Downstairs vs under

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.

Plural noun adjuncts again

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 alreadytwice.

Spot the homophone (plus a lesson in contest statistics)

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)

Pierre Cardin and the Apparels of Ecclesiastical Vestments

This sign at OG says:

Pierre Cardin
apparels

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”.

Dispose your unwanted items

This sign in the Kent Vale lift says:

SPRING CLEANING
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.