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11 terms Lee Kuan Yew used that made you Google the meaning

Clearly the average Singaporean does not read enough.

Jonathan Lim | April 3, 2015 @ 08:38 am

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Lee Kuan Yew is a master orator. He has the ability to rouse a crowd with his speeches or deliver a verbal smack-down if needed. To do that, you must have a formidable lexicon. Which Lee possessed.

Here are 11 terms he has used that may have left his audiences scratching their heads:

1. Highfalutin

What it means: (Especially of speech, writing, or ideas) pompous or pretentious
When he used it: He used the word in response to Nominated MP Viswa Sadasivan’s maiden speech in Parliament in 2009. Viswa wanted Parliament to reaffirm its commitment to the principles enshrined in the National Pledge.
His quote: “So I think it is dangerous to allow such highfalutin ideas to go undemolished and mislead Singapore.”

 

2. Play ducks and drakes

What it means: Trifle with; treat frivolously
When he used it: He used it twice. First at a 1966 speech made at the Kampung Glam PAP branch. Second it was used at a meeting with the leaders of the Air Line Pilots Association-Singapore (Alpa-S) in 2004 where the pilot union was in a dispute with SIA.
His quote in 1966: “Believe you me, I say everybody had better start off on that major premise
that it is not our intention to let this country go down the drain. And anybody who wants to play ducks and drakes better go back to his little back-garden and he can make a speech to himself.”
His quote in 2004: “You play straight with me, I play straight with you. You play ducks and drakes with me, I play ducks and drakes with you.”

 

3. Compunction

What it means: A feeling of guilt or moral scruple that prevents or follows the doing of something bad
When he used it: In a 1994 Parliamentary Debate on adjusting Ministerial salaries.
His quote: “I make no apologies for collecting the most talented team I could find. Without them, none of you would be enjoying life today in Singapore, including the reporters up there. I say this without any compunction.”

Quote starts from the 0.22s mark in the video:

 

4 & 5. Knuckle-dusters and cul-de-sac

What it means (knuckle-dusters): A metal guard worn over the knuckles in fighting to increase the effect of blows
What it means (cul-de-sac): A street or passage closed at one end
When he used it: While giving an interview that would later be compiled into a book – Lee Kuan Yew: the Man and his ideas.
His quote: “Supposing Catherine Lim was writing about me and not the prime minister…She would not dare, right? Because my posture, my response has been such that nobody doubts that if you take me on, I will put on knuckle-dusters and catch you in a cul de sac…Anybody who decides to take me on needs to put on knuckle dusters. If you think you can hurt me more than I can hurt you, try. There is no other way you can govern a Chinese society.”

 

6. Psephology

What it means: The statistical study of elections and trends in voting
When he used it: He used it in a speech in 1977 which ESM Goh described as ‘awesome’.
His quote: “Because for a few years we were in Malaysia, for two years, when we did our psephological analysis. In case the press gets me wrong, it is psephology and not psychology. I have a dictionary here. It is the science of how people vote. Just in case they dispute my definition, I have brought the Shorter Oxford Dictionary and it is in the addenda.”

 

7. The whys and the wherefores

What it means: A reason or explanation
When he used it: At the 1966 National Day Rally
His quote: “We could not find out what the consensus would have been had we refused to acquiesce and had we insisted on going on with the kind of Malaysia which we envisaged it was, at the time when we agreed to join. It is useful this evening not so much to go back to the past – the whys and the wherefores – to apportion blame but more to search deep into our hearts to ask if the things we set out to do were right or wrong; were good or bad.”
Hidden ‘cheem’ word that you always see but didn’t bother to find out the meaning to: Acquiesce – to assent tacitly; submit or comply silently or without protest; agree; consent

 

8. Climacteric

What it means: A critical period or event
When he used it: At the 1966 National Day Rally
His quote: “It has been a year of great and sudden change. Very few countries in the world go through the kind of climacteric we have gone through.”

 

9. Promulgated

What it means: Promote or make widely known (an idea or cause)
When he used it: At the 1966 National Day Rally
His quote: “And this is one of the greatest strengths about Singapore: its willingness to face reality including the 9th of August. We used to celebrate 3rd of June; then, it was the 16th of September, when we promulgated Malaysia.”

 

10. Modicum

What it means: A small quantity of a particular thing, especially something desirable or valuable
When he used it: At a speech given at the laying of foundation stone of the Singapore Port Authority Union premises
His quote: “I have gone through with you, sometimes anxious, but always tumultous moments. Fifteen years ago, whenever we met here – in fact, right up to 1964 – there was bound to be a crisis of some sort or the other. It caused a stir in Singapore. So it gives me pleasure to be able to come here, not to shake the foundations but to lay the foundations of something good for all of us. We have cause for congratulations that, inspite of all the shaking we have done, there was a modicum of good sense.”

 

11. Agitprop

What it means: Political (originally communist) propaganda, especially in art or literature
When he used it: At a speech given at the laying of foundation stone of the Singapore Port Authority Union premises
His quote: I hope you will open up new avenues of meaningful trade union activities, not just the slogans and the agitprop. The old slogan was “Down with the employer”. But this employer is yours. It is called the Singapore Port Authority. If it makes profits it is ploughed back to the community. If you destroy it you are destroying
yourselves. So we had better sit down and all of us do some rethinking.

Related articles:

13 signs you are a fair-weather Lee Kuan Yew fan

Goodbye Ah Gong of my Generation, it’s time for us to step up

This video shows the kind of respect Lee Kuan Yew commands in a state in India

9 photos that do not show Lee Kuan Yew but have Lee Kuan Yew written all over them

 

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About Jonathan Lim

Jon is thankful that Singapore is interesting enough to keep a website like Mothership.sg up and running.

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