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Tuesday October 1, 2013 MYT 12:30:00 AM
Tuesday October 1, 2013 MYT 8:39:02 AM
by kee thuan chye
NO WONDER our English is calling out for help. Everywhere we turn these days, we see the language being broken. It happens in official documents and e-mail messages, in signboards and posters, in private conversations and public speeches, in movie subtitles and media advertisements, in schools and universities, on TV and radio, and even in - God forbid! - newspapers.
Just the other day, I received a letter of acknowledgement from an organisation saying, “We have received your application, and is already processing it.” I wonder if I should retract my application if these people can’t strike agreement between their subject and their verb.
In conversations, many of the errors Malaysians tend to make involve using the wrong tense or confusing an adjective for an adverb and vice versa, or putting in an “s” when it’s not called for. Common examples include:
“Yesterday I go to the stock market and lost money”
“You say your wife so jealousy”
“If I tie up my money paying for a house, I won’t be enjoyable”
“He might be have no idea that his English is so bad”
“That’s mean we can choose to pay 11% EPF”
“To get work done faster, we must cut red tapes”
Then there is the case of using the wrong plural, like “sheeps” instead of “sheep”, “deers” for “deer” and “mans” for - horrors! - “men”. Sometimes, a person thinking in another language and translating into English conversation can come up with a gem of a clanger! My favourite is the one that goes like this:
“Sorry I’m late. I got into an accident.”
“Someone banged me from behind because I braked suddenly.”
“Why did you brake suddenly?”
“Because the mutton was crossing the road.”
“Ya lah! Kambing!”
Wrong spelling can also ravage the language. On the Academy Awards ceremony recently, a news report had it that Julia Roberts won the Best Actress award for her role as a real-life crusading and “cleavage-bearing” law clerk in Erin Brockovich. The presence of that mischievous “e” has somewhat confounded me. I’m still trying to conjure an image of Julia Roberts going around carrying her cleavage. With her hands, presumably? (Note: “cleavage-baring” is the correct term.)
Speaking of spelling, years ago, I was invited by a PR manager to try out her hotel’s Chinese restaurant. It was the jewel in the establishment’s crown, noted for its food, service and ambience. The decor was splendid and the captain was indeed well-trained. He proudly handed me the menu. It looked gilt-edged grand. The dishes it described came with fancy names and even more fancy prices. I turned to the first page to read the introduction to the culinary fare. And that drew a bigger gasp. In fact, I nearly ran under the table. For there in plain English was a sentence that exploded before me: “What we are serving is the finest cuisine of the Fart East.”
Obviously, no one had spotted that before. Or if they had, they must have simply turned their nose up at it and kept quiet. I of course did the impolitic thing of pointing out the boo-boo to my host, and that seemed to make her go boo-hoo. She reached for the napkin and covered her nose. Needless to say, I was never invited back.
Goodbye Mind Our English!
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