Attitudes towards the dialect of English spoken in Singapore vary from shame and contempt to pride and admiration. In these posts I’ve tried to convey an attitude of respect even while analyzing what I consider to be mistakes.
If you are looking to buy books in Singapore, this is a good place to go. It has several book shops selling new or used books. It also has print shops, art supply shops, stationery shops, and shops selling musical instruments and antiques.
Within the last couple of years, these colorful square signs were added to convey the complex’s status as a cultural hub of sorts.
Bras Basah Complex * Art * Dance * Explore * Sport * Book
One of my pet peeves is lists of things that aren’t all the same part of speech. “Art, Dance, Explore, Sports, Book” is a fantastic example. See below for why.
In particular, the non-word “cutleries” has been replaced with “cutlery”.
The sign has an icon showing cutlery, for additional clarity.
The sign is in better shape.
It uses cheesy alliteration (of which I am a fan).
I didn’t mention it before, but if you say “cutleries station” aloud, it runs together because of the “s” in the middle and sounds like “cutlery station”. Maybe the similarity in the pronunciation of the two phrases helps explain why the previous sign was written the way it was. The inaudibility of that double s also helps explain “Today Special“.
I can’t look at the URL printed on this bag and not think of the “salt and battery” (assault and battery) couples costume concept, which relies on the two meanings of “battery”. It’s kind of a tasteless pun, despite the salt!
Interestingly, the cucumber package shows ‘salads’, ‘sandwiches’, ‘stir-fry’, and ‘sushi’ all in the correct form, even though ‘salad’ requires an ‘s’, ‘sandwich’ requires ‘es’, and ‘stir-fry’ and ‘sushi’ are uncountable.
Why, then, was it so hard to give ‘cucumber’ its plural ‘s’?
When my husband took me to a squinchy Japanese restaurant that had high chairs at a bar-style counter, the server laconically instructed me to put my bag “downstairs”, which meant “on the shelf under the seat of the chair”.
I have heard English teachers eager to hold students accountable for their spoken language deride this common Singlish use of “downstairs”, but it’s wonderful (and typical) in its succinctness.
If you use the preposition “under”, you have to include a noun for the preposition to be, well, positioned in front of. If you use the adverb “downstairs”, you’re just saying something needs to go below something else, and letting context do the work of indicating what the something else is.
Chinese has a phrase approximately meaning “down side” which can be used the way the server was using “downstairs” to adverbially indicate “under something”. It also has phrases meaning “up side”, “behind side”, “opposite side”, etc., and you can say “located opposite side” without needing to say “located opposite the hotel”, for example, the way we can say in English that “the receipt is in the bag” or just “the receipt is inside”.
I get the sense that Chinese relies on context more than English, or at least relies on context in ways that English doesn’t, since a large proportion communication in any language is always shared context.
What makes this example interesting is that it raises another issue: whether we use singular or plural nouns as “noun adjuncts” or “attributive nouns”.
In other words, which is correct?
Obviously, the machine would contain more than one drink, so using the plural is more “logical”, but it sounds horrible to me. Wikipedia says that the singular (or the possessive) is traditional in most cases, but that plurals are gaining ground.
I’ve seen several (many?) signs in Singapore that say “Children Playground” rather than “Children’s Playground”, which is doubly silly since those signs should probably just say “Playground” anyway.
If you think “Children Playground” sounds awful, don’t laugh too hard. Whoever named the 2002 romantic comedy Two Weeks Notice neglected to include an apostrophe after “weeks”, unleashing a wave of scornful critique from movie-going fussbudgets. Apparently, educated native speakers working in the media and entertainment industries, even if they don’t misuse singulars and plurals, still struggle to distinguish plurals from possessives when modifying nouns with other nouns.