This package of Japanese Kyuri from Malaysia says:
Rich in nutrients, Cucumber are excellent in salads, sandwiches, stir-fry and sushi.
Here, the fact that the singular is being treated like a plural makes it sound as if cucumbers are exotic animals like bison or buffalo.
Recently, though I don’t have a photo, I saw a sign in front of some model planes (in the Tin Tin shop strangely located on Pagoda St in Chinatown) that was advertising “aircrafts for sale”. Ack. No.
For a variety of historical reasons, English has many kinds of nouns that are annoyingly difficult to pluralize, and Wikipedia helpfully lists them.
Interestingly, the cucumber package shows ‘salads’, ‘sandwiches’, ‘stir-fry’, and ‘sushi’ all in the correct form, even though ‘salad’ requires an ‘s’, ‘sandwich’ requires ‘es’, and ‘stir-fry’ and ‘sushi’ are uncountable.
Why, then, was it so hard to give ‘cucumber’ its plural ‘s’?
And why is it capitalized?!
When my husband took me to a squinchy Japanese restaurant that had high chairs at a bar-style counter, the server laconically instructed me to put my bag “downstairs”, which meant “on the shelf under the seat of the chair”.
I have heard English teachers eager to hold students accountable for their spoken language deride this common Singlish use of “downstairs”, but it’s wonderful (and typical) in its succinctness.
If you use the preposition “under”, you have to include a noun for the preposition to be, well, positioned in front of. If you use the adverb “downstairs”, you’re just saying something needs to go below something else, and letting context do the work of indicating what the something else is.
Chinese has a phrase approximately meaning “down side” which can be used the way the server was using “downstairs” to adverbially indicate “under something”. It also has phrases meaning “up side”, “behind side”, “opposite side”, etc., and you can say “located opposite side” without needing to say “located opposite the hotel”, for example, the way we can say in English that “the receipt is in the bag” or just “the receipt is inside”.
I get the sense that Chinese relies on context more than English, or at least relies on context in ways that English doesn’t, since a large proportion communication in any language is always shared context.
Singapore is tidy.
Most of the time I take the tidiness for granted, though I immediately remember whenever I go just about anywhere else.
Still, once in a while, something in Singapore astonishes me. This temporary footpath diversion on Clementi Road is a prime example.
Continue reading Temporary footpath diversion
This sign in the Kent Vale lift says:
For children between 6 to 16 years
When you have two numbers, you need “between… and”, or “from… to” not “between… to”.
For children from 6 to 16 years old
For children between 6 and 16 years old
I’ve seen this problem before.
This sign in the lift at Kent Vale says
Pre-loved Items Collection
Which sounds weird to me because I would have said
Pre-loved Item Collection
even though obviously they will be collecting more than one.
It’s an example of a tendency to pluralize nouns being used as adjectives, which I’ve posted about already, twice.
This advertisement (which was designed to be hung on a horizontal pole on a bus or a train) says:
West My Golden Ticket?
The idea for this jokey name is that the word “west” in Singlish has the exact same three sounds as the word “where’s” in Singlish.
Yep. They’re both pronounced “wes”.
Below is some explanation of what the advertisement wants you to do (spend money, duh) and how the math works.
Continue reading Spot the homophone (plus a lesson in contest statistics)
Here he is again, in the basement at OG at Somerset.
Shop theft is a crime
This sign at OG says:
Now, I used to think that the word “apparel” had no legitimate plural form, but it appears I was wrong.
Google’s dictionary says:
However, I don’t think Pierre Cardin is offering 20% off embroidered ornamentation on ecclesiastical vestments. I think they’re offering 20% off men’s shirts.
I was wrong, yes, but the sign was also wrong, unless “apparels” is a verb, and the sign is really saying that someone named Pierre Cardin is in the habit of appareling or clothing others… which, in a sense, he is, I suppose.
Below is an example of writing that uses the word “apparels” in the technically correct sense. Note that the plural does not refer to the ecclesiastical vestments or articles of clothing themselves, only to some bits of decoration on them.
While embroidered pieces known as apparels were used on albs, dalmatics, and tunicles to represent Christ’s stigmata when placed at the end of sleeves and at hems, the practice of incorporating this form of ornamentation on vestments was gradually replaced by the use of lace in Western vestments during the sixteenth century.
—Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion
So unless you are knowledgeable about albs, dalmatics, and tunicles, steer clear of the word “apparels”.
This sign in the Kent Vale lift says:
Residents can dispose
their unwanted items at
3 locations from
9AM – 5PM
It should say “dispose of” for reasons I’ve explained elsewhere.
Also, the number 3 should probably be spelled out.
The sign avoids saying “between… to” though! Wait, no it doesn’t.
I bought 16 books at the annual NUS E-Resource Discovery Day Book Sale today. The paperbacks were SG$1 and the hardcovers were SG$2. There were eight or ten tables, including some Chinese books and Japanese manga.
The book I’m most excited about in this batch is the one about Singlish (top left), called New Englishes: The Case of Singapore, published by NUS Press in 1988.
The runner up is the vintage hardcover titled An Introduction to the Study of Education, published in the US in 1951. The binding, the weight of the paper and the oddly familiar, comforting typography make it a distinctly pleasing physical object regardless of whatever it happens to say.
- New Englishes, by Joseph Foley
- An Introduction to the Study of Education, by George Willard Frasier
- A Parent’s Guide to Children’s Reading, by Nancy Larrick
- Tell Me Why?, by Octopus Publishing Group
- Organization Development (6th Edition), by Wendell L. French and Cecil H. Bell, Jr.
- Talking with Kids, by Alison Mulvaney
- Megacreativity, by Andrei G. Aleinikov
- The Chinese, by David Bonavia
- The Pagemaster, by Jordan Horowitz
- Arthurian Romances, by Chretien de Troyes
- The Language Web, by Jean Aitchison
- Vocabulary: Description, Acquisition and Pedagogy, by Edited by Norbert Schmitt and Michael McCarthy
- Getting the Best from People, by Martha I. Finney
- Hiring the Best, by Cathy Fyock
- Syntax of Scientific English, by Lee Kok Cheong
- Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (5th Edition)