National Gallery Gala ‘Empire Ball’ in poor taste

From ‘National Gallery Singapore drops the theme of its gala dinner following public criticism’, 21 Sept 16, article by Huang Lijie, ST

The National Gallery Singapore has dropped the theme, The Empire Ball, from its upcoming fund-raising gala after having drawn flak from the public for it.

Those who spoke out against the theme say the use of the politically fraught term, “empire”, which carries with it the idea of colonial oppression, is in poor taste for a celebratory event. The fund-raiser is now known simply as the National Gallery Singapore Gala.

…The gala’s theme was publicised on its Facebook page earlier this week and since Tuesday (Sept 20), it has drawn public feedback, including comments from artists and curators, about the theme being insensitive and dismissive of the violence and scars of imperialism.

Artist-curator Alan Oei, 40, who is also the artistic director of the independent arts centre The Substation, wrote to the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth on Tuesday, urging that the museum reconsiders how the gala is framed.

He said in the letter that the historically fraught term “empire” is usually associated with the “shameful, oppressive epoch” of imperial rule, although there are some like historian Niall Ferguson, who recognise that “Empire has also been a positive force”.

So far, no Singaporean has rejected the prestigious OBE (Order of the British EMPIRE) award because it reeked of bloody colonial oppression. We also don’t boycott Daiso or Sushi Tei because Japanese icons give us painful reminders of the days of the Occupation. Yet somehow, a certain generation of Singaporeans still suffers from a debilitating ‘colonial hangover’.

In 2013, those who still reel from the after-effects of a ‘shameful, oppressive epoch’ complained about an archway in Queenstown proclaiming ‘Long Live the Queen’.  Despite such disdain for the Crown that once ruled us, we still feted the Royal Couple when they came to visit. Raffles Hotel, a distinctive reminder of a traumatic era still stands till this day, where Singaporeans and visitors alike, seemingly ignorant of the evil Empire’s decadent history, continue to sip Singapore Slings at the Long Bar.

With the recent Brexit, you would expect chills from the ghost of a marauding Union Jack to wane, but noooo shame on you National Gallery, you might as well name your gala ‘The White Gentleman’s Club’. Take the ‘The Time of Empire‘ tour if you dare, and experience sheer misery while strolling down Coleman street and its sickeningly imposing ‘early colonial architecture’.

Today, mention the words ‘Empire’ and ‘Ball’ in the same sentence and most Singaporeans would not think of white superiority, lawn cricket or opium trading, but a galactic spherical spaceship cum weapon of planetary destruction. Well nothing that a Death Star can do that the horrible British Empire can’t top, eh.

Singapore no longer known as SIN at sporting events

From ‘No more SIN, it’s SGP at sports meets’,

Singapore will no longer be abbreviated as SIN at international sporting events. Look out for SGP instead.

The country-code change was approved by the International Olympic Committee last month, following a proposal made by the Singapore National Olympic Council.

The first major Games where the new code can be used is at next year’s Sapporo Asian Winter Games.

Mr Low Teo Ping, Singapore’s chef de mission at the recent Rio Olympic Games, said he has been asked “a thousand times” at sports events why the country adopted the old code, with its negative connotations. Mr Low, who is also Singapore Rugby Union president, said: “It’s not so much a derogatory way of interpreting the old code.

“It hasn’t done us any harm.

“But, at the same time, it’s also not funny after a certain point of time.”

Mr Low added that there is uniformity now, as Singapore’s United Nations country code is SGP. But its International Air Transport Association airport code remains as SIN.

He said: “I think that the change is for a good reason. UN has been using this (code), so it’s nice to be known like this internationally.” SEA Games 200m sprint champion and national record holder Shanti Pereira said that the change is not a big deal.

The 19-year-old athlete added: “We will get used to it. It’s a good thing that it still starts with an ‘S’.

In 2014, a forum writer brought the ‘negative connotations’ of SIN to light, asking if it was in our NATIONAL INTEREST to retain the ‘SIN’ brand. Today, his wish is granted, though renaming Singapore to SGP is unlikely to make us less, well, ‘SINful’.

Not sure if other countries have done the same because their country code is offensive or sounds’ funny’ . Brazil remains as BRA, Liechtenstein is LIE, Madagascar is MAD, and Moldova’s is a shortform of a recreational drug (MDA). SIN sounds tame in comparison. Changing it will only make everyone realise how much ‘SIN’ bothers us, though many believe we’ve committed an atrocious one depriving gold-medal Paralympian winner Yip Pin Xiu of the $1 million prize that able-bodied athletes get for Olympic victory.

Whether it’s SIN or SGP, it’s our representatives’ performance and behaviour in the sporting realm that matters more than country codes, though sometimes the embarrassment comes in the form of ridiculous national attire. Like having the national flag splayed across our water polo boys‘ crotches.

Nursing home’s Chinese name is blunt and insensitive

From ‘Hougang nursing home needs more sensitive Chinese name’, 29 Apr 16, Voices, Today

(Julia Ng): Recently, I drove past a soon-to-be-completed nursing home by Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society on Hougang Avenue 8, and was dismayed by the Chinese name of the facility.

A prominent signage states the name as THK Nursing Home. Above the English words is its Chinese name, where “Nursing Home” has been translated as “Bing Lao Yuan”. The Chinese character “bing” means illness and “lao” means old. So it literally means a facility for sick, old people.

It conjures up an image of progressing illnesses, frail old age, followed by death, and evokes a sense of gloom and doom, of bleakness and hopelessness. This is definitely unhealthy for a nursing home and disrespectful to our seniors.

Sure, we can call a spade a spade, but when it comes to senior care, there ought to be more sensitivity and empathy. There is really no need to be so blunt and insensitive.

I wonder what the complainant has to say about The Moral Home for the Aged Sick in Bedok. Nursing homes, hospices, old folks’ home, retirement villages, whatever you call them all serve the same purpose, to ‘provide quality care’ to the ‘destitute, frail and aged sick’. In the 1920s, philanthropists like Mr Aw Boon Haw of Haw Par Villa fame set out to help his ‘decrepit‘ countrymen, who were not only aged, but poor and ‘helpless’.

Today, call nursing home places where old, sick people go to die and you may get accused for not just ‘disrespecting’ our seniors, but labelled an ‘ageist’ as well. We have a pioneer generation, active seniors contributing to a ‘silver economy’. They are now our beloved elders, no longer the unmentionable ‘old folks’. If you’ve run out of ideas for hospice names, look in a geography textbook.

An example of a politically correct nursing home brand is Orange Valley, which aspires to be a ‘partner in ageing’ to your ‘senior needs’. Unlike a ‘moral home’, Orange Valley sounds like perfect place to  ‘ride off into the sunset’, like the end of a cowboy movie. Then there’s Bright Hill Evergreen Home (though these days the word ‘evergreen’ itself may still be spat upon with contempt by some seniors). Its Chinese name ‘Guang Ming Shan Xiu Shen Yuan’, translates as ‘Bright Hill Centre for Healing/Convalescence’. What next? Spring Oasis? Green Savannah? Silver Meadows? Stretch the euphemisms further and we risk mistaking hospices for condos. You wheel yourself in expecting a welcome cocktail and a garden of earthly delights but get a catheter shoved brutally down your nose instead.

If I’m aged and sick and am absolutely certain that I’d be dead in 3 months, I’d rather sign up for a place that has no pretenses and most importantly value for money, rather than one that airbrushes the reality of my impending death with phony names like how one smothers a corpse with aromatherapy bath salts.

Eunoia in the Bible alludes to sexual relations

From ‘New JC name lacks local relevance, historical context’, 31 Dec 15, ST Forum

(Estella Young): The choice of an obscure word of Greek origin for the name of Singapore’s newest junior college suggests that despite our year-long SG50 extravaganza to honour Singapore’s history, we still have so little confidence in our ethnic roots that we uncritically look West for grand and noble concepts (“Get your tongue around Eunoia, the newest JC“; yesterday).

I certainly appreciate Greece’s historical and philosophical contributions to human civilisation.

But Asia – where Singapore is located, and from where most of its citizens hail – is similarly rich in achievements and in cultural depth.

Instead of importing an esoteric word from a country more than 9,000km away – which the Bible uses, in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, to allude to sexual relations – could the Ministry of Education (MOE) not have found a more familiar one rooted in Sanskrit, Tamil, Chinese or Malay?

Asian cultures do not lack words for personal virtues, achievement, or the pursuit of knowledge.

As it stands, Eunoians are likely to be nicknamed “Eunnoyances” or “Eunuchs” by rival schools (“Eunoia JC? Please rethink the name“; ST Online, yesterday).

At first glance ‘eunoia’ looks like the scientific name of a wildflower, or one of the moons of Saturn. It’s tedious on the tongue and in written form due to the consecutive vowels. It makes you check twice like how one is careful with words like ‘unctuous’ or ‘bulbous’. Nevermind if it describes something beautiful, the word looks, and sounds awkward. It’s only slightly less esoteric than the singer Prince calling himself Prince logo.svg in the 90’s.

Despite the ministry issuing a guide to pronouncing Eunoia (yoo-noe-iea) and not ‘you-know-yah’, a Greek language expert asserts that it should be a 4 syllable word ‘Eh-yu-no-ya’ (Eunoia pronounced as four syllables in ancient greek, says language expert, 31 Dec 15, ST) instead. Between MOE and someone who actually speaks the language, my money is on the latter, though the professor isn’t helping the JC and its Eunoians by confirming our initial guess of ‘You Know Yah’, now with the additional ‘EH’ in front. Some other sources say that it should be ‘eff-ni-ah’.  At least people won’t argue over the pronunciation of names like ANGSANA Primary School. At least that has ‘local flavour’. Still, why is it we’re OK with naming primary schools after local flora but cringe if we suggest things like ‘Orchid JC’ or ‘Chiku JC’?

But to be fair, calling the new JC ‘Bishan JC’ will bring its own share of criticism, that it lacks originality, or can be abbreviated to ‘BJC’, which will draw some low-brow smirks. Someone else suggested ‘Trinity’ JC, but that sounds too much like an academy for priests, nuns and sorcerers. Unlike hospitals, we don’t usually name schools after billionaire philanthropists these days. So, you know ya, it ain’t easy coming up with a JC name. It’ll be a tough call, though, if the alternative to Eunoia happens to be an equally silly-sounding Merlion JC. In any case, MOE is refusing to budge, and maintains that their pronunciation is correct, nevermind what a Professor of Greek Studies, Aristotle, Paul of the Bible or Zeus, God of Thunder says.

So how did ‘beautiful thinking’ become corrupted into a sexual euphemism in the bible? According to the First Corinthians Bible Commentary, eunoia refers to a spouse’s ‘conjugal duty’ to satisfy the other’s sexual needs. ‘Eu’, the adverb (good, well), combined with ‘noia’ (mind) form the compound word ‘benevolence’. In the context of sex, I would read it as if you’re a ‘good’ husband or wife, you don’t ‘mind’ performing your conjugal duties. It’s ironic that someone would call a Eunoian a Eunuch then.

Curiously enough, the Chairman of the SCGS (part of the Integrated Programme trinity of schools making up EJC) board is named EULEEN Goh.  Let’s hope, for the future Eunoians’ sake, that the board has the ‘eunoia’, good mind and benvolence, to change the name and spare their students from the ‘paranoia’ of being mocked by others.

Compass Point renamed as 1 Sengkang Mall

From ‘Compass Point to be renamed 1 Sengkang Mall’, 23 Dec 15, article in CNA

Compass Point will have a new name when it re-opens with a new look next year. The shopping centre said on its Facebook page on Tuesday (Dec 22) that the name 1 Sengkang Mall has been approved by Government authorities.

In the Facebook post, Compass Point said the mall was renamed to Sengkang Mall before updating the post and changing it to “1 Sengkang Mall” at about 10am on Wednesday.

It also announced the winner of the naming contest, who walks away with a S$1,000 cash prize. However, many on Facebook were unimpressed by the choice of the name and urged its owners to stick with Compass Point. Some called the new name “simplistic” and “boring”, or even something a 3- to 4-year-old could come up with.

The mall had narrowed down its list of suggested names to eight choices. The other options were: Sengkang Central Mall, One Sengkang, Sengkang Square, One Sengkang Square, Sengkang One, #1 Sengkang Square and 1SM.

Some names are hard to shake off. I still call the ‘Grandstand’ at Bukit Timah ‘Turf City’, while others, like Orchard’s ‘Wheelock Place’, took a while to catch on after its rebranding from ‘Lane Crawford’. Some older buildings continue to retain names that confuse shoppers. Even now I find it hard to differentiate between Bukit Timah Plaza and Bukit Timah Shopping Centre. Then there’s Bugis Junction and Bugis Cube, Tampines Mall and Tampines Mart, Far East Shopping Centre and Far East Plaza. Some folks give up totally and just refer to shopping centres by their key tenants. My parents used to call Thomson Plaza ‘Yaohan’, for example, and would have continued to use Yaohan whether or not the managment spends thousands of dollars just to change the name of the building from Thomson Plaza to Thomson Square, Thomson Point, Thomson Mall or #One@Thomson.

It’s also interesting how frequently shopping centres use the numbers 1 and 8. There’s ONE KM, Junction 8, Ten Mile Junction (Now Junction 10), 888 plaza and Triple One Somerset. Nobody’s going to rename Jem as Jurong 50 although its actual address is 50 Jurong Gateway Road. What do you expect from a country that names a second bridge to Malaysia, well, the Second Link, and its national stadium The National Stadium.

Shopping centres aside, here’s a list of rebranding exercises that suggest that money doesn’t always buy originality, and that sometimes it’s better to hire a monkey on a typewriter than reward a member of public if you want a name for something.

  1. $400,000 was spent on a marketing agency Interbrand to name Marina Bay as Marina Bay.
  2. $2000 cash awarded to a 15-year old who christened the now defunct Budget Terminal. How was it possible that this beat the awesome FUNPORT?
  3.  $3000 for a winning battleship name. Among those entries selected include the mouthfuls that are Sovereignty and Indomitable. All wonderful names for male libido enhancement pills too.
  4. Attractive prizes including F1 tickets to name TURNS 1, 7 or 10 of the 2009 circuit. These were named ‘Sheares’, ‘Memorial’ and ‘Singapore Sling’ respectively. I’d be extra careful around a bend named ‘Memorial’ if I were a racecar driver.
  5. You’ve probably heard of Nila or Merly, but the reason why ‘Frasia’ doesn’t ring a bell is because it’s a portmanteau of ‘Friends’ and ‘Asia’ and was the product of yet another naming contest for an 2009 Asian Youth Games mascot. It sounds more like a flower than the King of the Jungle.
  6. Ah Boy‘ was shortlisted as a baby orang utan name in 2011 following a contest organised by the Singapore Zoo. That’s what 50% of Singaporeans call their dogs and 100% of grandmothers call their grandsons.
  7. In 2012, one of Scoot’s first aircraft was named, bizarrely, ‘Barry’ thanks to a naming contest. I’m a little surprised no one picked ‘Scottie’.

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’.

Ku De Ta renamed to Ce La Vi

From ‘Ku De Ta is now Ce La Vi’, 4 June 2015, article by Serene Lim, Today

Say goodbye to KU DE TA and hello to CE LA VI.

L Capital Asia, the Asian private equity business sponsored by French luxury group LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH), which owns the majority stake in KU DE TA Singapore, announced today (June 4) the creation of its new entertainment brand CE LA VI at Marina Bay Sands’ SkyPark. The name is an abbreviation of the French phrase “C’est la vie,” meaning “This is life”.

…This move comes after the Courts of Appeal ruled last week that KU DE TA in Singapore had to stop using the name, which belonged to the eponymous beachfront club in Bali. It follows a court ruling last December, where it was revealed that Nine Squares, the licensor of the KU DE TA trademark in Singapore, did not own the trademark.

But CE LA VI’s chief executive officer Kirk Martin told TODAY plans for the name change had already been in the works even before last year’s court ruling. “When I came on board in April last year, we had already started raising questions such as ‘Who are we? What does our brand mean? Where do we want to take our business?’” he said. “We wanted to raise it to an international brand level, especially with L Capital investing.”

…“Sure, we could make a deal (with KU DE TA Bali) but we made a decision that the best way forward is to have our own name. To build a global brand, we have to own our own destiny. We’re still young enough to build a new brand platform. We were ready — we just had to accelerate the announcement of CE LA VI.”

No Singaporean I know would use the pompous ‘C’est La Vie’ in ordinary speech. We usually express stoic resignation when shit happens with the Singlish ‘What to do?’, the standard English ‘Life’s like that’ or the slightly vulgar Hokkien ‘Lan Lan’.  Trust the French to dress up an emotion verging on hopelessness with carnival flair. You could be at the end of the rope and instead of writing a suicide note, you just need to say to yourself, with a nonchalant shrug, ‘C’est La Vie’! and next thing you know you’ll be out skipping in the garden sniffing the roses.

‘Ku De Ta’ itself is a bastardisation of the French ‘coup de’tat’, though its clientele are mainly the creme de la creme of high society, the hors d’oeuvres-nibbling nouveau riche, well versed in haute couture with little tolerance for the bourgeoisie, rather than the anarchist agent provocateurs in Les Miserables. Maybe the CLV owners really meant ‘This is THE life’, an expression which looks similar but means something else entirely despite the addition of a single word. It is a phrase people ejaculate when they’re tucking themselves under a duvet made up entirely of 100 dollar bills.

There’s also nothing unique about the new name. We already have a locally registered gift company called C’est La Vie, who’re unlikely to take CLV to task for copyright infringement, though a suit may come the other way round, like how Subway once tried to bully small-time confectionery Subway Niche. Elsewhere in the world we have CLV-themed guest houses, bakeries, farms, talent companies and, strangely enough, cigars.  The only thing missing is a funeral business, one with an accompanying slogan that says ‘Everyone dies. Get over it. C’est La Vie’.

To anyone who has absolute zero knowledge of French lexicon, CE LA VI looks like a really large Roman numeral. It is also an anagram for VICE LA, which sounds the title of an 80’s cop drama with mustaches. It’s like naming a sleazy karaoke bar ‘Do Re Mi’. Pardon my French, but this new name for a club this swish is quite the ‘faux pas’.