Changi naval base renamed RSS Singapura-Changi Naval Base

From ‘Problematic new name for Changi Naval Base’, 18 Feb 17, ST Forum

(Sunny Goh, Dr): Names and labels have been under scrutiny lately. While the Syonan Gallery has been hotly debated, one other name change has escaped attention: RSS Singapura – Changi Naval Base (“Changi Naval Base’s new name to hark back to beginnings“; Feb 10).

It is problematic in two aspects. First, is the new name supposed to shift the emphasis away from “Changi” as the base onto the ship “Singapura”?

If so, this will force a contest between two historically powerful words, and not everyone will agree that the ship triumphs over the base.

Most people – visitors and taxi drivers included – will pick either RSS Singapura or Changi Naval Base. No one is going to blurt out the entire mouthful in everyday situations.

Second, how is the ship related to the base?

The RSS Singapura was a former Japanese minelayer that was berthed at Telok Ayer Basin and was used by the then Singapore Naval Volunteer Force as its headquarters from 1966 to 1968, while the base was officially opened only in 2004, almost 40 years later.

Those at the Republic of Singapore Navy must be able to account for this, if foreign dignitaries were to ask them about the name. From a practical point of view, there is another problem.

Over time, an abbreviation for the name will probably emerge – the same that has taken place for the Goh Keng Swee Command and Staff College (GKS CSC). But having seven letters, such as RSSSCNB, is itself unwieldy.

All of this begs the question: If the original name wasn’t broken, why fix it?

Just the day before, the Government made a reluctant and rather surprising U-turn after a public outcry over the Syonan Gallery, changing it to the mouthful’ Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies’, which sounds more like the title of a history textbook than an actual venue. What if my grandfather DIDN’T survive the Japanese Occupation? Wouldn’t this new name be a snub to those who sacrificed their lives during this horrific period?

Think ‘Changi’ and our world-famous airport comes to mind. But there was a time when naming our iconic airport after a place that evokes bloody war atrocities was deemed to be ‘in poor taste’. Brand it anything else to soothe psychological wounds and we may not have the Changi Airport as we know today. Similarly, I’d like to think that if we had retained ‘Syonan’ as a name for exhibitions, Singaporeans would learn to accept and move on over time like how ‘Changi’ became mundane, yet still retaining a prickly reminder of wartime history. Unfortunately, we’d rather sanitise our labels than learn to deal with them.

The ship RSS Singapura itself has some interesting history. Once bequeathed with the Japanese ‘WakaTaka‘, it was given its current name when Singapore joined Malaysia. It was also intended in the 60’s to be converted into a floating night club. Now thanks to the Syonan saga, we have to be wary of labels that summon wartime sensitivities, and by coming with up a practically useless and cumbersome hybrid-hyphenated name for the naval base, we’re injecting those affected with a double whammy; combining a ship that once served the Japanese Imperial navy and a place once associated with instituted mass murder.

Maybe the Navy should emulate Yaacob and reverse the decision after some ‘deep reflection’.

 

Syonan a great insult to Singapore

From ‘Name is a great insult to S’pore’ and ‘Why should we name our gallery Syonan’, 11 Feb 17, ST Forum

(Ong Lay Eng): The name Syonan is a great insult to Singapore and Singaporeans (“Revamped war museum’s name sparks questions“; Feb 10).

We must not forget the war crimes of the Japanese during World War II and the immense sufferings Japan inflicted on our forefathers. This is Singapore’s history and we need to tell our descendants what their forefathers experienced.

(Gan Kok Tiong): If the gallery at the war museum was created by the Japanese for the people in their own country, then I would have nothing to say (“Revamped war museum’s name sparks questions“; Feb 10).

But in this instance, this is our gallery to show Singaporeans the atrocities and humiliation that our people, especially the Chinese, suffered during the Japanese Occupation.

What was light to the Japanese was calamity to the people of Singapore. I suggest that the name be changed to the hanyu pinyin shounan and zainan, meaning “calamity” in English; or simply “The Japanese Occupation Gallery”.

Last year, the National Gallery decided to name a gala event as ‘The Empire Ball‘ and anti-colonialists freaked out. Likewise, any reference to ‘Syonan’ would conjure images of our once imperialist tormenters decapitating prisoners or stabbing babies in mid-air with their bayonets. Though Syonan-to translates to ‘Light of the South‘, those 3 years and 8 months of the Japanese occupation were dark times indeed, but with the state of the world under a Trumpian leadership, perhaps our darkest days are yet to come.

But would this furore over historical fact be a case of jumpy denialism? Would simply naming the museum the ‘Japanese Occupation Gallery’ downplay the grisly emotional heft of ‘Syonan’, a word that implies utter domination and a loss of national identity? How would these symphatisers feel about the word ‘Nippon’, as in ‘Nippon-Go‘ (Japanese language), which children during then-Syonan were expected to attain a ‘complete mastery’  over, since it was the ‘lingua franca’ of Malaya? Or would they complain to MOE if teachers dashed into history class dressed as Japanese soldiers shouting ‘Banzai’?

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Yes, we should not forget the dreadful war crimes inflicted upon our forefathers, even as we fiercely embrace Japanese culture today – from otaku to sakura, sashimi to hentai. But self-censoring a part of history just because certain people find it ‘insulting’ is exactly what our rulers tried to do with their propaganda drives during the Occupation. Now that, in my opinion, would be the true ‘calamity’.

UPDATE(17 FEB 17): After some ‘deep reflection’ by Yaacob, it was decided that Syonan Gallery would be renamed as the less hurtful-sounding ‘Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies”. Well, maybe not deep enough. You can’t even abbreviate the place now. If you’re taking a cab, you’ll probably have to tell the driver to take you to ‘the place formerly known as Syonan Gallery’.

Now let’s do something about ‘Syonan Jinjia (shrine)’ in Macritchie reservoir, perhaps ‘The Temple in the Woods that commemorates the Dead of our Japanese oppressors’

Singaporeans pronouncing W as ‘dub-due’

From ‘English words: Time to say them right’, 4 Feb 17, ST Forum

(Ng Hee Chun): Many Singaporeans are not pronouncing English words properly.

For instance, the word “red” is pronounced as “raid”, and the letter “w” is pronounced as “dub-due” instead of “double u”. Other words that are commonly mispronounced include “liaise”; “tuition”; “reservoir”; “abalone”; “almond”; and “their”.

If nothing is done to rectify this, our children will continue to speak this way. It is not about Singlish, or British or American accents.

If even my children’s primary school teachers are pronouncing words wrongly,what can we say about the standard of English that is being passed on?

Singapore is well-known for its high education standards.

But it seems that when it comes to proper English pronunciation, we are not getting it right. It would be helpful if the authorities can create an awareness campaign on how simple English should be spoken in daily life.

Yes, spare a thought for our ‘chew-ren’.

Picking on the ‘raid’ example may be an extreme case, like ‘three vs tree’. Hell, sometimes we can’t even pronounce the name of our own country properly. Even as adults, we fail to grasp why alone is a-loan but abalone is air-buh-loan-NEE. Or Esplanade vs Promenade. We can’t decide if it’s Media-KORE or Media-KOP (Mediacore). We know of Evelyns who introduce themselves as ‘Eve-lyn’ and ‘AIR-VlYN’.

Here’s some other examples of glaringly mispronounced words which we hear in everyday life.

  1. Colleague, or as we say it, KER-LEEG
  2. Film – Flim
  3. Nowadays – Nowsaday
  4. Flour – Flah
  5. Excuse me – Eskew me
  6. Coke – Cock
  7. Primary -Prembry

Perhaps part of the reason why Singaporeans continue to make the same mistakes is because we deem it impolite to correct a person during normal conversation. Also, sometimes we need to mispronounce deliberately just to be understood, depending on the literacy level of the recipient. For example, if I ask a fishmonger if he has any ‘Sam-mon’ instead of ‘SELL-MERN’, I’ll get a blank stare. Or to the desert stall lady that I want ‘AH-MERN’ jelly instead of ‘AL-MOND’. If a school principal asks me if I send my kid to ‘TEW-TION’, I’m not going to reply with the same word pronounced in the ‘proper’ manner (TOO-EE-TION)because it is not socially acceptable to sound smarter than a head of education.

In 1994, our way of speaking was termed ‘Singapore English Pronunciation‘ (SEP) in an academic paper on linguistics. Our tendency to express ‘th’ as in ‘three’, or ‘then’ as ‘den’ was attributed to having ‘the tongue a little further back and without the accompanying hiss, using an alveolar plosive’. We also have problems with ‘consonant clusters’, like how we say ‘fack’ instead of ‘fact’.  The authors concluded that it was not ‘wrong’ for us to speak in this manner, and in some situations may in fact be the most ‘appropriate’ way of speaking.

So yes, it’s a pleasant surprise to know that words like ‘Wednesday’ and ‘Opportunity’ are often taken for granted in SEP, but it’s unlikely that we’ll convert to the ‘proper’ pronunciation overnight because as social animals we’re rather commit linguistic faux pas (‘par’) than be seen as a snob. Instead of taking the pedantic approach and admonishing people for relying on ALVEOLAR PLOSIVES, perhaps we can all learn to live and let live in a ‘I say Toe-may-toe you say Toe-Mar-toe’ world.

 

SingFirst slogan’s Tamil translation is gibberish

From ‘SingFirst makes translation gaffe on campaign slogan banner’, 29 Aug 2015, article in Today

Its newly-launched campaign slogan was emblazoned in the four official languages across a large banner, which was used as a backdrop at a press conference to introduce its election candidates — but the Singaporeans First (SingFirst) Party had botched the Tamil translation.

What was supposed to say its Restore Our Nation slogan ended up being gibberish, made up of non-existent Tamil characters. The party was notified about the gaffe after the press conference held at the party office on Tras Street.

When contacted, SingFirst secretary-general Tan Jee Say acknowledged the error, but pointed to the printer the party had commissioned to do up the banner. “It was done by the printer, and I don’t speak Tamil so we just went with it. We took the printer’s word for it,” Mr Tan said, without naming the printer.

Asked whether SingFirst has members who know Tamil and could have spotted the error in the first place, Mr Tan said “it was not convenient (to do so), so we just went ahead”. He added: “We will rectify (the error) for (tomorrow’s) press conference.”

Lest we forget, Tan Jee Say used to be a presidential candidate, and here he’s blaming a printer for a shitty translation. Back then, his campaign slogan was ‘Heart of the Nation’. Well clearly his heart was in the wrong place when it comes to proofreading an official language. Time to Restore your Banner before you do anything to our country, boss.

Tamil is a notoriously difficult language to translate. For instance, even the STB messed up the translation of Lau Pa Sat on a street sign for tourists. Thankfully, SingFirst’s error turned out to be mere gibberish. The STB’s version of Lau Pa Sat was interpreted as a swear word. If it had been the latter, Jee Say’s party can, well, Sing their way Home.

Party slogans are trite soundbites embodying the ‘mission and vision’ of its members, and ring hollow most of time because they’re either too vague, or too idealistic. I believe Singaporeans are mature enough voters to judge candidates not by their seductive catchphrases but by their ideas and attitudes. It remains to be seen if we get swayed by pretty faces (Nicole, Kevyrn *wink wink*)or the design of their party shirts.

SingFirst believes that the nation is in deep shit, and needs to a reboot. Well it probably is if we can’t even ensure that one of our four languages is legible. It’ll take more than Wall’s Ice Cream to lift us out of our current predicament though.

Here’s a rundown of the most audacious slogans in Singapore’s election history.

  1. DOWN WITH THE ONE PARTY RULE – SDA, 2006

This was the brainchild of veteran Opposition MP Chiam See Tong. More a defiant rally cry than a slogan, it does describe in essence what all Opposition parties attempt to do, and a very ‘oppositional’ slogan indeed. You can imagine shouting this with one fist raised, and the other holding a sickle or some other agricultural tool.

2. I HAMMER – DO YOU? WP, 2004

Well technically this was a slogan contest entry and not an official slogan. But the fact that the WP actually held one, with amazing prizes in store like a $20 NTUC voucher and a 45th anniversary party MUG, just goes to show how important slogans mean to them. How about a Thor figurine, Sylvia?

3. THE NEW POOR – WP, 2001

This is clearly misleading. Surely there are no poor people in Singapore! Are there? Also, it’s merely describing a select group of people, not advocating action. Maybe it should have been ‘SHOW ME THE MONEY’ instead.

4. MORE GOOD YEARS – PAP, 1988

Child-like optimism Goh Chok Tong Style. Though on hindsight it pretty much described himself because today he’s still running the show in Marine Parade GRC.

5. SAVE DEMOCRACY NOW! DENY THEM TWO THIRDS – SDP, 1988

Another Chiam See Tong creation, this ranks among the longest election slogans ever. Also, it has an exclamation mark smack in the middle of it. You can’t even say it without feeling a tad pissed off.

6. STOP THE PAP – WP, SDP, 1984

Straight to the point, but ultimately useless for the next 30 odd years.

Yusof Ishak’s name misspelt in SG50 commemorative package

From ‘Typos in packaging of SG50 commemorative notes’, 20 Aug 2015, article in CNA

The launch of the SG50 commemorative notes set on Thursday (Aug 20) was marred by typos.

The name of Singapore’s first President Yusof Ishak was misspelt as “Yusok Ishak” on a foldout portion of the packaging as well as in an enclosed booklet. There were no errors in the spelling of his name on the commemorative notes, released to mark Singapore’s Golden Jubilee.

In response to Channel NewsAsia’s queries, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said it is printing stickers to cover the erroneous text.

“We apologise for an unfortunate typographical error in our first President Yusof Ishak’s name in the folder containing the SG50 notes,” said an MAS spokesperson in a statement. “We are printing stickers to replace the misspelt part of his name. The stickers will be affixed to the folders available from the banks, from Aug 25 onwards. Those who have already collected the folders may also obtain the stickers then.”

…MAS managing director Ravi Menon issued a statement late Thursday, taking full responsibility for the error. “This should never have happened, is not acceptable, and I take full responsibility. I apologise on behalf of my colleagues who worked hard to prepare the notes and folders but are deeply disappointed that we made this most unfortunate mistake. We will put this right,” he said.

See what you've done MAS.

Look what you’ve done MAS.

I hope no one gets fired over this boo-boo, and MAS did the right thing admitting their mistake first before someone noticed and posted it online. Chances are you’re more likely to stare at the artwork and play with the 3-D hologram on the currency before reading a single word of introductory text. Wonder if anyone will queue overnight to get the corrective stickers though. Personally I wouldn’t line up again to get one that says ‘Yusof’, or if MAS is as stingy with the recovery budget as they are with proofreading, an ‘F’. F, for FAIL.

Incredibly, people have been making the ‘Yusok’ mistake way before this spectacular gaffe. A trawl through Twitter uncovered these gems more than 3 years ago, when ‘Yusok Ishak’ was the affectionate name people gave to cash in their wallets.

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 11.43.38 PM

Well at least the English on the notes itself is clean, unlike the disaster in 1992 when ‘Board of Commissioners’ was spelt as ‘Commissoners’ on commemorative $2 bills (Spelling error in special issue $2 bills, 4 July 1992, ST). You would, however, expect some critics to complain about the ugly artwork, or how the design looks like a ripoff of some other country’s currency, like our recently minted, Euro-looking, Third Series $1 coins.

Nevermind 50 years of nation-building, another commemorative exhibition last year titled ‘Singapura: 700 years’ was marred by ‘typos, inaccuracies and style inconsistencies’, with Perak’s ‘Slim River’ misspelt as ‘GRIM River’. The Singapore Symphony Orchestra was erroneously spelt as ‘Symphonic’ Orchestra.  Thank you R.M Arblaster sir for your astute nitpicking, though your complaint and call for formal proofreading apparently did little to convince MAS that spelling is paramount, especially when it comes to the name of our first PRESIDENT. Can you imagine if people spelt the deceased LKY’s name wrongly? Their Seventh Month would be very, well, eventful, to say to the least.

If there’s any consolation, ‘Yusok’ isn’t half as bad as spelling Obama as ‘Osama’.

Singaporeans not using verbs in the past tense

From ‘Reverse trend of speaking poor English’, 28 April 15, ST Forum

(Amy Loh Chee Seen): IT IS unsurprising that netizens derided the Singapore and Asian Schools Math Olympiads question for its poor English (“Maths question catches world’s attention”; April 15). The standard of Singapore’s English has sunk so low that poor English has become acceptable, whether in spoken or written form.

Despite years of campaigns to “speak better English”, parents and teachers unintentionally propagate ungrammatical English. If this continues, the language that current and future generations speak here will bear little resemblance to English. One mistake is the utter disregard for the way a verb should be used in the past tense in reported speech, in the passive form and as an adjective.

New hoardings at a condominium construction site proudly promote its proximity to a “shelter walkway”, restaurant menus list “steam fish” or “grill pork chops”, and shops announce hours when they are “close”.

We write as we speak, and conversations are replete with past events told in the present tense. A Singaporean interviewee on CNN once described his grandmother making herbal soup for him as he “studies” for exams, even though he had mentioned earlier that she died years ago.

Why does our society accept this? It is accepted because we speak more and more Mandarin or Malay. Our Asian verbs do not have different forms for tenses, causing us to fail to recognise incorrect English.

As long as our spoken English stays uncorrected, we will continue to speak and write poor English. A friend of mine was even mocked for her clear enunciation of words in the past tense. It has become “uncool” to speak English correctly.

Unless we reverse the trend, we may well need to produce a dictionary or provide translation services to make our Singapore version of English intelligible to foreigners.

The ‘Cheryl’s birthday’ question is an example of poor tense management (Albert and Bernard just BECOME  friends with Cheryl..), but even the best speakers and writers of the language make such errors occasionally. It’s not necessarily a Singaporean problem as the writer believes; bad tense, a misplaced ‘s (as in womens’, childrens’ or it’s) and comical “quotation marks” are textbook bloopers that happen everywhere else in the English-speaking world.

It’s a goldmine for purists out there. I still see construction signs that read ‘Sorry for the Inconvenient’ or ‘Inconveniences’, or shops that say they are ‘Opened’ for business. And then there’s this:

You have movies titled ‘Honey I Shrunk the Kids’ (it should be ‘shrank’), and Two Weeks Notice (Weeks’), which may be too subtle for the non-English professors amongst us to sniff out as mistakes.

There’s no evidence, however, that we have been speaking ‘more Mandarin or Malay’ in recent times, nor has poorly written English become ‘acceptable’ today. Someone who writes in his CV ‘I have make $1 million for my last company’ is looked upon less favourably than another candidate with impeccable grammar. A boss is not going to earn anyone’s respect if he writes in email ‘Please make sure you met the timeline’. If you write in your Tinder profile that ‘I like women who reads books’, you’re going to be left-swiped into oblivion. If you garble your grammar in public, you will be picked on, which is a healthy sign that people here still care about the language, that speaking and writing well correlates with one’s social status. 

Bad sentence construction is one thing, but using words inappropriately in an attempt to sound sophisticated like ‘I will revert irregardless after I have actioned on our teleconversation’ is equally painful to the ears, nevermind how familiar you are with the usage of ‘lie, lay, laid and lain’. Don’t get me started on ‘I LITERALLY blew my top at the bad English in this passage!’ or neologisms like ‘value-add’. Bad English doesn’t mean just sloppy grammar; in the examples above, it’s getting the meanings of words utterly, inexcusably WRONG while believing you’re ultra-cool using them. Some have become so embedded no one ever attempts to correct them, especially if they come from your superior.

Some of our deliberate bastardisations of the language have become standard Singlish. ‘Understooded’ is a blatant hyper-correction of the past tense of ‘understand’. We ‘verbalise’ a noun like agar to ‘agarate’ (estimate), and then turn it back into a zombie noun like ‘agaration’. We tell a friend after a bad fight ‘I don’t friend you’, instead of ‘I’m not going to be your friend anymore’. There is ‘confirm’ and ‘double confirm’, not ‘confirmed/double confirmed’. Our censors even once tried to replace the title of an Austin Powers movie from ‘The Spy Who Shagged Me’ to ‘SHIOKED Me’. Thankfully, Shiok has since remained an expression of pleasure and nothing more.

Another possible culprit for our declining standards in English is the rise of internet-speak and texting, where not only is there a criminal neglect of tense, but the spawning of spelling variations and abbreviations in a bid to save time, like ‘tomolo/tmr‘. We order ‘roast chicken’ not roasted chicken, but we retain ‘fried’ not ‘fry’ chicken. We add ‘already’ to indicate a past event so that we don’t have to change the present-tense verb, for example ‘ Yesterday I already pay you what!’. We don’t articulate the ‘-ed’ when we say stuff like ‘Last night I wash my car’, or ‘ I wrap the present yesterday’. Instead of watching stuffy British drama serials we are entertained by cat videos or downloaded Korean soaps with bad subtitles. In place of books, we have Facebook updates, influencer blogs and baby photos with nonsense for captions. In other words, we’ve become lazy. ‘Yes that would be great!’ is now being replaced by a single ‘thumbs up’ emoticon. If emoticons are left to fester and evolve their own syntax like some sentient virus, we’ll start talking to each other with ‘lols’ and facial expressions, and eventually be forced to relearn the alphabet song, not to mention revise our present and past tenses.

Singtel wants to make ‘everyday better’

From ‘Netizens react to new Singtel logo and slogan’, 23 Jan 2015, article by Chew Hui Min, ST

The new Singtel logo unveiled on Wednesday has created quite a buzz. it also came with a new slogan “Let’s make everyday better”, and new service commitments by the telco. The rebranding and logo – the first in 16 years – were conceptualised by creative agency Ogilvy and Mather. The logo and slogan did not get the best reception online, it seems.

…Entrepreneur Calixto Tay wrote in Alvinology.com that the “new logo isn’t making too much sense”, and even asked two designers to come up with some new ones. Those by designer Jeremy Kieran featured the ‘T’ in negative space, and in one, it was made to look like an upward arrow.

There was some discussion as to whether the slogan was grammatical, and Facebook user Sergio Gs IIo wrote: “there is an even worse error: it should have been ‘everyday better-lah.

singtel-new-logo-628x330

The contentious issue here is whether the word ‘everyday’ is appropriate, since strictly speaking it should be ‘make every day better’. The conjoined ‘everyday’ is usually used as a adjective to describe the humdrum, the banal, the common, like our ‘everyday life’, ‘everyday people’ or ‘everyday heroes’. If Singtel had capitalised the word (Everyday) to imply that they’re using it as a noun in this instance, people would probably complain less vehemently. I assume these are the same people who lose sleep over LMFAO’s Party Rock Anthem (EVERYDAY I’m Shufflin’).

Most people don’t bother to split the term in, well, ‘everyday’ conversation through email or messaging, and for practical purposes the two have become somewhat interchangeable, just like how we’ve learned to live with ‘someday’ rather than ‘some day’. Not every body, I mean EVERYBODY, has the time or patience to nitpick between the two.

So either this is a genuine case of grammatical oversight, or a deliberate marketing gimmick of using an adjective as a noun. Like ‘Think Different’, ‘Spread Happy’, ‘Imagine Extraordinary’, or the song titles ‘Beneath your Beautiful’ and ‘Excuse My Rude’, except this one’s less obvious and rolls off easier on the tongue. Singtel were quick to defend the slogan as referring to the ‘day-to-day’ things that matter to customers, but ‘Let’s make your day-to-day experience better’ just sounds terrible.

Some marketing folks do believe that the logo is an improvement, especially when the font has been changed from the previous ‘Time New Roman-esque’ typeface. The ‘t’, interestingly, not only has been downsized to small caps, but even has a funky incomplete stroke at the tip, almost resembling the side profile of a Jurassic-era phone receiver. If anyone continues to grumble about the new logo, which has 5 sprightly red dots in some kind of planetary trajectory, I’d be happy to refer them to the one proposed for our new National Gallery as a comparison. The ‘planet’ reference is fitting nonetheless, considering that there are times, in the train tunnel especially, when the 4G connection is literally ‘out of this world’.