Waking up One's Idea

Idea Waking

I started writing this post for the international folks, but ended up realizing how everything is somehow connected in the overall narrative of the Tourist. The phrase "wake up your idea" has been around for as long as I remember. It's not technically ungrammatical, but it just sounds odd to non-Singaporeans. Yet, the meaning is pretty clear and similar to the more concise "wake up" that English-speaking people know.

Most locals will say that it originated from the army and is one of the many phrases of army-speak that spread into the populace. If you did something wrong or were dreaming... "Oi! Wake up your idea!" If you said something stupid... "Wake up your idea lah." I definitely heard it being used on a regular basis in secondary school and junior college, not as much today though, even when I went back for reservist training. Could it have fallen out of use over the years?

The most memorable time I heard it spoken was on flight SQ22 from Singapore to Newark. This was in 2005 when Singapore Airlines still had that A340-500 non-stop service. We were somewhere over the Arctic, most of the passengers were asleep, the cabin lights were off, and I had to take a leak. As I was walking towards the rear pantry where the lavatory was, someone went "Eh, wake up your idea, understand?" in the most Singlish accent possible. It turned out to be one of the male cabin crew joking with his colleague, who promptly code-switched and greeted me with a well-trained "Yes, sir. May I help you?" when they saw me.

I didn't make much of it then, but the phrase somehow followed me (in that guy's voice) all the way to Newark, past baggage claim, through the Lincoln Tunnel, until I opened the door to my apartment on the Upper West Side. Somehow, that flight back started a train of thought in my head: perhaps it was time for me to consider returning to the island for good. Looking back now, I wish someone would have said "wake up your fucking idea" to me at the time.

Or not.

I don't really know.