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© Jack Tsen-Ta Lee
Last updated on 16 April 2012 (14 headwords). No reproduction without permission.

ya /yah, / int. [Mal. ya, (formerly) ia yes, it is so (Wilkinson, Winstedt)] Also yah1 Yes, it is so, I agree.  2 In ya?: Yes? What?
1 1978 Leong Choon Cheong (quoting Tan Geok Song) Youth in the Army 142 Ya lah.  1994 C.S. Chong NS: An Air-Level Story 50 Ya, ah! Din’t think of it.  87 Ya, ya. I remember when I was your age, young man.  88 Ya! Definitely.  2011 Sandra Leong The Sunday Times (LifeStyle), 12 June, 13 Yah man, Singapore is really that small.  2011 May Seah (quoting Chen Hanwei) Today, 23 June, T2 Yah lor, terrible!

yam seng /yum seng, jʌm sɛŋ/ int. [poss. Cant. 饮 胜 yam seng ‘drink to success’: yam to drink; to swallow; to suck in + seng (Eitel); Mand. yĭn drink + shèng victory, success; surpass, be superior to, get the better of; superb, wonderful, lovely (Chi.–Eng. Dict.)] Also yum seng.  An exclamation made before an alcoholic drink is consumed; bottoms up! cheers!
1928 “Notes from Malacca: Induction of a New Vicar”,
The Straits Times, 19 April (byline dated 17 April), 10 Mr. G. C. Dodd, District Judge, replied on behalf of the guests in a very witty speech – also in Malay – which was received with ‘Yam Seng’ and loud applause.  2000 Clarissa Oon The Straits Times (Life!), 5 October, 10 Having to lead the yum seng as master of ceremonies for the wedding of Tan’s sister.  2001 Cheong Suk-Wai, Tee Hun Ching & Michelle Ho The Sunday Times (Sunday Plus), 7 January, P3 Wine has also cornered Chinese restaurants, which have long resonated with cognac and whisky yam sengs2005 Jeremy Au Yong The Straits Times, 29 May. The 600 or so alumni gathered there leapt to their feet, applauded, cheered and raised their glasses in a unified yam seng.  2006 Tan Dawn Wei The Straits Times (Life!) (from Straits Times Interactive), 27 November. Weddings have become as predictable as vehicular traffic outside Ngee Ann City on a Saturday. .. Spare us the cheesy dry-ice effect, half-hearted yam sengs, styrofoam-cake ‘cutting’ (please, everyone knows it’s just knife to the slit) and DIY slide shows done to pop ditties from boybands that no longer exist.  2006 Eve Wee-Ang The Straits Times (Life!), 2 December, 5 We had meaningful heartfelt speeches and roaring yum sengs (from the bride no less).

yau zha guai /yow tzah guı, jaʊ tzɑ gʊʌɪ/ n. [Cant. yau fat, grease, oil + sháp to fry in oil or fat; to boil + kwai a ghost, a spectre; a body, a goblin, an imp; devils (Eitel); Mand. yóu oil, fat, grease + zhá fry in deep fat or oil, deep-fry + guǐ ghost, spirit, apparition (Chi.–Eng. Dict.)]  You Tiao.

yaya /yah-yah, ˈjɑjɑ/ v. & a. [poss. < Mal. yang-yang god of gods, great god (Wilkinson); or poss. < Old Jav. or Kawi jâjâ father (Horne)] Also ya-ya.  A v. Show off; behave in a self-important manner.  B a. Arrogant, boastful, proud, stuck-up.
A 1978 Leong Choon Cheong Youth in the Army 315 yaya. Means showing off, to act as though one is very important. ‘Don’t yaya around’, ‘Don’t talk yaya’, ‘Got nothing want to yaya’ are common sentences with the slang ‘yaya’ incorporated.  1985 Michael Chiang Army Daze 53 Yaya. Nonchalant; also one who acts tough. E.g., ‘Who gave you permission to smoke? You don’t simply yaya around here, understand?!’  B 2003 Teo Pau Lin (quoting Anthony Tan) The Sunday Times (LifeStyle), 19 October, L34 He thinks he got money, very ya-ya. I don’t like to talk to him.

Comb.: yaya-king  One who often behaves in a self-important manner; one who is frequently boastful or stuck-up.  See King.
1978 Leong Choon Cheong Youth in the Army 315 yaya-king. One who is known to ‘yaya’ often.

Phrase: yaya papaya.

yeh yeh /yay yay, jeɪ jeɪ/ n. [origin unkn.]  A children’s game involving the use of a skipping rope, often made from linked rubber bands.  Also known as Zero Point.
2012 Frances Ess Today on Sunday, 11 March, 8 [W]e would accumulate rubber bands to be strung into a homemade skipping rope and play yeh-yeh or zero point.

yong tau fu /yong tow foo, jɒŋ taʊ fuː/ n. [Cant. yéung to cause to ferment; fermented wine; compare 酿黄瓜 yéung wong kwá a cucumber stuffed with mincemeat: wong yellow + kwá melon; gourd (Eitel); Mand. niàng make (beer, wine, etc.) + Taufu] Also yong tau foo.  A type of Chinese food consisting of pieces of beancurd and certain vegetables such as bittergourd, brinjal, chillies and ladies’ fingers stuffed with minced fish or pork, which are either served dry or in soup and with or without noodles.
2001 Tee Hun Ching The Sunday Times (Sunday Plus), 14 January, P9 The usual hawker fare such as laksa, hor fun and yong tau fu2002 Chua Minyi The Sunday Times, 31 March, 30 Enter a world where Muslims are digging their chopsticks into wanton mee, yong tau foo and hotplate hor fun2005 Peh Shing Huei The Straits Times (from Straits Times Interactive), 13 October. For those who prefer the food path less travelled, there will be little-known delights such as Guangxi yong tau foo. The Guangxi and Gaozhou Association will serve up this dish, with its special soft-skin tau pok and meat with chives.  2006 Teo Pau Lin (quoting Wong Hon Mun) The Sunday Times (LifeStyle), 30 July, L28 I would have mee tai mak (short, thick noodles), either in soup or dry, with fishballs, pork balls or yong tau foo at this noodles shop near my house. It’s very good.  2011 Huang Lijie The Straits Times (Home), 11 July, B5 The couple sold yong tau foo (stuffed bean curd and vegetables) out of a pushcart, plying their wares in Tanjong Pagar.

Comb.: Hakka Yong Tau Fu.

you tiao /yoh tiow, jo tɪaʊ/ n. [Mand. 油条 yóutiáo: yóu oil, fat, grease + tiáo long narrow piece]  A deep-fried dough stick.
2005 Salma Khalik & Judith Tan The Straits Times, 28 January, H2 Her mother sells you tiao at a hawker centre in Ang Mo Kio.  2008 Huang Lijie The Sunday Times (LifeStyle), 28 December, 23 The salad comes packed with goodies such as you tiao (Chinese dough fritter), deep-fried squid and crispy cuttlefish as well.  2009 Thng Lay Teen The Sunday Times (LifeStyle), 8 March, 29 The youtiao is also well done. The dough fritter is dipped in a sugar solution before grilling, coming out crispy on the outside and slightly chewy on the inside.

your grandfather’s army see Grandfather’s Army.

your head int. [Eng. transl. of Mand. 你的头 nǐde tóu]  An exclamation expr. that the person addressed is foolish, talking nonsense, etc.
2004 Low Mui Tiang (quoting Wong Seng Cheong) The Straits Times, 21 April, H1 I was taking a shower when I heard an explosion. I thought it was a National Day Parade rehearsal so I shouted to my husband to take our grandson onto the balcony to see what was happening. He shouted back, ‘National Day Parade your head, you’d better come out of the bathroom so we can go downstairs’.

yum seng var. of yam seng.

yusheng /yee-shəng, jyːˈʃəŋ/ n. [Mand. fish + shēng raw] Also yu sheng.  A Chinese dish traditionally eaten on the seventh day of the Chinese New Year season consisting of slices of raw fish, shredded vegetables such as carrots, ginger and turnips, deep-fried pieces of flour, a sweet-sour sauce, etc., which is tossed with chopsticks with cries of ‘Lo Hei’.
¶ The dish is eaten at Chinese New Year because the Mand. word for
fish, , is a homophone for the word for abundance, .
2001 Raelene Tan The Sunday Times (LifeStyle), 14 January, P12 The seventh day of the first lunar month is celebrated as “Everybody’s Birthday”, or ren ri. This is when the ritual of tossing and eating yu sheng, or raw fish, is carried out with much fun and gusto among Teochews and the Cantonese. “Yu”, the Cantonese word for fish, sounds similar to the word abundance. “Sheng” sounds similar to “life”. .. To the happy cries of “lo hei!”, meaning to “raise up wealth” in Cantonese, the ingredients are tossed and mixed. 
2001 “Yusheng Treat for Senior Citizens” The Sunday Times, 4 February, 29 Invited 420 elderly people.. to a yusheng or raw fish salad lunch at the Neptune Theatre restaurant.  2002 Wong Ah Yoke The Sunday Times (Sunday Plus), 4 February, P6 Yu sheng – the popular raw fish salad that is a must in any Chinese New Year menu.  2003 Solomon Lim The Sunday Times (LifeStyle), 18 January, L37 While yu sheng was created in Singapore in the 1960s, the origin of this Chinese New Year (CNY) delicacy can be traced back to a simple village practice held by Chinese fishermen in the past. It was traditional for fishermen along the coast of Guangzhou to celebrate the seventh day of CNY, or ren ri, by feasting on their catch as fish, or yu, is synonymous with abundance and prosperity. This cultural practice was then brought to Singapore by migrants where it evolved into fish porridge found at roadside stalls. It was only in the mid-1960s that master chefs Hooi Kok Wai, Lau Yoke Pui, Sin Leong and Than Mui Kai decided to create a unique CNY dish using the strips of raw fish from the porridge. Combining the raw slices of a local fish with a melange of ingredients including shredded carrots, turnips, ginger and jellyfish, yu sheng was intended to be colourful, tasty and, above all, symbolically auspicious for the allegorically-minded Chinese.  2006 Leong Phei Phei The Sunday Times (LifeStyle), 8 January, L23 Yu sheng, a traditional Chinese New Year dish that is usually eaten on the seventh day of the Chinese New Year, comprises slices of raw fish with other ingredients like shredded carrot, turnip and jellyfish.  2008 Huang Lijie The Sunday Times (LifeStyle), 28 December, 23 Indeed, yusheng has gone from a humble dish eaten by fishermen in Guangzhou, China, to a Chinese New Year delicacy here. Until the 1960s, the simple raw fish salad comprised slices of cucumber, radish and coriander flavoured with vinegar, oil and sugar.

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