Wear and use your personal protective equipments

Pluralized uncountable nouns are a pet peeve of mine. The one that’s most frequently publicly wrong is ‘equipments’ because it’s posted at every construction site, and there are a lot of construction sites.

cuisines (meaning ‘dishes’)
slangs, jargons

I’ve also noticed uncountable nouns being used in the singular, which is just as wrong.

a bread (meaning ‘a bun or roll’)
a paper (meaning ‘a piece of paper’)

There are many words that are countable about half the time and uncountable about half the time, which I’m sure doesn’t tend to help people to understand the underlying distinction.

effort / efforts
content / contents
experience / experiences
praise / praises
detail / details
instruction / instructions
input / inputs

Recently I saw an email from a marketing agency in which the text of the ads was referred to as ‘ad copies’ instead of ‘ad copy’. Ack, no.

Fighting such errors may be impossible in the long run, because in principle there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to say ‘equipments’, and obviously people here already feel perfectly free to do so. Until uncountable nouns die off completely, though, you’re better off knowing how to use them correctly.

Main Wait

National Heart Centre Singapore logo

  • Nice new 12-story building? Check.
  • Nifty quasi-anatomical logo? Check.
  • Building signs checked by English expert? Nope.

The signs in this waiting area at the National Heart Centre Singapore say “Main Wait” when they should say something like “Main Waiting Area”.

To be fair, “wait” can be a noun as well as a verb (but I don’t think it means what you think it means). Also, the signs are totally intelligible, so… close enough, I guess!

No, actually the real problem is that there’s ample waiting space in some parts of the building and not enough in others. My guess is, it’s easy to design a building, but hard to design a building that is used by people. Which is every building, actually.

Loop Sop (Luk Chup)

at Diandin Leluk at Golden Mile Complex

Loop sop. Thai marzipan? We saw these colorful thingies on the dessert page of the menu at Diandin Leluk and had to try them.

Via smartphone, the internet told us what they’re made of (bean paste) and what they’re usually called (luk chup), and confirmed our intuition that they’re relatively rare among Thai dessert offerings (mango sticky rice ftw). Despite several trips to Bangkok, we couldn’t remember having seen them. If we had seen them, we would definitely remember!

I see eggplants in two shapes, watermelons, chilies, and rose apples. (We called rose apples ‘nose fruits’ before we knew what they were supposed to be called.) I think the orange things are papayas. The yellow things look like onions. Not sure about the pink or green ones. And no, they don’t taste different.

The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen

Andrew Keen’s rant, The Cult of the Amateur, is, like all rants, intellectually undermined by its angry tone. The book contains a substantial amount of scorn and Chicken Little–style alarmism, with, unsurprisingly, a dash of nostalgia for the good old days.

Nevertheless, the book has real polemical value insofar as it raises awareness of quality and the expertise required to achieve it.

If you want to hear more about this book from an expert reader (and amateur reviewer), keep reading.

Continue reading The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

I enjoyed Captain America: Civil War overall. The major theme is choice, taking responsibility for one’s own actions and their consequences.

Some people seem to be reading implications about the role of America in international politics and policing into it, but I mostly think they’re missing the point.


SPOILERS below, including a detailed plot summary in the form of a beat sheet in the style described in Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat.

Continue reading Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Old meets new; East meets west

That’s a giant jade… thing… in a glass box on the first floor of Singapore’s famous technology mall, Sim Lim Square. Directly opposite, as you can see in the reflection, is a store called nübox, which is an authorised premium reseller of Apple products. I thought the contrast was interesting.

What was I doing there? Had to buy my 2011 computer a new power supply and CPU.

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath borne me on his back a thousand times, and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it.
Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath borne me on his back a thousand times…

Two jade animals

In Singapore, there are many jade and other carved stone figurines available, especially of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals, because many people practice feng shui.

I seldom see stone elephants, though, certainly not in this form, with the trunk turned to the side.

The other animal is a mythical thingy with a lot of different names. The main Wikipedia entry is at Pixiu. It has wings and one horn, and it goes without saying it’s lucky or whatever.

There’s nothing in the picture for scale, but these things are tiny.

I bought them at Naga Arts and Antiques at Tanglin Shopping Centre.

The Origins of Chinese Characters by Wang Hongyuan

Ever wondered what etymology is like in the Chinese language?

It’s like this.


So, is Chinese ‘pictographic’?

Well, does the ‘zhōng’ in ‘Zhōngguó’ (‘China’) look like part of a sundial? Because that’s what it is.

Drawing of a pole with some decorative streamers. The pole was placed in the center of a circle or dial so that a shadow cast by the sun on a calibrated dial could measure solar time—much like the gnomon or style of a sundial.

So yeah, ‘zhōng’ means ‘middle’ (as in ‘middle kingdom’), but it’s not because the line passes through the middle of the box. Rather, it’s because the whole stick thing (which has lost its notably asymmetrical streamers) is in the middle of a sundial.

I don’t know enough Chinese to benefit much from this book, but here and there I found something interesting, and the whole things reinforces the idea that the Chinese writing system is old, old, old. Examining how the characters evolved is like looking back in time. Reading the book made me feel like an archaeologist holding up a burning torch to peer at mysterious lines scrawled on the walls of a cave. The oldest characters embody the basic concepts of the society in which they were invented: food and shelter, war, birth and life and death…

When and Why I Read It

It was a gift to me from my husband’s parents years ago (sometime between 2003 and 2005). At the time, it was even more over my head than it is now, so it just sat there.

Frankly, I’m shocked that it’s still in print. It’s even got three reviews on Amazon. And since it’s selling at at a moderate price and a 15% discount, it’s not one of those print-on-demand inventory items.

Genre: Non-fiction (language, Chinese)
Date started / date finished:  22-Mar-16 to 11-May-16
Length: 200 pages
ISBN: 7800522431 (paperback)
Originally published in: 1993
Amazon link: The Origins of Chinese Characters