I hereby declare: It is not necessary for me to finish reading every book I start.
In other words, next time a book bores me as much as this one did, I am going to stop reading it.
I admire what the author set out to do: analyze English-language textbooks to help university teachers guide non-native speakers of English in understanding science.
But this book-length research paper is basically just a bunch of lists. It’s about as dry a piece of writing as one could imagine. In fact, I never imagined it would be this dry, or I wouldn’t have bought the book in the first place.
Continue reading Syntax of Scientific English by Lee Kok Cheong
When and Why I Read Syntax of Scientific English
I bought this at the National University of Singapore "EResource Discovery Day" book sale. It was published by Singapore University Press. The topic is interesting and relevant to my work, but I'm not sure the analysis will be.
Date started / date finished: 02-Aug-23 to 27-Aug-23
Length: 290 pages
Originally published in: 1978
Signs, product packaging, clothing… sometimes I notice weird English here in Hangzhou. Sometimes the cause is a typo, sometimes it’s negligent copy/paste, and sometimes it appears to have been a complete shot in the dark. Sometimes the result is close-but-no-cigar, sometimes it’s hilarious, and sometimes it’s mystifying.
Continue reading Weird English
In a world where I can’t read most text, my eye is drawn to all the English. I see lots of funny mistakes. Here are 7 signs you’d never see in the US, spotted on a trip to Suzhou.
Continue reading Suzhou Signs
The holy grail of Chinglish, for me, would be to see in person a sign saying “Carefully Slip And Fall Down“.
Since the English on signs in Hangzhou is not by any means so terrible on average, I’m still looking.
Meanwhile, I’ve spotted quite a few other amusing signs in Hangzhou.
Have a guess… what kind of store advertises its products as “cheap, fresh, quality, intimate”? See below to find out!
Continue reading China culture shock: English on signs
I saw this on Facebook today, though not for the first time.
Today it made me think of a Chinese friend who’s not always sure how to say years as words in English. I don’t blame her… You see, if answer “A” is a year—and not, like, a quantity of watermelons in a math problem—by default it absolutely does sound like “two zero two four [year]” in Chinese, although it’s also possible to say “two thousand and twenty-four [year]”.
How do we say the names of years in English? Turns out it’s complicated.
Continue reading How to say the names of years in English words
I cannot wholeheartedly recommend Steven Pinker’s style-guide / usage manual, but it does have a couple of important things to say about written English.
Respect Your Tools
Language has its own internal logic. Good writing respects that logic. Writers should study grammar explicitly rather than rely on intuition in order to communicate clearly, show respect for their readers, and inspire confidence in their work. Good writers are those who read widely enough to absorb good practices from a longstanding written English tradition. They know the rules but also when to break them.
Break the Rules
The Ancient and Venerable English Teachers’ Code—beloved by Grammar Nazis, Prescriptivists, Fussbudgets and Curmudgeons—is more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules, and some of the guidelines will lead you astray because (a) Some were written by people who didn’t understand English and (b) Thanks to natural and inevitable language change, the English we use today differs from the English of the past.
See below for more details about what I liked and what I didn’t like about Steven Pinker’s The Sense of Style.
Continue reading The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker
When and Why I Read The Sense of Style
I bought this a while back. Finally getting around to it.
Date started / date finished: 22-Nov-20 to 01-Dec-20
Length: 368 pages
Originally published in: 2015
Amazon link: The Sense of Style
This book was printed in 1950. It’s in decent condition, although the pages are a little brownish. It has a pleasant smell, like an old library. The content as well as the paper, the fonts, and the typesetting make for a kind of armchair time-traveling experience.
Continue reading 30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary
When and Why I Read 30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary
My dad dug this book up out of a box in the house. The text was first was published in 1942; my copy is apparently the eighteenth printing (October 1950). I am not the least bit worried about the strength of my vocabulary, but when I opened the book at random and landed on "Seventh Day: Words About Theories", a chapter which defined and explained atheism, agnosticism, fatalism, egoism, altruism, stoicism, chauvinism, jingoism, liberalism, conservatism, and epicureanism, I decided this was perhaps not just another dime-a-dozen book about words. That the book stayed in print until at least the 1970s says something about its enduring appeal.
Genre: Reference (Language)
Date started / date finished: 23-Mar-20 to 29-Mar-20
Length: 242 pages
Originally published in: 1942/1950
Amazon link: 30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary
Carousell is a fantastic classified ad platform. It embodies one of my favorite proverbs, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
However, to find the treasure, you have to hunt. There are clues, but sometimes the clues are misleading.
In particular, I’ve noticed that people use words for different kinds of furniture in surprising ways.
There are people who use the word cabinet to describe a piece of furniture when it is clearly a shelf—and vice versa!
Deciding what to call something is hard. Especially if you’ve got more than one language rattling around in your brain.
See below for proof.
Continue reading I don’t think it means what you think it means.
Oral language is a blur. We don’t notice, unless we try to sing karaoke and realize we have no idea what the words to our favorite songs actually are, or—worse—that we’ve been singing them wrong with utter conviction for decades.
Eggcorns (plausible malapropisms) are words or phrases that exist thanks to this kind of ambiguity. Wrong song lyrics, in case you’re curious, are called mondegreens.
On classified ad sites like Carousell, language assumptions that pass unnoticed in speech are made visible. You can learn a lot about the local dialect by cataloging the unintentionally hilarious mistakes that local native English speakers make.
See below for examples.
Continue reading Carouspell: A collection of spelling mistakes in Carousell classified ads
The first-person singular pronouns of English are ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘myself’. Although in daily speech people have been known to use them somewhat interchangeably, IMO it’s worth knowing which roles those different words are supposed to play in a sentence.
Give yourself a quiz. Read each of the sentences below and decide whether it is grammatically correct.
Me/Myself/I Usage Quiz
- The horses were trained by Sylvia and myself.
- Me and Sylvia sold the horses to a riding school.
- The boss split the profit between Sylvia and I.
Answers and explanations after the jump.
Continue reading English grammar: How to use pronouns ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘myself’