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Fads, Fashion and Foolery for 1994

January 04, 1994|CHARLES WALLACE

Singapore — PUSHING OUT PUSHINESS: The Singapore government, which has often been compared to a nanny because of the way it seeks to eliminate what it sees as bad behavior, like chewing gum, is taking on a new target in the new year: kiasu.

Kiasu is a slang word that, roughly translated, means "fear of losing out." It denotes a certain assertiveness that used to be encouraged, especially in business. But, kiasu has gotten out of control, and now the government wants to put a lid on it.

In practice, people have come to use kiasu to justify outrageous behavior, such as refusing to wait in lines and pushing old ladies out of the way on the subway to get a seat. The government has started campaigning against kiasu drivers--road hogs in huge new Mercedes who will steal a parking place at the drop of a hat.

One fast food chain recently introduced a line of kiasu dolls as a humorous giveaway promotion, but the idea was quickly dropped after a number of senior officials wrote negative letters to the newspapers about what terrible role models they make.

The government's answer to all these pushy people? A radio and television campaign to make people be more polite. But it's likely to prove a lot harder than getting people to stop chewing gum.

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