English as it is Broken… is broken.

The two English as it is Broken books shown above contain photos of signs and responses to people who’ve written in to a weekly column in The Straits Times with questions about English usage.

(For a listing of all four books and then some, see the earlier post, Books on Singapore English.)

The quality of the answers in the two books has been disparaged, but I think most of the explicit explanations are informative even if they are not expressed perfectly.

Below are an example answer I like and one I don’t.

Here’s an answer I like:

I have had a conversation in which I said ‘marketing’ and someone thought I meant ‘shopping’. It was awkward.

There are some punctuation errors on the page, but you get the idea.

In contrast, here’s an answer I do not like:

I thought everyone knew that subject-auxiliary inversion is blocked in embedded wh-clauses!

The answer given in the photo above is wrong.


*Do you know who is the inventor of the camera?


Do you know who the inventor of the camera is?

The “do you know” at the beginning changes the syntax of the sentence and cannot be ignored as the answer in the book suggests.

More at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clause#Wh-clauses

What’s particularly sad is that the incorrect answer shown is the official answer after a reader wrote in and questioned the original incorrect answer.

Also, now that I think about it, probably the question should be:

Do you know who the inventor of the camera was?

The most articulate way to ask is just:

Do you know who invented the camera?