Feature

He’s an IKEA pun-dit

Catch no ball when it comes to Singlish? Follow the chronicles of communication student Yeo Tze Hern, a blue-sky thinker whose IKEA Singlish video made headlines all the way from Down Under

By Derek Rodriguez

What do you do when you’re left alone in IKEA? Plonk yourself on the nearest couch or go get ice-cream? Not Yeo Tze Hern. When his friends scattered in different directions to find items at an IKEA store in Sydney, he whipped out a camera and filmed himself making Singlish puns using the names of IKEA products.

“It was a boredom-buster,” laughs the third-year communication undergraduate on a six-month exchange at the University of New South Wales (UNSW).

He made the impromptu decision to film himself on the spot, saying: “I channelled my inner ‘auntie’ and improvised the puns.”

He didn’t know it then, but his dry delivery of unabashedly Singaporean lines like “Please make sure your research is koncis (concise)” would go viral, getting over 27,000 hits in the next few days, and hitting the local newspapers.

“I definitely didn’t expect it to get so much attention, but I’m glad many people can relate to it and have used the video to help explain what Singlish is. The fact that any Singlish phrase can carry multiple meanings with a change in tone continues to amaze me,” says Tze Hern, who reveals his favourite Singlish word to be orbigood, which roughly translates to “serves you right”.

He shoots daily videos for his YouTube channel, YEOLO, with a Canon G7X Mark II and a GorillaPod, a small flexible tripod, and edits the vlogs using Adobe Premiere Pro, which can take more than two hours on an eventful day.

“Being able to travel overseas for exchange is a great opportunity and I want to share the entire experience. I try to capture both the fun and mundane parts of my day, and find creative ways to show parts of exchange that people rarely talk about, such as having to cook for yourself,” he says, adding that he takes inspiration from vloggers like Casey Neistat and Ben Brown.

Just like the IKEA video, his other vlogs are shot off-the-cuff. “They are like video diary entries, so it’s all very spontaneous. I keep it that way to convey the most authentic exchange experience possible.”

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