At the entrances to the restrooms in Clementi Mall, why is the same shape being used to represent a mustache and a woman’s upper lip?
The two English as it is Broken books shown above contain photos of signs and responses to people who’ve written in to a weekly column in The Straits Times with questions about English usage.
(For a listing of all four books and then some, see the earlier post, Books on Singapore English.)
The quality of the answers in the two books has been disparaged, but I think most of the explicit explanations are informative even if they are not expressed perfectly.
Below are an example answer I like and one I don’t.
This is the lid to a tower of blank CDs.
I did a double take when I first opened the package because I would have thought ‘unlock’ would be the opposite of ‘lock’ and ‘close’ would be the opposite of ‘open’ (assuming these are all verbs).
It would be hard to overstate the extent to which I hate mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are deadly serious. But this banner is still funny.
For one thing, that warrior, with his Roman helmet, looks really out of place in Southeast Asia. The text at the bottom takes the cake, though.
SILENT WAR. FIGHT DENGUE. SAVE LIFE
Lists that aren’t parallel are a pet peeve of mine. Lists should be all nouns or all verbs. Here we’ve got a noun and two imperatives. Sigh.
Furthermore, that ‘life’ should be ‘lives’. The fact that it isn’t testifies to the frequency of singular/plural errors in Singapore.
And then finally, there’s no punctuation after the last item of the list!
WAGE WAR · FIGHT DENGUE · SAVE LIVES
Now I’m totally with you, out-of-place Roman centurion.
I admit to a level of interest in the vehicles of Singapore that I cannot easily explain. Arguably the focus of this strange fascination is the fleet of about forty numbered ice trucks belonging to JM Ice, I suppose because the trucks are very distinctive and colorful.
I kind of assume that each JM Ice truck has its own territory (truck 37 seems to hang out in Chinatown). The ones I haven’t seen are probably ones that go to parts of Singapore I’m not usually in. The highest number I’ve seen is 38. Sometimes I get photos, but it’s hard when the trucks are on the move!
Below is a record of the ice trucks I’ve seen (including a couple of trucks belonging to JM Ice’s competitors).
This is an advertisement for a movie called Sunflowers of Inferno, which I know absolutely nothing about but which looks like an anime film about a Van Gogh painting… further proof that the world does not make sense in the slightest.
I am currently reading what is essentially a murder mystery (set in revolutionary Boston but with magic). I almost never do that. This book was signed by the author and recommended and given to me by the person it was signed for (my brother’s housemate).
At some point I realized that by an odd coincidence, the book I read immediately prior to this one was ALSO essentially a murder mystery (actually a contemporary thriller, set in the UK). It is ALSO signed by the author.
I did not read these two in a row on purpose. And actually, it turns out I didn’t really read them in a row; there was a YA fantasy novel in between that I read in one sitting. It’s just that I’m trying to read books more or less in reverse order as they come into my possession, and these are both books I got recently. And they’re not that much alike—they’re not even the same size!—except that they both revolve around murder cases and they’re both signed.
My monthly morning meeting snack: A grande latte from Starbucks and a curry puff from Old Chang Kee.
The sign says “QUEUE FOR TAXI”.
I wonder whether it means “[This is the] queue for [getting a] taxi” or “[Please ] queue [here] for [a] taxi”.
In one case, ‘queue’ is a noun, and in the other case, ‘queue’ is a verb. Actually, I think ‘queue’ is probably a verb.
Not that it really matters.
It only matters if the sign is trying to say, “[This is the] queue for [the] taxis [themselves]” because then it would be a singular/plural error.
The sign should just say “taxi queue” like most of them do.
In the US, we don’t really use the word ‘queue’. Which is fine with me, since as far as I can tell, ‘queueing’ is pretty much the only English word that has five consecutive vowels (HT XKCD).
In other news, ‘strengthlessnesses’ is a plausible hypothetical word with surprisingly few vowels, all of them ‘e’.
On a related note: at some point, Gallup chairman Dr. Donald O. Clifton apparently decided to name his awesome analysis tool The Clifton Strengthsfinder, ensuring it would be unpronounceable even to native speakers of English and completely inconceivable to anyone else. I mean, ‘strengths’ is bad enough, but to then follow it up with a word starting with ‘f’? What was he thinking? I guess he never taught a small child how to read.
I’m not an expert, but there seems to be a whole genre of Chinese historical-fantasy-war movies (wuxia). At any rate, that’s what this was. It had a dose of romance in it, too. Big budget. Nice effects. Entertaining. From my standpoint, actually, not that weird. It was good practice for me to listen to the Mandarin.