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Thursday January 17, 2008

What’s ‘pengampu’ in English?

FADZILAH AMIN answers your questions on English usage 

WHAT do we call someone who’s a pengampu (Bahasa Malaysia) in English?  

I have been working in Sunex Corp for more than a year (15 months, to be exact). So to describe the experience, which of the sentences below is correct? 

a. My one year plus time with Sunex Corp has been pleasant and it has provided me with a very rewarding experience. 

b. My one year plus time with Sunex Corp have been pleasant and they have provided me with a very rewarding experience. 

c. My employment with Sunex Corp has been pleasant and it has provided me with a very rewarding experience. 

d. My time with Sunex Corp has been pleasant and it has provided me with a very rewarding experience. 

Do you have better ways to write it without changing the meaning I want to convey? – Isaac, Kuching 

You can call such a person a “flatterer”, but if you want to be more colourful and say that the flattery is insincere, you can use “toady” or “sycophant” which are defined as “a person who praises and is artificially pleasant to people in authority, usually in order to get some advantage from them” (online Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary). More informally, such a person can be called a “bootlicker”. 

I also know a commonly used word for such a flatterer, but it is too vulgar and offensive to use here, since children also read this page. What a “toady” or a “sycophant” does, however, is often described as “sucking up to somebody (the boss, for example)”. 

Sentence d. sounds best, but it doesn’t mention the period of time you have worked for the company. However, “my one year plus time” in sentences a. and b. sound clumsy, and “my employment with Sunex Corp” in sentence c. sounds rather stiff, and also does not mention the period of time. How about: 

“The 15 months I have spent working for Sunex Corp have been pleasant and very rewarding to me in terms of experience.”  

‘FYI’ and annoyance 

1. WHAT does it mean when one says “he is more than a father/teacher/etc”? What does the “more than” mean, actually?  

2. Do “just so you know” and “FYI” have the same meaning and is one a bit annoyed when using those phrases? – Jacky Khor 

1. When someone says that someone else is “more than a father/teacher/etc” to him, there is often an element of exaggeration in the statement. How can anyone be “more than a father” to one unless one’s own father is inadequate? Similarly with “more than a teacher/etc.” 

However, there is a sense in which I think one can say that someone is “more than a father” to one. If a person combines the roles of father, friend and teacher, for example, to a younger person, the latter can say: “After my father’s death, my uncle has been more than a father to me: he is also my teacher and friend.” 

2. “Just So You Know” and FYI (For Your Information = For Information Only) can mean the same thing if they are written on official documents or notices. They mean that you only need to know the information that follows, but you don’t have to act on it. 

But when you speak informally to someone and begin a sentence with “For your information ...”, you are telling them they are wrong about something and you are therefore a bit annoyed. 

For example, if you are a slim delicate-looking young woman and a man tells you: “I don’t suppose you know anything about karate, do you?”, you can answer with some annoyance: “For your information, I have a black belt in karate. So don’t mess around with me!” 

Using one is enough? 

PLEASE explain these pairs of words to my friends because they always use the words in each pair together, and that’s not correct: 

1) If – suppose 

2) Return – back 

3) Short – nap – B.H. Lim, Ipoh 

1) We don’t use “suppose” immediately after “if” and vice versa, because they mean the same in one of their senses.  

They are both used to talk about imaginary situations. Thus, we don’t say “If suppose we could fly, we would feel so free!” OR “Suppose if we could fly, we would feel so free!”  

We should choose one of the words and say “If we could fly, we would feel so free!” OR “Suppose we could fly, we would feel so free!” A second one would be redundant. 

2) “Return” means “come back”, “go back”, “give back” or “bring back”. The word “back” in “return back” is therefore redundant.  

“Return” should be used by itself, as in “Please don’t forget to return my book when you’ve finished reading it.” 

3) “Short nap” is an interesting case. Although “a nap” essentially means “a short sleep”, and “short” would be redundant in the phrase “short nap”, I have often heard and read native speakers use this term, for example in the following web pages: 

“‘They can’t think as clearly,’ says Noel Kingsley, spokesperson for Siesta Awareness.  

Taking a short nap is the answer, he says.” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/5122184.stm 

“‘Studies show that in certain conditions, a short nap is good for efficiency and safety,’ he said.” 


I don’t know how to explain this, except perhaps “a nap” is not just a short sleep; it is a light sleep as well, and one taken during the day. 

Plural is Mercedes Benzes 

THESE days you often hear on the radio: “... CIMB is giving away three Mercedes Benz.” Shouldn’t it be Mercedes Benzes

The Sunday Star of Dec 30 had something on the BMW Golf Cup International 2007 World Final, which included these words: “The challenging stage on which Malaysia truly shined”. Shouldn’t this be “shone”? – Lawrence Lim  

I agree with you that it should be “three Mercedes Benzes”. After all, we would say “three Fords” or “three Toyotas”. 

You are right, too, about “shined” not being the right past tense to use in the above context. “Shone” is the past tense of “shine” except when it is used as a transitive verb to mean “make bright” or “polish” as in: “The maid even shined her employer’s shoes.”


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