Does “oblong” mean “rectangle”?

Imagine you are reading 1984 by George Orwell, and you come across this passage:

The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall. Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely.

So. What shape is the telescreen? Does “oblong” mean “rectangle”?

Continue reading Does “oblong” mean “rectangle”?

Threelogy Lah by Casey Chen

This box set contains three folk tales told in Singlish style: The Three Little Pigs Lah, The Red Riding Hood Lah, and The Goldilocks Lah.

The plots are not very different from other adaptations of these familiar tales. The characters are not very different, except that the bears in the story of Goldilocks are not bears but wolves, a change presumably made to connect the third book with the first two. The setting for the stories is Singapore. The illustrations are a mix of drawings and photos of objects and places, and each book’s drawings are by a different artist.

The appeal of these books (in general and for me specifically) is that they use and teach Singlish dialect and slang expressions. The target audience includes both those who want to see their own dialect used for humorous effect and those who are unfamiliar with Singlish and interested in increasing their understanding of it.

See below for more details about these books.

Continue reading Threelogy Lah by Casey Chen

Book launch for The Missing Barbegazi by H.S. Norup

H.S. Norup, a fellow member of the Singapore Writers’ Group, has published her first novel, The Missing Barbegazi, with Pushkin Press.

Here she is launching her book at the atrium of the Singapore National Library during the Asian Festival of Children’s Content. She gave a presentation offering some background on the book and its characters, read an excerpt aloud, and signed and sold all the copies at the festival bookshop. It went great!

Photos below.

Continue reading Book launch for The Missing Barbegazi by H.S. Norup

Tiananmen: 25th Anniversary Edition by Morgan Chua

Caricatures don’t make much sense if you don’t know what’s being exaggerated or why….. There was some background information included in the front of the book, but mostly this is a collection of political cartoons that I don’t have enough context to appreciate.

The author is a Singapore-born cartoonist, and the cartoons were originally published in book form in 1989.

The events that took place at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on 4 June 1989 attracted international attention and sparked outrage at the Chinese government’s military advance on student demonstrators. Since then, a new generation of Chinese has grown up in a country that continues to grapple with issues of political liberalisation, democracy and censorship.

When and Why I Read Tiananmen

I bought it on sale at localbooks.sg.

Genre: non-fiction (graphic novels, politics and history)
Date started / date finished:  28-Aug-18 to 30-Aug-18
Length: 128 pages
ISBN: 9789810779276
Originally published in: 2014
Amazon link: Tiananmen: 25th Anniversary Edition

Four books from LocalBooks.sg

Singapore online bookseller localbooks.sg has done some good branding work. The bubble envelope is bold and cheerful, and the books I ordered came with a friendly note on which someone had written my name, and a little word search that promotes local authors.

See below to find out which books I ordered. (They were on sale.)

Continue reading Four books from LocalBooks.sg

Does your language control you? Lingering questions.

See below for discussion of the following questions related to my recent Funzing talk on language:

  • How do people like the Hopi whose language does not have words for left and right keep track of the cardinal directions?
  • The Hopi have a less egocentric idea of the locations of things. Does that correlate with a less egocentric kind of worldview or ethics?
  • Since language has a biological basis, doesn’t that mean that linguistic relativity is a myth?
  • What’s the difference between studying a language and using it?
  • How does using sign language differ from using a spoken language?
  • How do memes (macro images), smileys (aka emoticons or emojis), text-speak and other digital innovations relate to more traditional forms of communication?
  • Why might reading something in two different languages produce two different impressions?
  • Do there exist languages (like a fictitious Star Trek alien one) that are extremely difficult or impossible to translate because they rely noticeably more on metaphors and allusions?
  • What are some other properties of language that might make one language appear strange compared to another?

Continue reading Does your language control you? Lingering questions.

Magician (Master/Apprentice) by Raymond E. Feist

I struggled to get through these. I’m not sure what made them seem so boring. Dwarves, elves, wizards, kings, princesses, armies, a dragon, an interdimensional portal… yawn.

Maybe the story felt plot-driven? Maybe it followed too many characters? Maybe it covered too much time? Maybe the author’s preferred version is appreciably worse than the bestselling version the publisher released in 1982? Maybe what feels like a cookie-cutter fantasy epic now would have sounded fresh in 1982? Maybe George R. R. Martin’s ridiculously successful Ice and Fire books now outshine all previous fantasy works?

It’s not that I’ve read so much non-fiction that I don’t enjoy fantasy anymore. I loved Brandon Mull’s Five Kingdoms. I think the reason I didn’t like Magician is probably something to do with style changes that have taken place in the fantasy fiction market.

When and Why I Read Magician

Recently, I have tended to read non-fiction and serious fiction. I am using a friend’s recommendation as an excuse to read Magician, a genre fantasy novel split into two mass-market paperbacks. I bought them for $1 each in 2007.

Genre: fantasy
Originally published in: 1982/1994

Date started / date finished:  21-Jul-18 to 27-Jul-18
Length: 485 pages
ISBN: 0553564943
Amazon link: Magician: Apprentice

Date started / date finished:  27-Jun-18 to 11-Aug-18
Length: 499 pages
ISBN: 0553564935
Amazon link: Magician: Master

Public talk 7 August 2018: Does your language control you?

I am excited to be giving a public talk on language for Funzing Singapore next month. Hope to see you there!


Does your language influence—or even control—your very thoughts? Join us for a scintillating night as we delve deep into the spookier aspects of language. You’ll never think about language the same way again…

In this talk we’ll look at how much we rely on our language to frame our understanding of the world. You’ll be surprised to see how different languages choose to express or emphasise seemingly basic aspects of experience like gender, direction and colour!

Some languages, including Classical Chinese, lack separate words for ‘blue’ and ‘green’. Meanwhile, Eskimos are said to have dozens of words for snow. What do we make of these oddities?

Do differences in our words reflect differences in thought? In other words, do speakers of Chinese view the world differently from speakers of English, Malay, Tamil, and other languages of the world—or do we all talk differently but think somewhat the same?

What would happen if people purposely changed the language we use? Would they be able to improve or impair our thinking as in the film Arrival or the novel 1984? Examining insights from research on ‘linguistic relativity’ and examples from literature and popular culture, we’ll uncover just how much our words affect our lives!


Venue
Distrii (a co-working space at 9 Raffles Place, Republic Plaza, 048619)

Date / Time
Tuesday 7th August, 7 p.m. (Talk starts at 7.30 p.m.)

Tickets
Available online for $9 (or use your Funzing Unlimited Pass)
No tickets will be sold at the door.