Singlish double-confirm is Bad English

From ‘Singlish is okay, bad English isn’t’, 7 April 2011, ST Forum online

(Nicholas Aw): I FEEL compelled to express my abhorrence of the use of bad English in MediaCorp’s forthcoming quiz show ‘We Are Singaporeans’ – that is, if the trailers are anything to go by.

It appears to me that the use of bad English is the only tried and tested medium to improve viewership numbers.

I have nothing against Singlish, but surely a line must be drawn at bad English?

MediaCorp has a social and moral responsibility to all viewers to ensure that the standard of English is maintained in all its programmes.

Nicholas didn’t specify which of the several teaser trailers irked him so, whether it’s the phrase ‘Double confirm’ or a case of deliberately misplaced nouns (‘Why they sell the corn only one’), but apparently some folks still have not accepted the inherent ‘broken-ness’ of Singlish even till this day. Or he could be mixing up ‘Singlish’ with the ‘Singaporean accent’. ‘Double-confirm’ by itself is more of a neologism than a grammatical error, as in double-whammy, double up, or make it double, which are simply variations of what’s conventionally used to describe the act of replicating one item to two. The dated ‘Lah’ is no longer the international spokesperson of Singlish; in fact it has become less conspicuous in our daily speech as we ‘go local’ with more imaginative buzzwords like ‘cannot make it’, ‘close one eye’ or ‘wait long long’. ‘Double-confirm’, however, looks set to become the greatest Singlish meme to go viral since the glory days of ‘Lah’. Today, if you have an ang mor peppering his speech with Lah’s, it wouldn’t be cute anymore. It would just be a sad case of trying too damn hard, lah. Imagine, that instead of bite-size trailers, the complainant is forced to sit through not just the painful slapstick, but atrocious English of the entire Phua Chu Kang movie. Hossan Leong’s delivery would probably be the King’s Speech in comparison.

Perhaps the complainant would like to give an example of Singlish that doesn’t assimilate some form of  broken English, because I can’t imagine it without those affectionate glitches that would light up the grammar radar of your typical Anglosnob. Singlish and broken English go together like plain yogurt and rainbow sprinkles. For example, ‘I go toilet, you wait for me’ is clearly broken English, yet it’s perfect Singlish. If you retain the English-ness in that sentence it becomes ‘I’m going to the toilet. Wait for me here’, which lacks the familiar economy of the former and comes across as totally unnatural to most Singaporeans. Or  ‘You help me chope the seat can, later sure a lot of people one’ becoming the strenuously awkward ‘Help me ‘chope’ the seat will you? There’ll be a lot of people here later’, gesticulating ‘chope’ with air quotation marks of course. So, unless the complainant could qualify what he means by broken English and provide some examples of grammatically sound Singlish, I maintain that true Singlish is necessarily defective, and that it’s such defects in its DNA that code for the lovable, bizarre, dynamic, beautiful bastard of a creature that it has become today.


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