Why ‘Dan’ is the most spoken name in Singapore?

Why is Everyone Saying My Name?


I often retell the story of my ‘mall-phobia’ or the proper name for it ‘agoraphobia’ (a fear of the marketplace). Many years ago this happened all around Singapore in any shopping mall and resulted in a lot of anxiety and paranoia. Why? The main reason was that I thought everyone was calling my name, but I could never pin-point anybody saying it to me directly.


After a while the reason for this misunderstanding became clear. It all had to do with the word ‘then’

‘Then’ is made of two sounds that are commonly mispronounced in Singapore:

  • The first is the ‘th’ sound which often becomes a ‘d’ sound.
  • The second is the ‘e’ [e] vowel sound which morphs into an ‘a’ [æ] sound.

This results in the word ‘then’ becoming ‘dan’

Here are some examples:

Abuden “abudan”

Combination of Malay “Apa”, meaning “what” in English, and the word “then”. Usually used a sarcastic response to an obvious observation or question. “What else did you expect?” or “Wasn’t that obvious?”

And Then? “and dan”

A short form of “and then what?” or “and then what happened?”

Come on then “come on dan”

You dan stupid la – You’re the stupid one

dan how?

I late dan take taxi, otherwise dun take. – When I’m late, [only] then do I take a taxi; otherwise I don’t take taxis. = I only take a taxi when I’m late.


Also “dan” is the Malay word for “and”. Being a conjunction ‘and’ will be used very often to join clauses, sentences or words. This will increase the number of times ‘dan’ is said out loud in public.

My options?

Well the best one so far from the students I teach is…

“Change your name”

They are not confident that the clarity of these particular sounds will be ironed out anytime soon. 🙂

Alright dan(then), take care.

1 Comment

  1. Daniel Yap12/04/2014

    Etymology of "abuden" is actually from te Malay "apa" meaning "what".


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