Bras Basah Complex: Art, Dance, Explore, Sports, Book

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.

Continue reading Bras Basah Complex: Art, Dance, Explore, Sports, Book

Soup Spoon Novena: Cutleries Station is now Cutlery Corner

Last June, I posted a photo of a sign that said “Cutleries Station”. They have improved the sign tremendously since then.

  • 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“.

Zero-inflection plurals do not include cucumber.

This package of Japanese Kyuri from Malaysia says:

Rich in nutrients, Cucumber are excellent in salads, sandwiches, stir-fry and sushi.

Here, the fact that the singular is being treated like a plural makes it sound as if cucumbers are exotic animals like bison or buffalo.

Recently, though I don’t have a photo, I saw a sign in front of some model planes (in the Tin Tin shop strangely located on Pagoda St in Chinatown) that was advertising “aircrafts for sale”. Ack. No.

For a variety of historical reasons, English has many kinds of nouns that are annoyingly difficult to pluralize, and Wikipedia helpfully lists them.

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’?

And why is it capitalized?!

Downstairs vs under

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.

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)

Dispose your unwanted items

This sign in the Kent Vale lift says:

SPRING CLEANING
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.

Accumulative Man Hours

This is a sign at the entrance to a construction site on West Coast Road at Clementi Woods Park.

I’m happy that there have not been any accidents. I know that because the number of accidents is zero, and also because the number of hours and the number of accident-free hours are the same.

What they call the number of hours, however, is hilarious. See below for why I think so.

Continue reading Accumulative Man Hours

Cutleries Station

I took this (lousy) photo of a sign that says “Cutleries Station” at Soup Spoon in Novena.

In modern standard British and American English, “cutleries” is not a word. (Neither is “equipments”.)

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?

Drinks Machine
Drink Machine

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.

(This one is in the complex where I live. At least “Residents’ Lounge” is correct.)

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.

English is not easy!

Further Reading