“After diam-diam a bit…”

I found the image in Slavomír Čéplö (bulbul)’s Facebook post so delightful I had to bring the text here even though I have to copy it out word by word; it’s a page from Winnie-da-Pooh in Singlish, translated by Gwee Li Sui (and claimed to be “First translation of A.A. Milne’s classic children’s book into a creole language,” though who knows?):

“I think the bees suspect something!”
“Suspect what thing?”
“Dunno leh. But I fewl they suspicious!”
“Maybe they think you wan their honey.”
“Maybe. With bees, you dunno one.”
After diam-diam a bit, he cow-pehed to you again.
“Christopher Lobin!”
“Your house got umbrella?”
“I think so.”

You can see (most of) the original English here, and I linked to A Dictionary of Singlish and Singapore English here. Unfortunately, the dictionary doesn’t have the words I linked above or “cow-peh,” which I suspect may be Hokkien 哭爸 kao pei ‘cry father,’ “used to describe a person who is making a complaint.”


  1. I wouldn’t be surprised if the PRC lodged a diplomatic complaint. They are delicate.

    I couldn’t find any other translations into Creole languages. I would have expected at least Haitian. There is an Afrikaans translation, if that counts.

  2. David Marjanović says

    “cow-peh,” which I suspect may be Hokkien 哭爸 kao pei ‘cry father,’ “used to describe a person who is making a complaint.”

    Right here. Includes a beautiful example of the shift of nasals to voiced plosives in the Min languages.

  3. Well found!

  4. Includes a beautiful example of the shift of nasals to voiced plosives in the Min languages

    How? I don’t see any Sinitic pronunciation of either or with nasals in it.

    BTW, Wiktionary says that in Min Nan the expression means ‘Oh, shit!’, and borrowed into Taiwanese Mandarin it means ‘May your parents rot!’

  5. David Marjanović says

    I mean bu, which from context I expect to be . Sorry, though – the shift is specific to Min Nan.

  6. David Eddyshaw says

    I feel vaguely affronted that Y Tywysog Bach appears among all these translations of Le Petit Prince into mere dialects.


    Now, where’s my Welsh army and navy when I need them?

  7. There’s a blog about WtP translations:

    Welsh is absent (so far) from the list. The Romansh version of The House at Pooh Corner is by “Gilbert Taggart […] not a native Romansh speaker; he was a Canadian linguist (and film maker) who learnt the language and created the first French-Romansh dictionary.”

  8. I have heard anecdotally that Winnie-the-Pooh (and The House at Pooh Corner) are very challenging to translate effectively, because they depend so intensely on the specific authorial voice A. A. Milne created.

  9. the shift is specific to Min Nan.

    Not all varieties of Min Nan. Under “dialectal data”, *m>b is seen in the Xiamen and Shantou dialects (of the mainland), but not in Haikou (of Hainan Island).

  10. CrawdadTom says

    In Taiwanese, “diam-diam” means (more or less) not to talk, not to respond when someone else speaks to you. This fits the English (going beyond Hat’s link), which I just looked up in my mother’s copy (199th Printing, March, 1946; First Edition October, 1926 [the month after she was born]):

    There was another little silence, and then he called down to you again.

    I guess “called down to you” translated as “cow-pehed to you” is to catch the tone of voice and the situation.

  11. hippietrail says

    I’ve been spending months in Johor Bahru since the pandemic subsided and just the other day when I wanted to shoosh the dog and had forgotten the appropriate term during my adventures to Japan and Taiwan, the online translator reminded me that “be quiet” and “shut up” translate to diam.

    I also happen to have stumbled upon an excellent online Malay dictionary while here and it has quite a bit to offer on diam-diam.

  12. Wow, that’s a great resource — thanks!

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