LKY antagonising an entire generation of Chinese

From ‘Life after Cabinet…and death’, 11 Aug 2013, excerpts from ‘One Man’s View of the World’, Think, Sunday Times.

…Occasionally, when I disagree strongly with something, I make my views known to the Prime Minister. There was an instance of this when the Government was looking to reintroduce Chinese dialect programmes on free-to-air channels.

A suggestion was made: “Mandarin is well-established among the population now. Let us go back to dialects so the old can enjoy dramas.”

I objected, pointing out that I had, as prime minister, paid a heavy price getting the dialect programmes suppressed and encouraging people to speak Mandarin. So why backtrack?

I had antagonised an entire generation of Chinese, who found their favourite dialect programmes cut off. There was one very good narrator of stories called Lee Dai Sor on Rediffusion, and we just switched off his show.

Why should I allow Cantonese or Hokkien to infect the next generation? If you bring it back, you will find portions of the older generation beginning to speak in dialects to their children and grandchildren. It will creep back, slowly but surely…

When the Speak Mandarin Campaign brought its War on Dialect to radio in 1982, clamping down on dialect broadcasts over Rediffusion, that didn’t stop master storyteller Lee Dai Sor from producing his own albums, TWELVE of them in fact. That’s more albums than all the Singapore Idols combined. His bestseller cassette, Ru Chao San Bu Wen, was a folk legend about incompetent Qing emperors. In 1983, he rejected SBC’s invitation to perform at a New Year show because he had to speak Mandarin. In the media, he reportedly ‘retired from broadcasting’, but now we have confirmation from LKY himself that the plug was pulled on his show because it was in Cantonese.

This was a man who could sell the Singapore Story better any million-dollar NDP, but had to pursue his passion working for Radio Australia and Rediffusion Malaysia when his own country turned him away. Celebrated as a folk hero, drama company Toy Factory produced a play about Lee’s life, titled ‘Big Fool Lee’, a homage to Lee’s influence as the voice of a generation who refused to be muted by LKY’s social engineering. ‘Big Fool’ died in 1989, but his spirit, like dialect, lives on today.

Dialects have already crept into mainstream consciousness and pop culture, ‘slowly but surely’ no matter how LKY tried to suppress it with the same vigour as SARS. As late as 1990, Cantonese ‘patriotic’ songs like Sparrow With Twigs were banned from airplay and only recently reinstated. In a big way too, being featured in local movie ‘That Girl in Pinafore’. It’s not just the older generation ‘threatening’ to make dialect fashionable again. Local rapper Shigga Shay boasts about being a ‘Limpeh’. Mr Brown’s ‘Lekuasimi’ was a spoof of an NDP song. Royston Tan’s 881 made us (the English-educated included) all sing ‘Che Lang Che Pua’ in KTVs again.

We continue to order ‘kopi siew dai’, not ‘coffee, less sugar’, and order ‘har gao’, not ‘prawn dumplings’. Dialect has already been embedded in our social fabric, gone beyond the days of ‘Wah Lau’, and there’s nothing a 90 year old Hakka politician can do about it. Especially when his own PAP successors are using it as rhetoric. Goh Chok Tong used ‘pah see buay zao’ in reference to ‘stayers’. You could use the same phrase for Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Hainanese and what have you. If there’s anything that needs a resurgence it’s Mandarin itself, our general grasp of it left a lot to be desired, though we have more than enough PRCs moving here to help us, well, ‘keep up’ with the language.

Unlike Mandarin, dialect doesn’t exist in textbooks nor does it appear in listening comprehension tests.  It lives only in the hearts, minds and mouths of Singaporeans, young or old, proud enough to speak it and keep it alive, campaign or no campaign, a glorious artifact that binds us to our roots. Anyone can be a polyglot or Chinese scholar if they train hard enough, but only in Singapore can one be a true master of the dialects, like the late Ah Nan was. Those who agree, please Kee Chiu.

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Tao Li swearing after breaking SEA games record

From ‘I didn’t say the F -word’, 13 Nov 2011, article by Sazali Abdul Aziz, TNP

DID she say it?

As the cameras panned to a triumphant Tao Li after her gold medal-winning performance in the women’s 100m butterfly yesterday evening, retiree K S Lee was sure that he saw Tao Li saying “f*** on the television screen, something he calls “unacceptable”.

However, the 21-year-old, who was also involved in a television-related incident at last year’s Asian Games, told The New Paper’s man on the ground Dilenjit Singh that she had not uttered the swear word, saying she had said “frick” instead.

(It’s an obvious’ fuck’ in my opinion, captured in slow-mo too. Ffwd to 3.28)

'F---fantastic!'

Whether it’s frick or fuck, using either ‘F-word’ as a form of victorious exultation in public will spur debate over whether a vulgarity used in a such context is deemed acceptable behaviour. Maybe Tao Li intended to say ‘Fucking did it!’, NTU graduation style, or ‘Fuck YEAH!’, which is the macho way of saying ‘Yay!’, because cussing a singular ‘fuck’ after breaking a swim record is like throwing a Christmas present out of the window immediately after receiving one. What’s more bewildering is Tao Li trying to defend herself by claiming that she had blurted the euphemistic ‘frick’ instead. You don’t have to be a master  lip reader to tell the difference when someone mouths ‘f – uck’ (the ‘aah’ mouth)and ‘f -rick’ (the ‘ee’ mouth) (See video above for proof, there’s no ‘ee’  being visibly uttered at all). Nonetheless,  China-born Tao is clearly putting her English lessons to good use here.

It’s likely that this was out of a sense of frustration because she COULD HAVE DONE BETTER. Despite clocking a SEA games record of 58.54 s this year, Tao Li’s personal best is actually 57.54s back in 2008 at the Asian Games. Having competed among the best in the region, and even on the World Cup stage, it was a given that  she would sweep medals at a less prestigious tournament, the ‘Little League’ of all international meets, and being 1 FULL SECOND off her best timing probably warrants a vocal tantrum or two. Using Tao Li as a medal-puller in this contest is like putting a shark in a pond, but it’s also possible that lacking any real competition (she was full body lengths ahead of the silver winner), and maybe even complacency, were the reasons for her less-than-ideal performance. Alas, all the f-words and water-punching in the world won’t shave even a picosecond off the final results.

Unlike Trinetta Chong’s celebratory blooper during a valedictorian speech, what’s important in competitive swimming coverage is the performance DURING the race and not after it. But cameras have traditionally zoomed in on winners’ facial reactions because for most parts of any swim race, you just see arms, legs and splashing water. In this instance, the camera has captured what could well be a viral animated gif classic. Tao has previously drawn flak for her unconventional way of ‘celebrating’ her wins. Just last year, taking a leaf out of Robert De Niro’s intimidating ‘My eyes on you’ gesture from ‘Meet the Parents’, she was accused of taunting her opponents after winning the 50m butterfly at the Asian games.

She's got her frickin' eyes on you

More recently, someone complained that she should ‘watch her image’ while blogging on weibo, her ‘tweets’ peppered with brusque terms like ‘lao zi’, which translates to the Hokkien ‘limpeh’.  I don’t have an issue with athletes behaving like brats as long as they deliver the goods without doping themselves. The nature of swimming, or any sport, be it floor exercise gymnastics or boxing, is that you can’t excel with technique alone. Aggression, with its off-shoot behavioral tics of temper-throwing and vulgarity-spewing,  is a vital part of the ‘tough, proud sportsman’ image that we’ve come to associate with combatants ever since the gladiatorial glory days of chariot races and lion-wrestling, like how you would expect footballers today to have illicit affairs and get into bar brawls other than their head-butting, karate-kicking, kneecap-lunging shenanigans on the field. Sports is really just an outlet for humans to express their inherently violent nature without getting anyone killed.

Incidentally, there’s something about aquatic sports broadcasting that gets people all potty-mouthed. Even commentator Jade Seah got into trouble for mouthing the very same expletive whilst trying to pronounce the name of Chinese diver Wang Feng back in 2008, mistakenly thinking she was off-air. (She’s doing mighty fine for herself as a celebrity still, FYI). Unlike the uproar over obscenity-spewing travesties by celebrity newsreaders, valedictorians, ex-beauty queens or a certain opposition female politician stuck in traffic, professional sportsmen are not traditionally revered as ‘role models’ here and ‘bad behaviour’ may well be tolerated, even in the international arena.

A sportsman who loses his cool to the point of hurling his tennis racket at umpires is deemed ‘competitive’ or ‘aggressive’ (a word which has both positive and negative connotations) because we accept that anger (provided that it’s self-directed) is part of his will to win. Anyone else flying into an expletive-filled rage is just ‘vulgar’ and ‘unprofessional’. Nobody gives a ‘frick’ about SEA games records anyway, and if Tao Li has accomplished much more at higher levels of competition, her outburst, though anticlimatic and mis-timed,  is  what any star striker would do instinctively after firing wide with an open goal less than 10 metres (or milliseconds in Tao’s case) in front of him even if his side were winning the match.

Tan Cheng Bock:Wah Teng Boh Wah Liao

From ‘Written Speech by Dr Tan Cheng Bock for Unifying Rally at Expo Hall 8′, 25 Aug 2011, TCB’s Facebook post.

…I would like to raise some question for you all here to consider.

Tony (Tan) is currently chairman of the National Research Foundation which is a department of Prime Minister’s Office. So he is still reporting to the PM.

Furthermore, he has just left GIC. Therefore, he is not in compliance with the MAS code of governance which says that he cannot be independent of GIC unless he has left for more than 3 years. He has only just left GIC for 3 months.

This is the practice for all public listed companies in Singapore, and there should be no double standard. In Hokkien there is a saying, wah teng boh wah liao.

In other words the soup is changed but the ingredients remain the same.

Wah Liao indeed.  This soup analogy is the Hokkien equivalent of the English trope ‘a leopard never changes its spots’, referring to Tony Tan’s inability to shake the ghost of his decades-long PAP affiliations. off his back. Despite our relentless Speak Mandarin campaigns, it’s not Confucian proverbs which capture the imagination of the electorate, but politicians’ Hokkien sayings which resonate among Singaporeans.  Though this should be deployed sparingly and with tasteful ingenuity lest ministers are accused of pandering to the older folk, or seen as being uncouth , highly paid Ah Bengs or Ah Huays, one does wonder if this double standard of our ministers speaking in a dialect which is otherwise discouraged from general usage has something to do with Jack Neo releasing the hugely popular  ‘I Not Stupid’ in 2002, the movie which somehow made Hokkien an unlikely political device to create an ‘everyman’ out of the PAP.

Goh Chok Tong started the ball rolling with the classic pah see buay zao’ saying in a 2002 National Day Rally to describe Singaporeans who are ‘stayers’ as opposed to ‘quitters’ seeking greener pastures elsewhere.  In 2004, Rear Admiral Teo Chee Hean used ‘mai zo lau kui’ (Let’s not embarrass ourselves) to describe NS men in training exercises, an ironic phrase to say the least, in light of how NSmen deal with their backpacks outside the realm of mock warfare.  Lee Hsien Loong himself took a wild crack at Hokkien with Mee Siam Mai Hum’ (2006 National Day Rally), a viral gaffe which became one of the first internet satirical sensations in the country, and still summoned today whenever the Black Eyed Peas’ awful  ‘My Humps’ is being played.

Some Hokkien sayings make TCB’s ‘Wa Teng Boh Wah Liao’ sound like grand oratory in comparison. ‘Ai pang sai ka che jamban’ (looking for a toilet only when one needs to pass motion) was used by then MP Bee Wah to mock the opposition’s call to delay the GST hike, not at a rally in the heart of Geylang, but in PARLIAMENT (2008). ‘Pang sai’, of course, is a low-brow colloquialism for ‘taking a shit’, a phrase which should never be uttered before the Speaker and Prime Minister, though ‘pang sai’ pretty much describes what comes out the mouths of some MPs taking the stand anyway. Something which a certain foul-mouthed NTU valedictorian would surely emphatise with.

Last but not least, anyone who recalls MG Chan Chun Sing’s call to arms in the 2011 General Elections, please KEE CHIU!

Tony Tan booed on Nomination Day

From ‘Dr Tony Tan disappointed by jeers’, 17 Aug 2011, article by Ng Jing Yng, Today

Dr Tony Tan said he was deeply disappointed by the jeers he had received at the nomination centre, earlier today. He said he hoped Singaporeans would listen to all four presidential candidates. The supporters of rival candidate, Mr Tan Jee Say, had jeered at Dr Tony Tan. Mr Tan Jee Say later said his supporters were not right to do that.

Dr Tony Tan was speaking to reporters at Koufu foodcourt at Toa Payoh Central, this afternoon, where he kick-started his presidential campaign. He launched a video and some collectables including a cap and fridge magnet with his signature spectacles logo. He said the logo represents farsightedness.

…And although Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had again endorsed him, yesterday, Dr Tan stressed that he was running as an independent candidate.

Four eyes on the prize

A pair of spectacles is the kind of icon that goes perfectly well with the old boot and vintage car tokens from the original Monopoly board game, which is pretty apt for a presidential candidate who is as ‘vintage’ as one can possibly get. He could just as well use a mop of white hair as a second choice logo. I managed to pick out a rare photo from 1979 which shows Tony Tan with actual BLACK HAIR, although the legendary glasses, as iconic as Gandhi’s tunic or Stalin’s moustache, hasn’t changed one bit over more than 30 years.

Tony Tan with footballer Quah Kim Song

TT had every right to be disappointed with the heckling abuse he received whilst on stage. Such rowdy, shameful display doesn’t speak well of the electorate, behaving like hired goons from the back alleys of Geylang who make a throng of goths at a death metal band concert look like a church congregation in comparison. If you shift this whole lot into the heart of the London looting scene, they would feel right at home. With the controversies surrounding his son’s deferment from NS and whatever grievances this man has caused in his decades of service, this booing is a stern test of TT’s mettle in the face of sweeping criticism. Tan Jee Say’s damage control was timely, although this ruckus does put somewhat of a damper on the prestige of the proceedings. This is the presidential elections, not a bad getai performance. At least give a man a chance to speak for God’s sake. It’s basic manners, really.

Despite the intensity of the hurling, TT’s composure in the face of such loutish defiance was remarkable, though you could almost imagine someone tossing a half finished beer can at him and knocking off his signature glasses like a bully taking a cheap swipe at the school nerd while he’s presenting his science project in class. Or perhaps this act of crude protest was an experiment in voter psychology, engineered by an invisible hand to draw viewers to the clip, to create sympathy for the victim on stage by putting Jee Say’s supporters in the same category of defiled humanoids as the ogres of Mordor. Well if there’s any consolation (not that TT needs any), the late ex-president Ong Teng Cheong was himself booed as MP by Worker’s Party supporters in Anson back in 1984 (Disgusted by the boo boys, 19 Oct 1984, ST Forum), and he went on to become one of the most prominent public servants in Singapore.  Jeering is not even a reliable indicator of public sentiment because of its contagious tendency to rile people by sheer instinct without them even thinking about what they’re doing. It’s like getting caught up in a Kallang Wave, except that the latter looks far more civilised and good natured than the roughhouse antics of the Tan Jee Say fan club.

NSP’s Nicole Seah swearing in traffic

From ‘GE’s youngest candidate speaks publicly for the first time’,21 April 2011,  article by Tan Weizhen, Today online and ‘团结党小娘惹佘雪玲 被爆爱飙粗口’, 22 April 2011, article in omy.sg (SM Daily)

The youngest candidate being fielded in the General Election, Ms Nicole Seah, 24, was unveiled today by Opposition party, the National Solidarity Party (NSP).

…Ms Seah, an advertising executive, said during the press conference that she first joined the NSP two years ago, and has an interest in issues such as the rising cost of living, housing and healthcare, as well as women’s issues. Her entrance into politics has drawn comparisons with the People’s Action Party’s youngest candidate, Ms Tin Pei Ling, 27, a senior associate at Ernst & Young.

Both have been criticised online by netizens. Ms Tin was slammed for her online videos where she was shown stomping her feet petulantly, while netizens have also burrowed into Ms Seah’s Twitter account, spreading a post where she was swearing while trapped in a traffic jam.

Responding to this, Ms Seah said: “If the traffic has been at a standstill for an hour, and you are running late for a meeting, wouldn’t you be swearing too?”

(omy.sg news):…有网民就挖出佘雪玲3月16日在自己的“推特”Twitter户头上的留言,显示她当天说:“XXXXXX(福建粗口)。卡在一动也不动的严重车龙里。很恐怖地迟到了。啊!” 对于佘雪玲的言论,有网民就表示:“她实在是一名没有文化修养的阿莲”。 (Translation: A six letter Hokkien vulgarity was tweeted by Nicole, prior to complaining about how late she was and ‘AGHH!’, which got a netizen slamming her as an uncultured Ah Lian. Even the headline reads ‘NSP LITTLE NYONYA caught swearing in Hokkien’, just because Nicole is of Peranakan descent. Great push for Opposition, Sin Ming,  now that you’ve got our drama-loving aunties’ attention.)

Er yeah, anyone would be swearing in that situation Nicole, venting their frustration on fellow passengers, blasting the horn or flashing an obscene gesture, but not everyone will be tweeting to their followers about it. Furthermore, you’re not supposed to operate your phone while you’re driving regardless of the speed, especially if it’s something so trivial as a vulgar tweet addressed to no one in particular. Much speculation around what term was used exactly (though being Hokkien alone already says plenty), and the post has probably been deleted by now, but the most likely candidate would be not so much an expletive, but an acronym of a far longer one similar to what a certain Ris Low would use.  Of course to suggest that Nicole and Ris have something in common would be like saying both a swan and a crow have wings, adding to the whole vaudeville atmosphere of the campaign and earning the wrath of more than 10,000 fans on Nicole’s Facebook.

It’s incredible how people know so much about Nicole in a short few days before even finding out what NSP stands for (myself included). At the rate things are going with the GE, with youthful faces stealing the limelight, I could single handedly set up a political party and draw media attention using the potty mouthed charms of some ex-actress with a passion for renovating people’s homes for free. And oh, a Facebook account too. Shame on these ‘netizens’ for their dirty, totally unnecessary detective work and unfair comments on Nicole’s upbringing based on a Twitter blooper. Politicians are fallible, vulnerable creatures; people who throw a hissy fit, swoon over bags, think about sex, eat, sleep and shit like every damn one of us. These women are election combatants, not Miss Universe or Mother Theresa hopefuls, and the whole social media phenomenon sweeping the country is turning the GE battlefield into a paparazzi minefield of tittering Jack-in-the-Boxes planted by a horde of sly, scandalising underground moles, where all the proper campaigning and effort in pasting posters inside lifts risking vandalisation are trivialised into a ‘Who’s got more Likes on Facebook’ tussle, an electoral version of a Singapore Idol contest (Vote for your favourite NOW!). It’s General Election, folks, not General E-Like-tion.

This whole ‘Like’ system is flawed anyway; Other than clicks from obviously biased relatives and friends, a stalker with a fetish for SYT politicians could easily generate hundreds of fake profiles and spend half a day ‘liking’ Facebook pages to boost up their numbers, and one has to click ‘Like’ first before gaining access to what these women have to say i.e it’s more like a ‘Click me to see more’ come-hither teaser than an acknowledgment of genuine appreciation. Here’s a fine example of how meaningless those ‘Like’ numbers are:

Exclamation marks! I like!

125 people ‘liked’ a post, in fact a warning, which had absolutely nothing to do with Nicole’s work. 125! That’s more ‘likes’ in a post than the number of people ‘liking’ all SM Goh’s MParader posts in a week!  Distorting an election into something to the effect of a  ‘Zoe vs Fann’  dream  showdown is proof that social media, if left to anonymous, attention-seeking gossipy voters, without some legislation to spank irresponsible tweeters and trollers around, may not be the digital utopia we’ve all hoped for.   Skeletons were already peeking out of the closet the moment these ladies logged into Facebook/Twitter, but it’s how they manage these inane keyboard dissenters (behaving like nuisance kids who press your doorbell and then run away) that is a true test of their mettle, not how many ‘Like’ clicks they’ve scored on Facebook (Nicole leads by at least 7000 ‘likes’ at time of writing). Now, let’s just cross our fingers and hope some NSP joker doesn’t ruin her bright hopes by suggesting that she needs to see a Tourette’s specialist, like what SM Goh pranked on Tin Pei Ling.

Then we have this: A Tin supporter urging ‘Singaporeans to vote wisely on the grounds of meritocracy, and meritocracy only’, and ‘judge the candidates by what they have done rather than how competent or pretty they look’ , with the claim that the overwhelming support is because ‘Ms Seah looks better than Ms Tin’ (‘Experience that counts, not looks’, 23 April 2011, Voices, Today online). As the history of politics since the days of wreaths and togas has demonstrated time and time again,  non-verbal signals, physical attributes and confidence in particular,  have always influenced our voting decisions, even if we think we’re fully rational at the polls. A classic example would be the televised presidential debate between JFK and Nixon, or look at Thailand’s dashing young prime minister Abhisit, or note how each of our past prime ministers are tall and Chinese. Let’s face it, we generally prefer our politicians with a not too pockmarked face, without scars, neat hair, non-obese, speak well and have a nice straight set of teeth, so to fall into the illusion that Singaporeans should be voting based entirely on merit and not how ‘competent’ candidates look is ignoring the power of images and ‘gut feelings’, especially among apathetic Singaporeans.  Politics is really as much showmanship as it is about writing policy papers, like a job interview writ large and the citizens are the employers, where people with less experience but with a snazzy sales pitch, bright smile, fresh breath and eye contact may be preferred over more subdued but experienced candidates.  Both women, looking at their newsfeed content, are  definitely more than just pretty faces, and I believe despite this farcical Facebook jamboree, Singaporeans will need more than just flimsy first impressions based on such CVs off a Facebook page before making their final choice.

Channel 8 keeps playing the same Ai theme song

From ‘Taiwan dramas spoilt by dubbing, translation’ 16 Apr 2011,Voices,Today

(Ho Qin Yuan): My friends and I watch the Taiwanese drama Love on weekdays at 7pm and we are fed up with how Channel 8 broadcasts it.

It repeatedly plays the same theme song, I Ask Sky. The opening images, as well as those seguing to and from the commercials, have not changed over more than 600 episodes – unlike Formosa TV and China’s CCTV network, which changes them frequently. Is there some rights issue involved?

Channel 8 should also remove the English subtitles from all the Taiwanese dramas it airs because when the translation of the dialogue is inaccurate it ruins the show.

We are tired of the fact the dramas are broadcast in Mandarin, rather than the original Hokkien or dual sound. Our greatest disgust is that the songs for the drama Life have been dubbed in Mandarin – the lyrics in Mandarin are all wrong. Can Channel 8 play the songs in their original Hokkien?

Considering that TV licence fees have been indefinitely waived, fans of Ai should count themselves lucky that this  immensely popular series hasn’t been discontinued since. Ms Ho should also realise that Ai is watched not just by the Hokkien-speaking alone, and if Mediacorp had catered exclusively to this group without considering viewers of other dialect groups or even non-Chinese, the limited scope of viewership wouldn’t justify the cost of televising it.  And before you can sing the empathic first two lines of ‘I Ask Sky’, Cantonese speakers would follow suit to demand that their serials be undubbed as well. Someone will have to drum the Speak Mandarin campaign into these people’s heads again to remind them that Mediacorp is far likelier to allow a sloppily censored Lust, Caution on national TV than a squeak of Hokkien in a drama serial that has a total running time longer than the average human gestation period. Note the complete lack of irony in the writer’s endorsement of a ridiculous title like ‘I Ask Sky’, which would be a more apt English translation for a pygmy rain dance than a contemporary Taiwan drama theme song.

To complain about English subtitles is not only selfishly depriving others of enjoying the series,  muted punchlines aside, but utterly absurd, since anyone who is able to detect inaccuracy in translation has no need to rely on them in the first place, and has no right demanding that they be removed. Most people have grown to settle for dubbed serials for decades, and as long as everyone is on the same page with regards to the basic plot, which is the essential social function of Ai at nursing homes and senior citizen corners, why ‘ask of the sky’ to un-dub them now? Most of Ai is dramatic face-slapping anyway, which means the same thing in whatever language you dub it in. Here’s a tip to the complainant, get someone to teach you how to log in to the internet, type Youtube.com, search for I Ask Sky, download it into your handphone, and listen to your heart’s content. Or better still, switch to cable or DVD, or belt it out at void deck KTV, instead of complaining about how Mandarin-dubbed theme songs are all wrong in a national paper.

Why so no brain?

From ‘Ads need more realistic portrayals’ 1 Aug 2010, Your Letters, Sunday Times

(Loh Ngin Seng)…Recent one (campaign ad) that exhorts customers of food courts to clear their trays after eating, where there is an exclamation that goes ‘Goodness Gracious Me!’. Other than English educated baby boomers, I doubt many Singaporeans can relate to this English exclamation. Most likely those irked by inconsiderate diners will go ‘…(expletive), why so no brain?’ in dialect or Singlish.

Good grief less 'English' perhaps

Somehow a complaint about a hardly used tagline has turned itself against Singlish-speaking Singaporeans. First off, the title, though not catch-phrase infective, is probably a play on the word ‘gracious’, i.e gracious enough to clear your tray hence spreading ‘goodness’ to your fellow man. True that no Singaporean will utter an ‘English baby boomer’ phrase, but it’s equally unlikely that they go ‘(EXPLETIVE) Why so no brain?’ Please, lah, Mr Loh, give us some credit can? Most of us don’t curse and swear every time we see trays not being cleared (since it’s default ugly Singaporean behaviour and we’re used to it. Actually, we’re more concerned about ‘tissue-paper-choped‘ seats), but a greater insult to Singlish would be us using the ridiculous term ‘why so no brain’. Technically, even if people have a brain, they wouldn’t clear their trays. This is just plain lazy and not stupid behaviour. In fact, the 5 syllabic ‘inconsiderate’ isn’t that hard for us mortal Singaporeans to master too (though we may lump the last 2 syllables together and go in-con-see-drate).  Your suggestion also makes it seem that it’s the people protesting against ungracious acts who are ‘no-brainers’ instead for using broken Singlish. So, allow me to propose an alternative to ‘why so no brain': ‘Wah lau, damn too much man these people’, or ‘Wah lau, so inconsidRATE!’ But really, most people would just be thankful to get a seat these days, with nothing more than a slight shaking of the head and a remote prayer for the cleaning auntie to come by. I mean, that’s part of their job. Right? Which would naturally only lead to Singaporeans complaining about how well they clean too.

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