One of the gay organizations in Singapore is called PLU – “People Like Us” because gay people are illegal (however government looks the other way, because it wants to profile itself as shoppers paradise – and who are the best shoppers… ? – right), so mentioning the G word is taboo. So people have replaced it by PLU – So is he PLU or not?

Singapreans are MAAD for abbrvns

Singapreans are MAAD for abbrvns

The Red Dot design museum (very nice little museum) here has a monthly MAAD (Market of Artists And Design), or the newspaper has a CAT section (Classified Adds in the Times newspaper). Well, I’m sure it saves on letters, space and paper. So maybe they are just being energy efficient… ???

Some more ?- Try to guess what the following is: SOS
(Symphonic Orchestra Singapore) and many many more…

SOS - tooooo many abbreviations

SOS - tooooo many abbreviations

** Bus number 124 in the direction of ERW (never found out myself what this abbreviation is), bus stop on South Jalan Kampung Bahru (street) opposite of Bukit Batang (quarter) – confusing huh?


One Response to “Sgprns luv abbrvtns & nrs”

  1. Ana 11 May 2009 at 15:16 #

    Dear Tony,
    Great description of Singapore. The abreviation is the first challenge but the cultural i am still working in it.
    Currently, i am in Europe, otherwise we could meet for a Singaporean Sling at Raffles hotel bar.
    Have fun in magical Asia,

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