Apparels vs Apparel

This sign at Marks & Spencer at Parkway Parade says:

20% off Ladies’ printed apparels & bras

It should say ‘apparel’, not ‘apparels’.

The sign also says:

Image for illustration purpose only

We can say “for the purpose of illustration only”, but because there’s no article, “purpose” should be plural in this case.

Upshot: The total number of letter s’s on the sign is correct. They just need to move the ‘s’ from ‘apparels’ to ‘purpose’.

Wait, I take it back. The word ‘apparels’ is on there twice. Gah!

Just so we’re absolutely clear:
Do not ever put an ‘s’ on ‘apparel’.
Or ‘clothing’.

‘Apparel’ is a mass/non-count/uncountable nouns (like equipment), and thus does not have a plural form.

Clothing shops sell apparel, not apparels, no matter how many individual items they sell or how many kinds of items they sell (ladies’ apparel, men’s apparel, kids’ or children’s apparel).

I suppose maybe it’s possible you could talk about a business importing a variety of ‘apparels’ from different countries, just as a chef could study the ‘cuisines’ of different countries, but I’m not sure whether anyone actually uses the word in this way.

Just assume that if you see the word ‘apparels’, it’s wrong. The word ‘apparel’ should be used instead.

Oh well. At least they didn’t write ‘lingeries’!

Shop theft is a crime

The guy who posed for this ubiquitous crime-fighting cardboard cutout is a minor celebrity in Singapore. His marriage was much celebrated—and much mourned.

I’d like to point out that “low crime does not mean no crime”. Singapore is safer and cleaner than just about anywhere else, but it’s not utopia.

I’d also like to point out that the phrasing of the sign is just weird, even if you’re accustomed to the term “shop theft” rather than “shoplifting”.

I would understand if it said “shoplifting is a crime”. Maybe there are people who rationalize the act referred to as “shoplifting” by thinking of it as the harmless liberation or redistribution of small items. Euphemisms, slang, and jargon all obscure what they refer to: the word businesses use for “unexplained” decreases in inventory—decreases largely due to theft—is “shrinkage”.

As it is, the sign is just providing an intuitive definition. It’s as if someone put up a sign that said “cars are vehicles”. Duh! I can’t imagine anyone being able to construe the word “theft” in any way that doesn’t involve crime.

I would understand if the sign said “shop theft is stupid”, because then the sign would be assuming you know what shop theft consisted of but not how it should be characterized.

Just because the message is a tautology with almost no moral weight doesn’t mean the sign is useless, however. At least one of the pop-psychology books I’ve read said studies show that displaying faces, even if they are cartoon faces, can decrease bad behavior by making people subconsciously feel that someone is watching and judging them. The abstract idea of someone’s eyes pointed in your direction is sometimes enough to tip the balance! The cardboard cutout is not magic, but it does help.

No-boarding and No-alighting Zones

The intent of this phrase is to designate zones in which people are permitted neither to get in a taxi nor to get out of one.

However, I think “no-boarding and no-alighting” is a whopping long phrase to use as an adjective in front of the noun “zones”. It’s so cumbersome that my initial inclination was to read it as an elliptical formation designating two different kinds of zones:

[Be aware of the] no-boarding [zones] and [the] no-alighting zones.

This would be analogous to a sentence like:

If the medium-size shirt doesn’t fit, let me know; there are bigger [sizes] and smaller sizes available.

Obviously there are no sizes each of which is both “bigger and smaller”; the adjectives are separate, and there’s a noun implied but omitted after the first one.

I’m not even sure the intended reading of “no-boarding and no-alighting zones” is syntactically possible, unless you hyphenate the whole thing, which would be ugly and probably violate most style guidelines:

No-boarding-and-no-alighting Zones

Since there’s a set of illustrations below the text, I think probably I would write it as:

No boarding or alighting in these zones.

Or, even shorter:

Do not board or alight in these zones.

Report suspicious individuals or items

… but not both?

Another problem with conjunctions!

The intent is:

Report all the suspicious individuals and all the suspicious items you notice.

But it’s getting confused with:

If you see a suspicious individual or item, report it.

It should say:

Report [any] suspicious individuals and items.

Healthy yet delicious Korean food

Whoops! The sign in front of this shop in the basement of United Square is implying that healthy Korean food is usually not delicious. I mean, okay, maybe, but that’s not what you want people to be thinking when they’re standing in front of your Korean restaurant at lunchtime.

What if they used “and” instead?

Healthy and delicious Korean food

Well, now it almost sounds as if they’re offering two different kinds of food, healthy Korean food and delicious Korean food, which still implies that “healthy” and “delicious” are incompatible.

They should just put the two problem adjectives in front of Korean with just a comma:

Healthy, delicious Korean food

The reverse order sounds okay too:

Delicious, healthy Korean food

Storewide sale in a narrow store

Far East Plaza is a warren of small fashion shops (and, sadly, fewer bookstores than it was when I arrived in Singapore in 2008).

Whenever I read the signs advertising promotions and discounts, I always laugh because there’s always at least one that says “storewide sale” in front of a narrow little shop.

I’m thinking, “Your store is—what, ten feet wide? So it’s not a very wide sale, is it?”

One could deploy the same pun in the context of discounts offered at “all outlets islandwide”. It’s not a very wide island, in the scheme of things.

Sakura Cuisine’s Saliva Chicken

I posted a photo of this restaurant before because the name seemingly advertised so many kinds of food. They’ve simplified the name—presumably not because they saw my blog post, but who knows?

Now they are promoting a dish they call “Saliva Chicken”.

The Chinese name of the dish is three characters (that’s the traditional one for chicken, not the simplified one):

mouth water chicken

Note that there is no sure-fire way to determine how many characters in Chinese correspond to a “word” in English. If you take the first two characters together, they mean “saliva”, because that’s what “mouth water” is.


The restaurant seems to be offering a chicken dish cooked with saliva (?!), but actually it just wants you to order the chicken dish that makes you salivate. If they’d named it “mouth-watering chicken” in English, the name would have been perfectly unobjectionable.

In my opinion, the problem is not that the Chinese language is hard, or that English is hard, just that translation is hard. All languages assign meanings in arbitrary ways. Why, after all, should we English speakers think that “saliva chicken” sounds gross, but “mouth-watering chicken” sounds delicious? This distinction is not meaningful in Chinese, any more than the distinction between “cow meat” (eew) and “beef” (yum).