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

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:

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.

Lift Display Panel Notice

From the Office of Housing Services, the folks that brought you the critically acclaimed “Bicycle Clearance Exercise Notice“, comes another exciting announcement!

Apparently, residents of Kent Vale Block I can look forward to at least four more months of not having working screens in the elevators to tell us what floor we’re on. Sigh.

The sign maker missed out (left out) the word “any” in “Sorry for any inconvenience caused.” Whoever it was gets full marks for using “subject to” correctly, though. And for using the noun form “inconvenience” and not the adjective, as in “Apologies for any inconvenient caused,” which I have also seen.

Plural noun adjuncts

I have seen this sign hundreds of times. It says:

24 Hours Hot Line

That’s a perfect example of a plural noun being used to modify another noun, like “cutleries station”, except that “hours” is a legit plural and “cutleries” is not.

I think the sign should say

24-Hour Hot Line

or maybe

24-Hour Hotline

because I think it’s better to modify nouns with singular nouns, even when there are twenty-four of the noun in question.

On an unrelated note:

I don’t know why Singapore phone numbers often don’t have hyphens where I’d expect to see them. I think we Americans pretty consistently put a hyphen in 1-800, and we put them after the first three digits of a seven-digit phone number, so I always expect to see one after the first four digits of the eight-digit phone numbers here. Sometimes there’s a space, sometimes there’s a period (“full stop”), sometimes there’s just nothing.

The missing epicene pronouns of English

This advertisement depicting a couple on a cruise ship says:

Where Everyone Gets What They Need

As a writer of English curriculum materials for kids, I’ve become incredibly sensitive to singular/plural agreement. I think demonstrating careful matching between subject and verb (or pronoun and antecedent) is particularly important in a place where plurals are often neglected (due to the influence of Chinese, which mostly doesn’t have plurals).

If I weren’t so sensitive, I might not have noticed that “they”, which is grammatically plural, refers to “everyone”, which—despite sounding vaguely plural—is grammatically singular.

We tend to be forgiving of this kind of thing, if we even notice it, because it’s hard to phrase the underlying idea any other way.

Shall we have a go? We can stick in singular pronouns, or we can make everything plural.

Where Everyone Gets What He Or She Needs
Where All People Get What They Need

Yuck. Neither of those is half as natural as the original, though it would help if in the second one “people” were changed to something like “travelers”.

It gets worse if there’s a possessive. Imagine if the sign said:

Where Everyone Gets What They Need On Their Holiday

Now we’ve got a whole new problem:

Where Everyone Gets What He Or She Needs On His Or Her Holiday
Where All Travelers Get What They Need On Their Holidays

The double pronouns are now even more cumbersome. No marketer cares enough about syntax to prefer the “or” version. Even I don’t like it.

Meanwhile, in the pluralized version you start to have problems matching up travelers and holidays. They don’t necessarily all need the same thing or go on the same holiday, but some of them do, so are we considering them as individuals or as a group? It’s ambiguous.

There exists Y such that for all X, X is at Y and X gets what X needs on X’s holiday.

Less ambiguity is exactly what we’d have if mathematicians wrote ad copy, and this precise version is lovely in its own way, but they don’t.

All this awkwardness is the fault of English for not having “epicene” (gender-neutral) singular pronouns—words that mean “he or she”, “him or her”, “his or her”, “his or hers” and “himself or herself”. We used to use masculine pronouns in a kind of universal sense, but whether or not the masculine pronouns are still intended to be heard as universal, they no longer are.

People have invented new pronouns to fill the gap, but unless and until some particular set catches on, we’re going to keep seeing the plural gender-neutral pronouns used as a singular ones.

I can accept singular “they”, and singular “them”, “their”, and “theirs” along with it, I suppose, but it will require a whole extra level of tolerant laxity for me to be able to countenance the ugly chimera “themself”. If “they” can be singular, surely “themselves” can, too!

A la carte buffet

If you thought “a la carte” was the opposite of “buffet”, think again!

I think the idea is that you pay a fixed price (in this case $25), and then you get to request as many things as you want from the buffet menu to be brought to your table.

I heartily recommend Jang Won Korean Restaurant. I’ve never ordered the a la carte buffet, though; I always get the dol sot bi bim bab (hot stone bowl fried rice).

What about that adverb phrase?

All Day Available

should say

Available All Day

because this is short for “Our a la carte buffet is available all day”.

The adverb phrase “all day” modifies the whole statement, so it would have to go at the very beginning or the very end, and it’s better to put it at the end because “all day” is what we want to emphasize most, and whatever is at the end of the sentence is what gets the most attention.

See also Baekseju.

Wait, hang on, this “no smoking” sign is at Jang Won too.