It’s much more fun to say ‘raining cats and dogs’

From’ Time to improve standard of English here’, 2 Oct 2017, ST Forum

(Joe Teo Kok Seah): In my interactions with my fellow Singaporeans, I have come to realise that, by and large, people are adamant about using Singlish and are not accustomed to conversing in proper standard English.

They feel that Singlish is far more intimate and effective.

It is not uncommon to find people confusing expressions like the “first floor” with the second storey. The first floor or the first storey is the ground floor.

I have also been met with stunned and perplexed countenances when I use phrases like “a quarter to five” or “a quarter past five” instead of 4.45pm and 5.15pm.

Singaporeans have been exposed to crude English for decades. It is time for us to start speaking proper English. One way to do this is by tuning in to BBC news programmes.

I also learnt many useful English phrases from the British sitcom Mind Your Language, which was telecast in Singapore in the 1980s.

One can learn much better when the process is intermingled with humour and is stress-free. We should endeavour to use more English idioms as part of our daily interactions.

Idioms add life and verve to speech and writing. Without them, the English language would be very bland. For example, describing the weather as “raining cats and dogs” is much more fun than saying that it is “raining heavily”.

Having a good working knowledge of the more common English idioms is essential and critical for effective communication.

Blimey, this old chap thinks our English is ‘half-past six’. One can imagine him ‘running for the hills’ when conversation with the lay Singaporean isn’t as hoity-toity as he’d hoped. Or perchance he’s just making ‘a mountain out of a molehill’.

There is a fine line between idiom and cliche, and saying raining cats and dogs doesn’t make you a more vivacious speaker of the language than someone who says it’s raining heavily, or better still – The rain outside is heavy AF. English Idioms are as old as the bible and dotards. Modern slang is hip, dynamic and gets you connected.

I, too, grew up on Mind Your Language, though what most people remember it by is not Mr Brown’s essential lessons on nouns, verbs and prepositions, but the racist stereotypes that would draw uncomfortable laughs by today’s standards. A thousand apologies (head bobbing) comes to mind. Sleazy Italian? Flirty French? Commie Chinese? Check.

As for first floor vs ground floor, this is a case of Singaporeans switching unwittingly between American and British English. This phenomenon was observed by English professors even way back in the early eighties, when admittedly it is ‘impossible to maintain a British standard of lexicon and syntax’ because of the influence of American pop culture. People still say sidewalk instead of pavement. Eggplant Aubergine. Ass vs arse. And don’t get me started on the pronunciation of words such as ‘lieutenant’. Even Brits and getting corrupted by their American counterparts as we speak, and vice versa.

What English needs to be is clear, simple and concise. Why use ‘stunned and perplexed countenance’ when you could say ‘confused faces’. Or waste mental arithmetic deciding if it’s quarter to 4 or ten to 7? Or ‘by and large’ instead of ‘generally’?

To each his own. Not every nail that sticks up must be hammered down. Let’s not push the envelope but let sleeping dogs lie.

 

 

 

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Singlish handicapping Singaporeans

From ‘Singlish impedes mastery of English’, 27 May 2016, ST Forum

(Marietta Koh): Mr Seah Yam Meng believes it is “alarmist” for me, and perhaps even the authorities, to think that Singlish would displace Standard English (“Singaporeans know right time, place for Singlish“; yesterday). As a teacher of English, I am concerned about the threats undermining the use of Standard English in schools, of which Singlish is but one.

Our young need to be taught proper, functional English that can stand them in good stead where prospects for their employability in an increasingly globalised economy are concerned. Despite at least 10 years of English-medium instruction in school, the majority of adult Singaporeans are hardly proficient in the use of written and spoken English.

Anecdotal evidence of this deficiency abounds at the workplace or in correspondence with service providers, in the form of fractured sentences and garbled messages which appear to be common.I am, thus, sceptical of Mr Seah’s belief that Singaporeans are “mature enough to switch between Singlish and Standard English”.

English is, moreover, not the mother tongue of most Singaporeans. If households are ill equipped to support the use of Standard English, this makes it all the more imperative that schools ensure uncompromising standards of English language instruction are upheld.

If the fundamentals of English grammar and usage are not properly taught, and if Singlish continues to be heedlessly imbibed as what is deemed acceptable, we will be doing a gross disservice to generations of young Singaporeans, who will be at a distinct disadvantage once they step into the working world.

Yes, you can’t blame Singlish alone for corrupting standard English. One may have a Queen’s English intonation but still succumb to bad English. An example is the use of the word ‘revert’. Then there’s the chronic problem of misplaced emphasis, like how we say ‘colleague’ (ker-league). Social media shorthand is also responsible for peppering our written language with lazy acronyms like TTYL or tmrw. Influenced by pop culture vernacular, teens are spouting rubbish like ‘bae’, ‘realest’, ‘my bad’ or ‘beneath your beautiful’.

FML

Certainly, how Singaporeans spoke 50 years ago was probably different from today, and back then you would still hear those who kowtow to our colonial masters complaining about how this uncivilised pidgin language is crippling our prospects on the international stage. In 1999, then PM Goh Chok Tong beseeched us not to overuse Singlish, in his own words: ‘Let us not go reverse direction with Singlish, or to use Singlish, let us not GO STAN’. Talk about Singlish-ception; using Singlish to warn against Singlish.

Alas, it’s 2016 and speaking English, the kind cleansed and purified of all its local nuances, is no longer as relevant, or fashionable, as it used to be. Mark Zuckeberg, for example, is mastering Mandarin, no matter how broken it is, to charm the pants off China. If you want to make it on the world stage, perfect grammar is not going to get you as far as knowing your audience, and pandering to them to look like you’re trying your darnedest to fit in. A Singaporean speaking to a bunch of teenage Koreans with a regular ‘Singaporean’ accent (whatever that is) is not going to be as persuasive as one putting on a mock American ‘Yee-Haw’ twang. Nobody’s likely to be impressed by an upstart from a pinprick country that people still think lies in China giving a profoundly fluent monologue as condescending in tone as the Queen pardoning a convict in the Royal Palace. That, I double confirm.

The Government itself has a love-hate relationship with Singlish, one moment demonising its use and the next using it for heartland campaigns, from courtesy on the MRT to SARS (PCK’s Some say leh, some lay lor) Ministers pick on trivial things like ‘Outside food not allowed’, and then go on to ‘mee siam mai hum’. The use of Singlish, occasionally sprinkled with dialect, among our politicians may even increase during election time compared to non-election days. Suffice to say the government is well aware of the utility of Singlish, though as a double-edged sword used for very specific purposes. As far as eliminating Singlish goes, there are certainly setting a very bad example. We can’t even decide on whether we should keep ‘Don’t Pray Pray’ or promote ‘Don’t Play Play’, without realising that BOTH ARE BAD ENGLISH.

Like a child with behavioral issues, we tend to be selectively proud of Singlish’s more lovable traits, like how we love our ‘lah, leh, lors’ or the ‘Shioks’, that even international stars who come to visit are urged to mimic them. In typical Singaporean fashion, ‘Shioked’ was even considered as a replacement for ‘Shagged’ in an Austin Powers movie. The most critically acclaimed local movies of our time used Singlish and dialect as the key medium. Can you think of an example of a successful Singaporean movie where actors spoke ‘un-Singlish’? I guess not. Why liddat?

The line between ‘broken English’ and ‘Singlish’ blurs when we refer to the dark, ungrammatical, side of the language, the thorn in every self-respecting English teacher’s side. This is the Singlish played more for laughs, the kind that makes memes like SGAG so virally successful. It’s fitting that professors use the term ‘code-switch’ when it comes to transitioning from Singlish to ‘proper English’. Because that’s what ‘authentic’ Singlish really is, a cipher to differentiate the true blue Singaporeans from the pretenders. How useful that would be in an actual war. Imagine us confusing the enemy with codes like ‘Eh, those chee hong kias fly our aeroplane, we hentak kaki first wait we shoot bird. Otherwise, we jialat liao’

So, this ‘war on Singlish’ is really a petty microcosm of a war on the English language everywhere. Modern English is an evolving beast that has shifted beyond the stuffy, upper-crust medium that traditionally gets you past the front door. Mastery is not so much about your proficiency in grammar or whether you know how to split the infinitive, but how and when you use it that makes a difference.

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.

Primary school science questions having ‘model’ answers

From ‘Only one right answer to science questions?’23 Feb 2015, article by Amelia Teng and Pearl Lee, ST

EXPLAIN how the hard, bony body of a seahorse could be an advantage. The right answer, according to one Primary 6 science teacher, is: “It protects the seahorse from injury and reduces the chances of predators successfully feeding on it.”

But the child who wrote “It acts as an armour that protects the seahorse from predators” was told that her answer was wrong. This was one of several examples thrown up by parents, who have complained recently that primary school science teachers are too rigid in marking open-ended questions, and are emphasising rote learning over the understanding of concepts.

This, despite schools having shifted to an inquiry-based learning approach in science since 2008. With the approach, pupils are encouraged to ask questions, analyse data and come to their own conclusions.

Several parents wrote to The Straits Times Forum page earlier this month, calling for schools to be more flexible. Most said their children were unduly penalised for answers that had the same meaning as the correct ones, but did not contain the right “key words”.

The children had been told by teachers to stick to key phrases and words found in textbooks, in order to get full marks in assignments or tests.

Here’s another Primary 3 head-scratcher for you:

What is the difference between a bird and a lion?

If you said the ‘bird has feathers but the lion does not’, you’re wrong. You’re also wrong if you said ‘The bird can fly but the lion can’t’, ‘birds evolved from flying dinosaurs but not lions’, or even ‘birds poop on cars but lions poop on the ground’ (assuming the question involves you staring at a picture of a bird and a lion). The correct answer, according to a parent complaining to the ST Forum earlier this month (‘Good science=Poor English’, Feb 5 2015) is ‘The bird has feathers but the lion does NOT HAVE FEATHERS’, which basically means the same damn thing as your original answer, except annoyingly repetitive. (Well if you want to be even more specific: a bird has feathers but a lion has fur, not feathers).

Clearly, the student knows what he’s talking about, that a lion does not have feathers, but the science teacher here doesn’t give a hoot about your ‘understanding’ if it does not fit into the template answer scheme, even if the same statement in a composition about bird and lions would make your English teacher squirm in her seat, and accuse you of trying to make up the 500 word quota with redundancies. The parent summed it up perfectly in his letter: “Is there rigidity in the teaching of science? It would certainly appear so (that there is rigidity in the teaching of science)”. Take that, Rigidity!

Not convinced that teachers can be anal about science answers? Here’s another puzzler on animals.

You could be thinking of the following possible answers:

1) Both the bull and the lion give birth to their young
2) Both the bull and lion poop and pee
3) Both the bull and lion can kill you
4) Both the bull and lion are mammals

ALL OF THE ABOVE ARE WRONG. (The answers are ‘4 legs’, ‘have hair’, or ‘similar body shape’ i.e something you can actually see from the illustration). The thing that you should be staring hard at isn’t the actual drawing, but the phrase ‘STUDY the animals BELOW’. Gotcha.

Let’s up the ante with a dreaded multiple choice question about the properties of a light bulb.

Now read the last option carefully before you make your choice. If you chose ‘all of the above’, you are interpreting D as ‘the bulb lights up only when electricity passes through it’. If you chose ‘A, B and C’ you read it as ‘light energy is the only energy that is given off when electricity passes through it’. The correct answer happens to be the latter. Answer D, in the spirit of the other animal questions, happens to be the grammatical equivalent of the rabbit/duck gestalt optical illusion. Given the ambiguity of this shitty question, no student should be penalised for seeing a rabbit when the answer scheme says duck.

Do you know how a shadow is formed? Here’s one student’s answer to a puzzle that has tickled the intellect of many an ancient Greek philosopher.

 The complete answer is ‘Because the sun is behind her and she is blocking the path of the light’. You know what this obsession with ‘complete’ answers will do to our kids? They’ll never be able to complete their paper on time because they’d want to add details like ‘because light travels in straight lines and Betty is an opaque human being and she will generate a penumbra and umbra depending on the angle and intensity of the sunlight’. Just to play safe. Except that some teachers will still mark you wrong for ‘trying to be clever’ when penumbrae and umbrae are not taught until you’re in secondary school. If you mention anything about photons or the particle-wave duality you may be suspended from school altogether.

But back to the seahorse question. If I were grading the student I’ll not only let it go, I would also give her BONUS marks for using her imagination and drawing a figurative analogy between ‘hard skin’ and ‘armour’. By our school standards, this paper published in the rather obscure ‘Acta Biomaterialia’ journal is pure BULL. Its title? Highly deformable bones: Unusual deformation mechanisms of seahorse armor (Porter et al).

All this nitpicking over ‘key words’ will not only kill our children’s love for science, but also restricts how individuals grasp concepts, punishing those who, well, ‘think outside the box’. A student who sees beyond 4 legs and digs deeper into the taxonomic characteristics of mammals vs birds is given zero marks vs another who memorises ‘key words’ because his tuition teacher said so. Flowery language, like ‘armour’, is not ‘scientific’ and has no place in a science paper, they say. Well try describing DNA to laymen without ‘unscientific’ analogies like zippers and enzyme/cell receptor interactions without using ‘lock and key’.

Final question: What’s the difference between a robot and a typical Singaporean Science student?

Answer: The robot needs electricity to recharge but the student does not need electricity to recharge.

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’.

‘Ghlum’ doesn’t evoke the slightest feeling

From ‘He’s not a fan of online vocabulary’, 21 July 2011, ST Forum online

(Kang Ze Chian): …People seem to be challenging the boundaries of appropriate language by mispelling and restructuring words.

This first caught my attention when I had an online conversation with a friend who spelt “no” as “nou”, “now” as “nao” and “sorry” as “sowi”. Soon, many of my peers adopted this obnoxious habit and modified words up to a point where they were barely recognisable.

Many fail to appreciate the beauty of language. Every word has its roots, a story behind it. We ought to dignify language by spelling words appropriately and not replacing letters at our convenience, forsaking the painstaking effort once invested in creating words.

One may argue that casual conversation does not require appropriate spelling. I beg to differ. A correctly spelt word often evokes deep emotions while one that is “modified” will not. For example, the word “gloom” paints several images in my mind – a cold winter night, a war site. It also casts upon me a feeling of hopelessness and despair. A modified spelling of the word I assume would be “ghlum”. Does that even evoke the slightest feeling?

I worry for the fate of our beautiful language. As a user of the English language, it has always been of my utmost concern to preserve the rich value of appropriately spelt words. I believe observing appropriately spelt words helps a person better engage in a conversation and avoid any unnecessary misunderstandings.

People like the writer here with a low tolerance for bad spelling and shortcuts would sms ‘Management meeting tomorrow, 20th September, Tuesday, okay?’ in full instead of the more succinct ‘Mgmt mtg tmr, 20th Sept, Tues, OK?’. Anglophiles rushing to the defence of pristine English is nothing new, blaming social media and SMSing for the deterioration of the English language that we need campaigns to tell people to stop acting cute and spell words as they’re meant to be, even if you’d need 10 minutes just to construct a proper sentence, punctuation intact and all. What we’re experiencing is a dynamic system evolving at breakneck speed thanks to the online revolution and this obsession  with putting our ideas across to others as quickly as possible with minimum effort. People still spoke in full in the age of the telephone, because we only had a voice as a medium and vocalising ‘BRB’ would sound like a suppressed wet fart. When we wrote letters and we wanted to relay information quickly, our haste was reflected in the quality of our handwriting, but  shortcuts were still rarely used aside from P.S (extinct now BTW). The invention of the ‘chatroom’ heralded the online revolution,  its instant gratification features and ability to ‘infect’ chatters exponentially was a fertile breeding ground for the mutated online-speak as we know it today.  So if the writer insists on blaming something for kickstarting the decay of a beautiful language, it would be sex then. Sex also happens to be the reason behind the beautiful diversity of the human race, and also explains why you can have dogs ranging from chihuahuas to mastiffs.

If you condensed the history of how words came to be, chances are that you’re unlikely to find anything that has retained its original spelling or meaning, thanks to writers, playwrights and religious scribes all playing broken telephone and exercising poetic liberty, swaying the popularity of words over the years. Words have grown, been mutilated, euphemised, fused, cannibalised, misused, overused, gone extinct ever since we started reading and writing. We use bastardised words all the time without realising it, once faddish creatures but have since segued into everyday conversation,  like ‘google (verb)’, ’email (without the hyphen)’, ‘amok (Malay origin)’ or even ‘online (didn’t exist in popular use before the internet, it was once even hyphened, as in on-line). To ‘fire’ someone today would imply a witchhunt centuries ago. Gay once meant ‘happy’, then referred to homosexual men, and today includes lesbians as well. So much for ‘painstaking effort in creating words’.   Sometimes it’s really all about connecting and fitting in, knowing when to use ‘bling’ and get away with it without sounding pretentious, when to use ‘bye’ and not ‘byeeeee!!’or the now defunct  ‘buai’ (I think today it’s just ‘bb’). The writer’s example is an extreme case, of course, but if such babytalk in SMSes irks people so much that they refuse to reciprocate or entertain by spreading it themselves, these words will just die a natural death without ever appearing in our children’s compositions, in case the writer fears that our next generation will become  a bunch of OMG, LOL blabbering idiots.

It’s also erroneous to say that such words do not evoke ‘the slightest feeling’.  A ‘sowi’ or ‘sorrie’ has a light hearted tone compared to the heavily apologetic ‘sorry’, usually reserved for friends and lovers when the transgression is a mild one, like missing a call or accidentally hanging up, though that’s not saying that it should be endorsed. A person who smses ‘tomorrow’ or ‘management’ in full gives an impression of prim and proper,  stiff-upper-lippedness, just like those who add a full stop after an ‘OK.’ ‘Sexxxxy’ sounds more sexy than ‘sexy’,  ‘bring some noize’ somehow sounds less ‘noisy’ than ‘bring some NOISE”, and I don’t need to explain how the verb  ‘Lurve’ compares to ‘heart’ compares to ‘love’. These are the little devilish nuances in SMS-speak which make it so successful today, regardless of what purists think.  You just don’t have an emoticon for every emotion which a deliberate mispelling would otherwise convey. Nobody in his right mind will spell ‘gloom’ as ‘ghlum’, unless he’s an ogre-trainer from Middle Earth.  Even if ‘ghlum’ were actually used, it invokes the feeling of something rather oily and sweet (ghee and plum?) or something trollish but magical out of a Harry Potter book, which adds a creative, even sensuous, dimension to the austerity of the original word. It is also totally wasteful SMSing to place silent, unnecessary consonants when most of us prefer to text words exactly the way they sound using the least letters possible. ‘Tough’ becomes ‘tuff’, ‘Enough, enuf’, ‘Straight, str8’, ‘photo, foto’, ‘lollipop, lolipop’, ‘racquet, racket’, ‘goodnight, goodnite, nite’. You could say all this is just plain laziness, but never has such lazy behaviour gotten so much things done and so many things said in so short a time.

Esplanade rhymes with lemonade

From ‘Is Promenade and Esplanade pronounced the same at the end?’ 10 Jan 2010, Today online

(Raymond Koh Joo Guan): I was quite amused by the daily announcements on the Circle Line MRT as it approaches Promenade and Esplanade Stations.

The pronunciation of Promenade was correctly announced as “prom-me-naad” but Esplanade was pronounced as “Es-pla-nayd”. Shouldn’t it be “Es-pla-naad”? Can SMRT verify if Esplanade is correctly pronounced in its announcements?

Firstly it should be a linguist that the writer needs to approach and not SMRT, and if indeed the recorded announcement of Esplanade were pronounced wrongly, would you seriously expect  SMRT to eat humble pie and amend it? This is like complaining to the radio stations for having their DJs pronounce Saturday as the Americanised ‘Sare-turday’ ‘instead of ‘Sah-turday’,  correcting the hawker fruit store uncles that you want a ‘ber-nare-nah’ and not ‘bah-nah-nah’, or tsk-tsking the French for calling the world’s best selling isotonic drink ‘Gato- rahd’ instead of ‘Gato-rayd’. Incredibly this confusion over the ‘ade’ at the end of words has been going on for over a 100 years, as seen in this letter below dated 26 August 1907 ‘Pronunciation in Singapore’.  As classy as it seems to call it the Espla-nahd these days (rhymes with art, sort of), apparently it was ‘not equally pleasing’ in the olden days. Still, according to Merriam-Webster, it’s  audio.pl?esplan01.wav=esplanade, but ‘nayd’ as explained by the Speak Good English website. Fine either way, it seems, but does makes one wonder why English is the most widely used language on the planet.

The other tricky MRT name to pronounce would be ‘Outram Park’, as seen in this 24 Dec 1987 article below. Since Outram is not an official word, the phonetics here is debatable, and till today we still have variations in the pronunciation (Ooo-tram vs Ohh-tram), but really, what’s the problem if people know exactly where the next station is, nevermind how it’s interpreted by different tongues? I mean, is it really wrong for someone to pronounce Lim Chu Kang as Lim Chu K-air-ng (as in bang), Tampines as Tam-Pines, or Pasir Ris as Pah-Say Ris?