No Chinese on NTUC Foodcourt signboards

From ‘Lack of bilingual signs a wrong move’, 8 July 2017, Voices, Today

I am appalled at the removal of Chinese language on signboards at NTUC Foodfare’s food court in Block 303, Choa Chua Kang Avenue 4 after its facelift.

Many elderly patrons were perplexed on the first day of its recent reopening and had asked staff at the counters to translate the menus before they placed an order.

This oversight is detrimental to Singapore’s efforts to foster a bilingual environment against a backdrop of today’s younger generation being increasingly unable to master their mother tongue.

I hope that Foodfare could at least use Chinese on signboards in its locations where many of the residents are elderly, for their reference.

No, making signboards bilingual will not train our mother tongue. If I want to order Rojak from a foodcourt stall, I’ll look for ‘Rojak’ and not 罗惹.  I’ll also never use the Chinese translation of rojak in everyday speech. Nor will I say the words 豪大大鸡排 (hao da da ji pai) out loud without feeling slightly uncomfortable.

Has the writer even taken a look at signboards of MRT station names? Buona Vista, for example, translates to Many Beautiful Songs. Is that how we want our children to pick up Chinese? What if I want my kid to learn Malay? Is he fated to eat Nasi Padang for the rest of his life?

Removing Chinese from menus may well be a smart business decision, simply because not ALL our elderly are Chinese as the writer presumes. It may confuse non-Chinese speakers, or even turn some off altogether, like this writer who felt left out because the electronic signboard at the Arrival Hall in Changi Airport that welcomes Singaporeans home lacks Malay and Tamil translations.

Yet, at the same time, you can’t afford to have all 4 languages to describe something like mixed economic rice. It’s like watching a movie with 3 sets of subtitles. For reasons known only to civil aviation authorities, airport signboards directing human traffic are selective in the languages used. If you’ve travelled enough, you’ll wonder why signs only have English and French, others English and Korean/German/Chinese etc. If all is to be fair in this world, we should have signs in EVERY KNOWN LANGUAGE on this godforsaken planet.

There’s a more practical reason for avoiding excessive translations of signs – The tendency for the people in charge to screw things up, like insert a curse word in the Tamil version Lau Pa Sat, or make you squirm in embarrassment at the Chinese translation of Bras Basah. 

Also, this image below is exactly why we should leave Chinese-only signboards in the Geylang eateries the hell alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tangs having frying pan promotion on International Women’s Day

From ‘Department store TANGS panned for offering discounts on Women’s Day’, 10 March 2017, article in Today.

A popular Singapore retailer came under fire on Thursday (March 9) for “trivialising” International Women’s Day by cooking up a promotion offering cut-price frying pans. The department store chain TANGS marked the day, which falls on March 8 and is observed across the globe by women pushing for greater equality, by discounting a range of items, including two frying pans.

Other deals included beauty products, high heels and shavers.

The retailer sent out a promotional email to customers with the S$38 frying pan offers listed at the top, according to Marketing magazine. The deals were still listed on TANGS website on Thursday.

Campaigner Ms Jolene Tan said the promotion appeared to overlook the struggle of women in the city-state, who are pushing for better representation in company boardrooms.

“International Women’s Day is a day to honour the struggles of women for equality, safety and respect,” said Ms Tan, head of advocacy and research at Singapore’s Association of Women for Action and Research.

“Sadly, too many retailers present it as a consumerist event to be trivialised through sales and discounts rather than attention to the serious issue of gender equality.”

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If there ever were an International Men’s Day, and Tangs decided to have bargains on six-pack beers, remote controls, Crocs and cycling shorts, not only would NO ONE complain, but it would be a total non-event because men and shopping go together like AWARE and flour rollers.

So, what should retailers do to contribute to the recognition of women’s ‘place in the boardroom’? Discounts on designer power suits? Special edition name card holders? Wouldn’t that ignore other no less steely women like the the grandmother who’s also a taijiquan master, our Paralympian swimmers, nurses, Mother Theresa? Would Bollywood Veggies’ head honcho Ivy Singh-Lim call Tangs out for not having sales on potted plants and daisies? If these don’t apply, then International Women’s Day should really be renamed as ‘Alpha-women Day’, or better still, ‘AWARE day’.

For ages, the kitchen has been cast as a symbolic prison for the female of the species. Gone are the days of corsets and chastity belts, and women are referred to as the ‘weaker sex’. Though we had a minister who once said he would rather women spend money on mammograms over a trip to the salon, overall we still live in an era of ‘girl power’. The best selling artistes in the world are women, pop culture is awash with strong female characters, from Dragon Queens in fantasy epics to zombie hunters facing down the Apocalypse to goddamn nasty aliens.  We spend more on Mother’s than Father’s Day. Yet here we have feminists, in the face of a grim economic outlook, slamming deals on household items, footwear and cosmetics, because apparently women are not supposed to benefit from them on Women’s Day. Because the frying pan is the yoke that chains a woman to a livelihood of servitude. Throw away that apron, woman, and join the Sisterhood of the Travelling (Office) Pants.

Congrats Tangs, you just made yourself on the list of nominees for the ALAMAK AWARDS. Imagine the blood that would be spilled if they had offered promos on THIS instead.

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Xiaxue calling K-pop boyband trannies

From tweet by Xiaxue, Feb 25, 2017

 

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Girls who are boys
Who like boys to be girls
Who do boys like they’re girls
Who do girls like they’re boys
Always should be someone you really love

– Blur, Girls and Boys

In one tweet, Xiaxue – still at it all these years – has managed to offend not just the K-pop cult, but some members of the LGBTQ movement who consider the word ‘tranny’ derogatory. Well, what alternatives could she have used if the tweet was intended as an insult?

Bapoks? Pondans? Transvestities? Ladyboys? Shemales? Ah Kuas? Queers? Nope. Would ‘cross-dressers’ deliver the same punchline? Probably not. ‘Sissies’ sounds old fashioned, the kind of insult your granduncle would have used on the 80’s sensation New Kids on the Block.

OK how about the politically correct terms. Transgender? Transexual? Or the bewildering ‘non-binary‘, a term that seems to describe calculators rather than actual human beings. If she had said ‘look like a bunch of girls’, it may even be taken as a compliment, because maybe these performers DO want to look like girls. Neither would you use ‘drag queens’ because these kids are nowhere as fabulous. And it would be an insult to Kumar.

So yes, in order for the insult to ‘work’ and since no celebrity is immune to insult, Xiaxue decided to use ‘tranny’, which to me has the same borderline effect as referring to someone as ‘cheena’ without coming across as a blatant racist. Would LGBT people find it offensive if I say to a ‘cisgender’, straight person ‘that shirt makes you look gay’? Or ‘That hairstyle makes you look like a butch’? Why can’t ‘tranny’ be an identifier like how people call others ‘geeks’, ‘weirdos’, ‘tai-tais’, ‘mummy’s boy’ or ‘gym-rats’ without someone flaming you for being an insensitive bigot?

If you need to point out a transgender in a crowd to another party, imagine the awkwardness of coming up with a description. Um, the guy wearing lipstick. The one in a dress with muscular arms. Would you even say the word ‘Transvestite/Transexual’?  Have we become so PC that you need to describe a trans individual carefully without making references to either gender? Like ‘You know – hand gesture – nudge nudge- wink wink’.

Being an experienced blogger who gets paid for attention, I’m sure XX knew what was coming when she threw the bait. Ultimately there are only 2 people in the world to stand to gain from this silly altercation: XX herself and the ‘Tranny’ Band from Korea.

 

‘Chinese helicopter’ degrading to Chinese-educated Singaporeans

From ‘Petition to remove Chinese helicopter from Oxford English Dictionary’, 28 May 2016, article by Leong Weng Kam, ST

Freelance writer and translator Goh Beng Choo has launched an online petition to have the term “Chinese helicopter” removed from the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). She and the 185 other like-minded Singaporeans who had signed the petition as of 10pm yesterday say that the term – used in the 1970s and 1980s to describe a Chinese-educated person who spoke and pronounced English poorly – is degrading and insulting.

…The dictionary itself defined “Chinese helicopter” as being a derogatory term for a Singaporean whose schooling was conducted in Mandarin Chinese and who has limited knowledge of English….The term appears to have been derived from a mispronunciation of “Chinese-educated”.

Madam Goh and those who signed the petition are not the only ones upset. Former civil servant and National Institute of Education lecturer Tan Teng Lang e-mailed OED’s world English editor Danica Salazar asking for the term’s removal.

In her e-mail on Friday, seen by The Straits Times, Ms Tan, who now lives in Canada, said the term “had long degenerated into a label that equated Chinese-educated Singaporeans with inferior quality and low status in society. It was blatantly intended to belittle, humiliate and demean someone on the basis of his less fluent command of English“.

She added: ” ‘Chinese helicopter’ is unequivocally a painful reminder of their long and difficult struggle to find their rightful place and dignity in the Singapore society. Fortunately, by the 1980s, this highly derisive term had mostly lapsed into disuse with the closure of Chinese schools. Not many younger generation Singaporeans have heard of ‘Chinese helicopter’, much less understand its meaning. My friends and I are therefore shocked and saddened that an almost forgotten Singlish term now resurfaces in the OED, rubbing salt into an old wound that never healed.”

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Another Singlish term added to the OED also supposedly reeks of insensitivity and discrimination but so far nobody has filed a petition about it: Ang Moh (Caucasian) . Until the OED decided to make some Singlish words official, including the inexplicable ‘WAH’, ‘Chinese helicopter’ was an obscure, rarely-uttered term familiar only to Singlish scholars. Now that some people want it banned for good, they’ve unwittingly cemented it in our lingua franca.

The New Paper explains that ‘helicopter’ originated from the local book Army Daze, in which a Chinese-educated recruit mispronounced ‘educated’ as ‘helucated’, though I never heard it uttered once during my NS days. I knew what ‘bayi’ (derogatory term for Singhs) and ‘abnn’ (derogatory to Indians) were though, and those seemed more racist and insensitive than describing someone untrained in the English tongue as a flying military machine. Without further elaboration I would have thought that ‘Chinese helicopter’ referred to a specific position in the Kama Sutra only for advanced practitioners. Or, literally, a description of the quality of an actual helicopter. Just like how people use ‘Malaysian’ to imply reckless drivers, or ‘German’ (gas) to describe farts.

The uglier flipside of a ‘Chinese helicopter’ is calling someone a Chinese ‘chauvinist’, often used to label annoying Opposition candidates who play the race card during elections, short of comparing them to ‘Chinese’ Nazis. These days, Chinese Singaporeans with an obsessive flair for Mandarin are admired and valued in society, regardless of their grasp of the English language.  It is our mother tongue after all. So, if your English sucks but you’re badass at calligraphy or can memorise Romance of the Three Kingdoms by heart, you really shouldn’t be too upset about being called a ‘Chinese helicopter’. Just like how I embrace being called ‘jiak kantang’ (Chinese but English-speaking). I doubt the predominantly English-speaking among us would call out the OED for ‘rubbing salt on an old wound’ if they decide to list ‘jiak kantang’ (literally potato-eating) or the inflammatory ‘banana’ (yellow outside but white inside).

In fact, there already exists a Singlish term that has similar meaning as Chinese helicopter but far catchier: Cheena.

Tampines 1 reported to police for racial discrimination

From ‘Women files police report against Tampines 1 for alleged racial discrimination; mall issues apology’, 9 April 2016, ST

A woman filed a police report on Friday (April 8) against Tampines 1 shopping mall, alleging that she was subjected to racial discrimination by an employee of the mall.

The mall had earlier issued a public apology to businesswoman Diana Hairul, and told The Straits Times it had counselled the employee about her actions.

Ms Diana, 36, who uploaded on Facebook on Thursday (April 7) evening a screenshot of an e-mail she received from the employee, wrote that she had felt discriminated by the reply.

The e-mail read: “Hi Dee, We are not so keen to run a Malay road show as our target audience are mainly Chinese. Thus, we regret to inform you that we are unable to rent a space to you.”

What’s shocking to me is not so much that a police report is being filed, since the police have been activated for more petty things, like a child getting scolded by a teacher. What’s unnerving is Diana’s FB post and Tampines MP Masagos Zulkifli’s follow up.

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First, she specifically addressed the Malay Muslim community. She didn’t say ‘Hey hey everyone’.  Then there’s ‘rejected US’, which by implication to her first sentence suggests that Tampines 1 wasn’t just declining her business, but Malays in general. The use of CAPS on ‘mainly the chinese’ is to emphasise that this is a race issue. And oh, you should feel discriminated ‘against’, not ‘feel discriminated’, but I think people would have been drowned in CAPS by then to notice. People complain about how Tampines 1’s email was worded but in all fairness, the complainant’s rant and its capacity to incite negative feelings is worth looking into as well.

From a business standpoint, Tampines 1 should have done its calculations and decided that a Hari Raya road show simply would not be profitable. The trick is fudging the answer to make it seem like such road shows are not compatible with the mall’s ‘theme’ or ‘direction’ (They eventually gave the excuse that they were fully booked). We also should not expect businesses to patronise a certain race at the expense of their bottom line. If I were to propose to those in charge at Geylang Serai market that I want to sell Chinese new year decorations, it’s likely that I’ll get rejected because of the obvious ‘target audience’ in the area. Likewise if I were a real estate agent intending to sell a house in Kampong Glam, I’m not going to ‘feel discriminated’ if my boss decides it’s better for my Malay colleague to pitch the sale.

Fine if a member of public makes a commotion over something businesses have to manage discreetly on a daily basis. Anyone who’s mature and sensible enough wouldn’t be riled by Diana’s outburst into believing that Tampines 1 is anti-Malay and doesn’t want their money. When news broke that a Chinese man attacked 3 madrasah students we didn’t descend into a mob. So yes, we can be certain that Singaporeans are rational people and will not boycott Tampines 1 over an isolated incident, no matter how someone tries to assault our senses with complaints in CAPS.

I’m also not too sure about MP Masagos’ strongly worded response on his FB. (Post was deleted at time of writing. Hmmm..)

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‘INSENSITIVE AND INCOMPETENT’, ‘SPREAD ILL WILL’, “SHAME ON YOU!’.

Insensitive, yes, but I don’t think the staff deserves the rest of the berating. Spreading ‘ill will’ is a serious charge, the kind that will land you in court. Didn’t Minister Gan just tell us to develop a ‘learning culture‘ from such mistakes? Has the Minister considered the career repercussions of the affected staff from this public bashing? As a public figure I would have expected something more neutral, diplomatic and forgiving, like ‘Let us all learn from this lesson in our bid to become more inclusive’, or ‘The reply was a missed opportunity. Businesses could emphasise communication skills as part of their training programme’, or ‘The staff may wish to apply for course via SkillsFuture so that such incidents may be avoided’. Taking sides, shaming and fanning flames on the matter short of accusing people of Islamophobia helps no one.

This was Masagos’ response to the Paya Lebar assault earlier in the month.

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Yes, more ‘SHAME ON YOUs’, though in this case he did urge us not to ‘incite hatred and division’. In other words, don’t stir shit while the Police are investigating. The same applies to the Tampines 1 case, whatever the Police are doing to resolve the matter while at the same time managing ‘walking time bombs’ in Little India.

Meanwhile I’ll continue to patronise Tampines 1, Hari Raya bazaar or no bazaar, and hopefully it doesn’t turn into the Little Chinatown of Tampines after this incident. If there’s any mall that deserves to have the police knocking on their doors, it’s not one as supposedly ‘racist’ as Tampines Mall is, but those with the potential to randomly kill you. Jem, I’m talking to you.

MP Denise Phua on walking time bombs

From ‘MP Denise Phua apologises for using phrase ‘walking time bombs”, 8 Apr 16, article in CNA

Member of Parliament for Jalan Besar Ms Denise Phua apologised on Friday  (Apr 8) for her choice of words in her recent speech during the Ministry of Home Affairs budget debate.

“I should not have used the phrase ‘walking time-bombs’ to describe congregations of high density,” she wrote in a Facebook post.

Ms Phua, who is also the mayor of the Central Singapore, was relating a recent visit to Little India in Parliament. As her constituency covers part of the Little India neighbourhood, she had put forth some suggestions in an effort to safeguard against a repeat of the Little India riot. The suggestions include forming a multi-agency Task Force to manage security risks of congestion or ring-fencing communal residential areas.

“I have no intention to undermine any specific group,” Ms Phua explained. “I personally get along very well with the foreign cleaners in my constituency. To them and the other foreign workers in our country, thank you for your help and please accept my sincere apology if I have caused you concern.”

If the Mayor of Central Singapore had stopped at a simple apology, her supporters could still argue in her defence that she only used the phrase on unruly crowds in general. By bringing in ‘foreign cleaners’ in her follow up response, it’s clear who she was referring to. To make matters worse, her ring-fencing suggestion brings to mind barbed wire, sentry posts and District 9.

Amazingly, this isn’t the first time that Denise has used ‘walking time bomb’. She used it to describe the remote gambling industry, (though technically a website doesn’t ‘walk’ so it’s more accurate to call it a ‘ticking’ time bomb instead).  Whether it’s an online casino or a bunch of workers chilling with a six pack, anything that looks suspicious to Denise Phua is a disaster waiting to happen. Our dismal birth rate. The diabetes epidemic. The Korean fried chicken craze. They’re all goddamn ticking time bombs. At least our leaders are wise enough to avoid using bomby analogies to address the ISIS situation, unlike this inflammatory headline from the Herald Sun.

There are less controversial ways of employing such violent metaphors. You could call an obese man with heart problems a ‘walking time bomb‘ and no one would call you out for hate speech. Or kids who are prone to temper tantrums (What makes your little walking time bomb tick?15 March 2016, ST). Even teenage sex is a ‘ticking time bomb’. It’s a metaphor that’s designed to instill irrational fear and creates more impact than just saying ‘The crowds in Little India are, well, A CONCERN’. Still, it’s best to avoid any utterance of the word ‘bomb’ in Parliament. In today’s climate, a bomb is no longer a staple Wile Coyote prank in a cartoon. People have been arrested for making bomb hoaxes over the phone. No other 4 words in the history of the English language would incur more time, resources and chaos than you shouting ‘I HAVE A BOMB’ on a plane.

Little India is not the only place that may require you to suit up like our Explosives and Ordnance Unit. Geylang has also been affectionately termed by Police Commisioner Ng Joon Hee as a ‘potential powder keg‘ in 2014.  The chances of anyone actually getting injured in these ‘lawless’ enclaves is low however, compared to the ticking time bomb that is peak-hour commuters on a platform in Jurong Interchange MRT.

I guess it will be the last that we hear of Denise ‘Time-bomb’ Phua’s pet phrase. Maybe we’d all be less harsh on her had she used ‘a bubble waiting to burst’, ‘a kettle boiling over’ or a ‘pimple waiting to pop’ instead.

GrabTaxi’s sexist ‘Love Boobs?’ campaign

From ‘Grabtaxi apologise for ‘insensitive’ breast cancer awareness campaign’, 8 Oct 2015, article by Xabryna Kek, CNA

Car-hailing app GrabTaxi has issued an apology on Thursday (Oct 8), following backlash over its breast cancer awareness campaign. Since the launch of the #GrabitBeatit campaign, GrabTaxi customers have received app notifications with the message “LOVE BOOBS? So does cancer.” The slogan has also been plastered on cars running the GrabCar services.

Some netizens did not take kindly to the tagline. “It’s unfortunate that your Breast Cancer campaign is communicated in a sexist way that objectifies women,” Twitter user Faizal Hamssin wrote.

Boob, I mean book, a GrabTaxi cab now!

Boob, I mean book, a GrabTaxi cab now! (pic:Sunday Times, 11 oct 15)

The hashtag for the campaign reads #GrabItBeatIt, which sounds like the jingle for a bongo drumset than breast cancer. An SMU Associate Professor of Marketing lashed out at the use of the word ‘boobs’ (Grabtaxi’s cheeky campaign on cancer awareness backfires, 11 Oct 15, Sunday Times), as if  changing the slogan to ‘love BREASTS’ would make much of a difference. Besides, the ‘breast’ pun is already taken, by a famous fast food burger chain with a history of ‘objectifying’ parts of the female anatomy.

We love your buns too

In 2012, The Singapore Cancer Society launched the cringeworthy ‘Treasure the Breast Things in Life’ campaign, so GrabTaxi isn’t the only one capitalising on our affection for ‘breasty’ things. ‘Breast’ puns are a tad overused. Cue ‘derogatory’ terms instead.

I guess ‘LOVE B(.)(.)BS?’ is deemed offensive to some women because it’s the kind of porny clickbait that is designed to draw horny men. If there’s anything wrong with the ad it’s that the target audience (males) seems questionable, as most females who chance upon a ‘love boobs?’ ad is likely to dismiss it as one of those spam links to online sex shops selling dodgy bust-enhancement creams. It should also be more inclusive, since breast cancer affects men too, and renamed as ‘LOVE BOOBS AND MOOBS?’, though I’m sure a lot more people love the former than the latter.

As for the physical act of ‘grabbing’, there is, in fact, some grabbing involved when it comes to breast cancer screening, whether it’s done gently via self-examination in the mirror, or by a mammogram that literally clamps your tits together like a medieval torture rack used by misogynistic zealots to force confessions out of women accused of witchcraft. If you’re disturbed (or worse, tickled) by the phrase ‘Beat It’, it just means you’ve descended too far into the darkest realms of S&M.

There’s no shame in admitting that the vast majority of guys love breasts. It’s a shame, however, that people who accuse such ads of being sexist and ‘insensitive’ ignore all the dick jokes done at our expense and other campaigns that mock the male anatomy, like this ‘Clean Your Balls’ ad for example. Making fun of testicles – now THAT’S really hitting below the belt.

Like breast cancer, testicular cancer is no joke of course. But if you had a ‘Love Balls?’ campaign instead, I doubt social media would go all ‘tits-up’ over GrabTaxi’s ad. Somehow ‘Loving boobs’ is offensive, but ‘Playing with balls’ is hilarious. No wonder Ikea never considered raising a meatball charity event to draw our attention to the scourge of testicular cancer. Yes, cancer loves your balls too. Cancer is a sneaky bi-pervert, goddamit!

Allow me jog your mammary-I mean- memory: Some years back, we had a ‘Lift Your Skirt’ campaign for cervical cancer, which had some folks shaking their heads all the way home after spotting the ads at bus stops, because they can’t imagine anything beyond the message than a call for women to expose their panties to men. Naughtiness seems to be the norm if you want Singaporeans to, well, keep abreast of killer diseases. Whatever works to grab your attention, I say, whether it affects the health of your boob, your cervix or your dangling balls.

Then there’s this fun way of raising funds for AIDS in Japan especially for people who ‘love boobs’. I suppose the reason why people don’t complain that this ‘objectifies women’ is because the recipients of the groping work as sex objects for a living.

Well, thanks to GrabTaxi, I’m forced to interpret the lyrics to the Black Eyed Peas’ ‘My Humps (my lovely lady lumps)’ in a totally different light. Slogan theme song, anyone?