Ah Beng (Chinese: 阿炳; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: a-bêng or a-bîng) is a stereotype applied to a certain group of young Chinese men in Southeast Asia, particularly Singapore and Malaysia.The female equivalent of an Ah Beng is an Ah Lian.
Ah Beng is usually used as a derogatory term for someone. Ah Beng usually means that someone is not highly educated, sophisticated and operates within secret societies and street gangs.
Ah Beng comes from the romanization of the Hokkien pronunciation of 阿明 (Pe̍h-ōe-jī: a-bêng). 明 is a word commonly used in the names of Chinese males in the region, thus the term "Ah Beng" alludes to their commonness. In the Cantonese-speaking parts of Malaysia, Ah Beng is also known as lala zai. 'Lala' has no actual meaning in itself, while 'zai' (pronounced 'chai') means 'boy'. 'Lala zai' refers to individuals who speak Manglish and possess a strong preference for gaudy fashions or hairstyles.
In popular culture
Ah Bengs have been featured in several Singaporean films, including:
- Army Daze (1996) — A play, later made into a film, depicting the melting pot of National Service in Singapore. One of the characters is named after the term.
- Money No Enough (1998) — a film exploring the trials and tribulations of the Chinese-speaking people of Singapore (who make up the majority of the island's population).
- 15: The Movie (2003) — "The adventure of five fifteen-year-old boys in Singapore: estranged to every social reference, except for that of appearance and close friendships, they live their lives distant from their families and school, passing their days in a complete state of indolence in the search of experiences, at times even physically painful (tattoos, piercing, wounds)."
- S11 (2006) — another film.
- Taxi! Taxi! (2013) — a 2013 Singaporean comedy film based on the 2010 work Diary Of A Taxi Driver by Cai Mingjie, said to be "Singapore's most well-educated taxi-driver".
The stereotypical Ah Beng was the title character in the television series Phua Chu Kang, played by Gurmit Singh. The fact that Gurmit Singh has a mixed ancestry including Indian, Japanese, and Chinese blood makes his convincing portrayal of an uneducated Chinese man even more notable. In the show, Chu Kang's brother, Phua Chu Beng, is humorously nicknamed Ah Beng, despite being an articulate, educated architect, the complete antithesis of an Ah Beng.
- Arsim (Israel)
- Bogan and Westie (Australia and NZ)
- Chav, (several English-speaking countries)
- Dres (Poland)
- Essex girl (Essex, England)
- Flaite (Chile)
- Gangster (United States)
- Gopnik (Russia)
- Guido (East Coast, United States)
- Naco (Mexico)
- Ned (Scotland)
- scanger (Dublin, Republic of Ireland)
- Scallie (Liverpool, Manchester)
- Skeet (Newfoundland)
- Spide (Belfast, Northern Ireland)
- White Trash (United States)
- Wigger (United States)
- Tapori (India)
- Yankī and DQN (Japan)
- Alay (Indonesia)
- Wong Kim Hoh, "Who Says Ah Bengs Cannot Make It?", The Straits Times (2 April 2006).
- Samuel Lee, "Hitting the Right Notes", The Straits Times (21 April 2006).
- from the Coxford Singlish Dictionary
- from A Dictionary of Singlish and Singapore English