11 January 2011
It seems that lately I've been getting more and more of this response, "owh bah", from friends, family members and even students. It's a good thing that I know how to interpret the intended meaning. Otherwise, it could lead to a major miscommunication. Especially when the response is in the form of text message. One might accidentally interpret the expression as a lukewarm answer (read: I'm not interested), which could possibly be one of the intended meanings anyway. As of now, I've come to the conclusion that "owh bah" can mean the following, and more:
1. Ok -an acknowledgement of one's statement
2. Sure - mostly in response to one's request. Could be that this bears no urgency at all (I'll do it later), or a polite indicator that the person has understood the request and will act on it accordingly.
3. Dismissal - seemingly to acknowledge one's statement or request but actually quietly dismissing it
As regards (3), I remember an incident that happened last year. The bushes by the roadside accros the road of my housing area was on fire. It was a hot day and the fire was spreading fast, at that point, moving towards the traffic light posts. I quickly dialled 999 and reported the fire. To my horror, the operator who answered my call simply said, "owh bah. Banyak-banyak sudah orang yang telefon ni" (Ok, there have been quite a number of people calling), which of course, earned him a hysterical "jadi, kenapa belum ada tindakan?!!!!" (so, why hasn't there been an action?!!!) from me.
Well, "owh bah" is an interesting expression indeed.