Genuine if totally opaque multiculturalism

Haq-Insaf's Eating House
Haq-Insaf’s Eating House

Haq-Insaf’s Eating House is a good place to get Indian food at West Coast. This is the back wall of the inside of the eating space in their shophouse unit.

Three things about it struck me.

  1. It’s really festive. You can’t visit this place and not feel cheerful. The whole place is always decorated for some reason or other.
  2. Those squiggles are all words, but I can’t read any of them. Wait, no, actually, I know two of the Chinese characters (‘spring’ and ‘fortune’). Yay.
  3. Hang on, why is there Chinese and Arabic? Oh, right. Because this is Singapore. Everyone celebrates Chinese New Year here. You don’t have to be Chinese, or East Asian, or Asian.

So yeah. This is multiculturalism at its best… and most opaque.

Happy year of the Caprinae!

year-of-sheep-goat
in Chinatown

According to the Chinese zodiac, most of 2015 is the year of the 羊. The word 羊 (‘yáng’) can refer to both sheep and goats, hence the confusion over what to call this zodiac year in English (sheep/goat/ram). Wikipedia kindly informs me that the most accurate translation of ‘yáng’ would be Caprinae, a Latin word corresponding to the biological subfamily that encompasses sheep and goats.

Therefore, I wish you a happy year of the Caprinae.

Reflections

Reflections at Keppel Bay
Reflections at Keppel Bay

Although I’m sure the architect would be horrified to hear it, I always think of this as “that condo near West Coast Highway that looks like french fries.”

http://www.reflectionsatkeppelbay.com.sg

There are so many new buildings in Singapore that some of them of course have strange designs, but I like The Interlace better. I also like its website better.

http://www.theinterlace.com/

Invincible

Invincible Summer
Invincible Summer

I bought this copper-edged plaque at a craft show in Philadelphia when I was living in New Jersey. It’s a quote from Albert Camus that says:

I finally learned in the midst of the deepest winter that there was in me an invincible summer.

The plaque was made by Barbara Hinchey (who, it seems, in the time intervening has allowed to lapse her website www.barbarahinchey.com).

The illustration says ‘Kay Womrath’ in the corner. (I’m really glad my family name isn’t Womrath, aren’t you?) Google tells me the artist’s full name is Andrew Kay Womrath, and that the illustration was actually done for a poem by Keats, which some enterprising soul on Zazzle will sell to you displayed on a variety of objects. But that is neither here nor there.

I call your attention to this object because I am stuck—stuck, I tell you!—in the middle of the deepest summer. A summer of epic, George R.R. Martin proportions. Look, I’ve been in Singapore more than six years now, and it’s always summer here. Six years times three extra summers per year is, let’s see, eighteen extra summers.

I don’t have to look in me for summer; it’s all around. What I have to seek within me is, in fact, any kind of winter that isn’t caused by air conditioning equipment. Or a carefully scheduled airplane journey lasting six or more hours.

Invincible Winter
Invincible Winter

And so I give you a new version of the plaque, with apologies to Camus, Womrath, Hinchey, and anyone who is offended by the mere sight of the overused font called Papyrus or appalled by whatever meagre Photoshop skills I have managed to deploy.

Even though at one point I came to believe that the original plaque was being a bit smug at me, I now believe I have had the last laugh. This is what creativity is for. Don’t like something? Change it. Can’t change it? Joke about it and move on.

One might even say, let it go.

Pesky conjunctions

The same taxi had two signs prohibiting eating and drinking. One said “no food and drinks” and the other said “no food or drink”.

“No food and drinks” is wrong. It assumes that the ‘no’ applies to one combined entity, food-and-drinks. One could imagine this syntax being valid if someone said, “You can’t come in, you have no suit and tie.”

It’s also weird that ‘food’ is treated as a noncount noun and ‘drink’ is treated as a count noun. It would sound slightly better, though still wrong, if the sign said “no food and drink”. Then I would, perversely, wonder whether it would be okay to have just food or just something to drink, as long as I didn’t have both. The ‘no’ doesn’t distribute, so “no food and drink” doesn’t mean “no food and no drink”.

Now I wonder why we don’t say “no food and no drink”. And what verb would you use? “No food and no drink is/are permitted in this taxi.”

I wonder why we don’t use ‘neither… nor’ on signs like this. “Neither food nor drink is permitted in this taxi” would be correct.

“No food or drink” sounds normal. At least, I thought it did. Now I’ve been thinking about it too much and everything sounds strange.

“No eating or drinking” would be good. It wouldn’t rule out someone bringing food and drink into the taxi, but perhaps that’s okay anyway. Certainly I’ve transported groceries, snacks and leftovers in taxis.

But not durians! Some taxis have signs specifically prohibiting them:

no-durian-in-taxi
“No Eating / Drinking”. That slash adroitly dodges the whole issue of the conjunction! Well done.

The reminder on the far right to “please state your preferred route” is to protect drivers from being scolded at the end of the trip for taking the surface streets when obviously going by the highway is faster, or for taking the highway when obviously going by the surface streets is cheaper, or whatever.

Barriers to entry

Kent Vale Block I
Kent Vale Block I

I live in this tall building.

When I come home, to get in, I wave my access card at the sensor for the gate at the bottom, open the gate, walk to the lift—um, that is, the elevator—and push the ‘up’ button. Typically an elevator door opens right away.

It used to be that sometimes the access card gate would be propped open.

One day, I was so tired when I came home that I went through the gate without really noticing that it was propped open and proceeded to wave my access card at the elevator button.

Sigh.

“Have you left your valuables behind?”

This warning from the Singapore Police, spotted in a toilet stall in Cineleisure at Orchard is semantically equivalent to “Have you left all of your valuables behind?”

Although it is a somewhat plausible question, I think a better question would be one that has a slightly different meaning, less like “Have you left everything behind?” and more like “Have you left anything behind?”

“Please Watch Out For Your Belongings!”

This warning, spotted in The Clementi Mall, makes it sound like the belongings themselves are dangerous, like a sign that says “Beware of Dog” or “Watch Out for Falling Rocks”, though admittedly neither of those warnings starts with ‘please’.

Of course the intent is something like ‘take care of’, and ‘watch out for’ sometimes has this meaning. “Watch out for your children” means ‘keep a lookout’ so that they come to no harm, but the meaning doesn’t transfer to inanimate objects as nicely.

While we’re nitpicking, we might as well point out that the exclamation mark seems extraneous. No final punctuation is needed since the words are all capitalized. Alternatively, only one capital letter is needed, since it’s a sentence with end punctuation.