Hiao like fishball

I wore glasses to work today for the first time at this (relatively) new workplace, but only because I woke up with a right eye that was red and slightly swollen, and therefore couldn't wear my contact lenses. I suspect I might've rubbed the eye in my sleep. Terz always growls at me when I rub my eyes when I'm awake, which has pretty much cured me of the habit, but perhaps muscle memory twitches my hands to do their own thing when I'm asleep.

Even though I think I look horribly different (and horrible) with glasses on, few people seemed to notice the difference. I think the students I teach did, but I also suspect they're so used to seeing their teachers a certain way that the slightest change --- a new pair of shoes, a fresh haircut, a different jaunt in the walk --- provokes a buzz likewise. (They don't think of us as human beings, you know, more as lecturing, hectoring automatons. It surprises them that we have preferences, lives, loves, whims.)

Some colleagues noticed and one commented that I either looked like I'd been crying my eye out (very agile, these tear ducts of mine, to only cry out of the right eye) or that I'd been beaten up. I really don't think I looked that bad.

Nevertheless, I hope the eye rests well tonight and lets me go back to contact lenses tomorrow. What to do, hiao lah.

--- Which brings me to the derivation of this blog post title. When I was in junior college, one of my classmates used to use the phrase, "hiao like fishball". Hiao means vain in Hokkien, a common enough turn of phrase in Singapore's polyglot vernacular. However, no one ever idiomatically pairs hiao with fishballs, which are processed balls of fish and flour that we eat with our noodles (tasty, honest! --- and having absolutely nothing to do with balls of fish). We make colourful comparisons like "blur like sotong", but there's no precedent for "hiao like fishball". My friend is the only person who's ever used the phrase, and when I parroted it to my mother and others, all I got in return were uncomprehending stares and helpful observations that fishballs were anything but vain.

Nevertheless, the vivid memory of my friend tossing off, "That girl, she hiao like fishball!" --- remains for me the quintessential expression of that scornful sentiment. And me, as far as the wearing of contact lenses are concerned? Definitely hiao like fishball.


At 4/13/2005 11:43 am , Blogger Ondine said...

Well, six different people through the morning told me I looked like total crap today and these were staff. The kids just said I looked very grumpy and proceeded to be very obedient lest I swear at them again.

And Hiao like Fishball, I hear before! Made me laugh. It's been ages.

At 4/13/2005 8:24 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

First time I've heard Hiao like fishball. May I suggest Hiao like Hee Kiao. "fish dumplings" which rhymes.

- Yet Another Anonymous Reader

At 4/13/2005 9:39 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

derivation of the term "hiao like fishball" - high quality fishball is supposed to be very round & bouncy with exceptionally smooth texture, which literally translates into "YUMMY"; thus the phrase "hiao (vain) like fishball" is coined to express the behaviour of women who are trying very hard to attract attention: dolling up in provocative gear.

btw, where r u teaching now? ever heard of a certain p. mcconnell who teach eng lit. & gp?

- c.m. koh

At 4/13/2005 10:54 pm , Blogger Unknown said...

If it's any consolation, I also hate wearing my 900-degrees-each-eye glasses out. I look very nerdy with my glasses on, and people usually don't recognise me with them on. Heheh.


At 4/14/2005 1:05 am , Blogger Abigael said...

Babe, what you need are some cutting edge glasses which is going to raise the coolio quotient in your school. In no time at all ... all the kids are gonna go "I wanna look like Ms TYM!"

Eh ... I also never heard of "hiao like fishball" before leh. But you can be sure that I will pass on such privileged information to my girl.

At 4/14/2005 10:48 am , Blogger Tym said...

Okay, at least some people have heard of this fishball phrase. YAAR --- you right are, hiao like hee kiao sounds much better. Abigael --- make sure you teach your young 'un the pure Hokkien version!

Anonymous --- thanks for the explanation of the mysterious fishball association. At least now it makes sense (inasmuch as any of these Singlish expressions make sense). As for where I teach, I never say one. ;) But I will admit to recognising th ename P. McConnell.

mb --- You have a Yahoo! 360 blog also! Where do you find the time??? (PS: Your photo not that bad lah. I look much much worse in my old glasses. Even the current pair got people make fun of me already.)

Abigael --- I think we must go glasses-shopping (in addition to tea-at-Toast) one day. I'm hopeless at picking trendy frames, always opt for the safe frameless options...

At 4/14/2005 12:08 pm , Blogger Agagooga said...

Blog post title you mean

At 4/17/2005 5:12 am , Blogger Tym said...

Agagooga --- Fixed. Gah, you win.


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