Tuesday, 20 August 2002

Pet peeves about Singaporean English

Lots of peeves people have about English as it's written and spoken on this fair isle are fairly common. and fairly well-known. Some bother me (using "would" instead of "will" - ugh!) and some don't (the inability to pronounce either of the "th" sounds). But these are my own peeves, or at least ones I haven't heard anyone else complain about yet:

1. Using "filial" to mean "loyal or devoted to the family". Look, the word means "familial". A son could beat up his parents and his relationship to his parents would still be filial, at least until they disown him for beating them up. In the phrase "filial piety" the word that means loyalty is "piety".

2. Using "911" to refer to September 11. A peeve that reflects the former copy editor in me I guess. In the first place, Singaporeans have always followed the British style of date/month not the American month/date. More importantly, where's the date separator? See, for instance, the New York Times' use of the slash in this headline from today - "Exodus of 9/11 Is Thing of Past Near Tower Site" - and compare the clarity of that with the New Paper's "911 Families Seek Compensation", where the "911" could be either a figure, a date, or even a reference to the American emergency services.

3. Okay, I guess this isn't that rare a peeve but the use of "@" as a substitute for "at" in any situation, particularly to denote a physical location ("library@orchard", ugh) is like a combover on a balding man, or a middle-aged man's Porsche - a sad attempt to look young and keep up with the times. Please - notice how the tech giants eschew such faddish linguistics? There's a reason - the at sign will look dated in five years max, and you hope your firm will be around longer than that.

More to come...

I know these don't seriously reflect badly on the English language here in Singapore - they're examples of non-idiomatic usage, rather than truly bad grammar. But (ooh! beginning a sentence with a conjunction! But Fowler says I'm clear on that one) they really annoy me.




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