Thursday, April 23, 2020

Adverbs aren't adjectives

I have often wondered why so many people have apparently insurmountable difficulties in getting their parts of speech right. And some go into hypercorrection mode and commit hilarious blunders.

This morning, the Straits Times published a report about a commotion at a bubble tea cafe. It was just hours before all bubble tea cafes were required by law to close owing to the deadly pandemic that originated in Wuhan, China and has now spread to the entire world. There was a long queue of customers when an argument took place between a delivery man and the cashier at the bubble tea cafe. Here's the news report.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Should English grammar be taught again after 60 years?

Yesterday morning, I saw this on Channel News Asia:

Friday, October 4, 2019

Goh Chok Tong v. Tan Cheng Bock - Is MSN reporting fair?

I am the last person to take an interest in politics but there are times when the gross injustice of what I see on the news repulses me and compels me to say something in defence of an innocent party who is wronged. This was precisely how I felt when I read this article which appeared on MSN two days ago: Tan Cheng Bock maintains a dignified silence despite Goh Chok Tong’s persistent digs.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

When a linguist writes ungrammatically.

I must make it clear that I generally do not care much about grammar and correctness. People who know me well will readily testify that such 'correctness' and I are worlds apart and  never the twain shall meet but when a teacher of linguistics at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) writes an article in the local newspaper about Singlish, you will doubtless accept that I can't be faulted if I expect her to write grammatical sentences which are clear and unambiguous. That is the least anyone should expect of a teacher of linguistics.

When a friend on Facebook referred me to an article in the Straits Times written by one Tan Ying Ying,  Associate Professor of Linguistics at NTU, I read it immediately because I could see that unlike Singlish bashers (and there are many, particularly language ignoramuses such as that disgraceful Speak Good English Movement), she accorded some respect to Singlish and regarded Singlish as a colloquial form of a Singaporean language and I totally agree with her there. But I was disappointed to see that her article did not do justice to the weighty subject of her discussion because it was fraught with errors of all kinds, some of which I am prepared to attribute to an oversight on her part but others of which I cannot help but suspect to be errors which are more serious than mere carelessness.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Oh! It's that exceedingly exasperating 'escalate' again!

This afternoon, I used for the first time the messaging service of a telephone company to ask for its technician to check my telephone line. A time was fixed and when I asked if I could take it as confirmed, this was the reply I received:

Monday, March 11, 2019


I posted this article on 17 February 2019 and as it is my invariable practice whenever I criticise the Speak Good English Movement on my blog, I went to the SGEM's Facebook page and posted a link to this blog and I also posted an unequivocal statement that the SGEM was once again wrong. I do this all the time: whenever I post something against the SGEM, I inform it of what I have done on its Facebook page or on its website.  

The next day, I discovered that the SGEM had removed the video along with what I had posted from its Facebook page.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Ungrammatical Grammarly

One thing I usually have to do on this blog is to remove any comment which is nothing more than an ad for the person posting the comment. There is an app called Grammarly that advertises itself as a great grammar checker. I usually don't bother to see how bad such apps are; I just know they are rotten. And I know people who pay for such an app are foolish and gullible. Recently, Grammarly posted a comment on one of my blog posts - LTA's Illiterate Poster - and it's nothing more than an advertisement for the Grammarly app. But what's really shocking is Grammarly can't even ensure that the grammar in its advertisement for its grammar checker is correct. This is what it posted in the comment section of my blog post:

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

SMU - 20 years of language errors

The Singapore Management University (SMU) recently published an advertisement and as I read it, I could not help but recall what it wrote 20 years ago in its inaugural congratulatory ad at the turn of the millennium. This ad, published in the Straits Times on 1 August 2000, was to congratulate its very first batch of graduates.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Why the Speak Good English Movement harms Singapore

Many of my friends tell me to ignore ignoramuses such as the Speak Good English Movement (SGEM) and the people associated with it. They think I'm wasting my time but I totally disagree. I truly believe the SGEM and other grammar ignoramuses who love to criticise others when they themselves have no knowledge of grammar are causing harm to Singapore in many different ways. Recently, at a dinner, my fears proved not to be unfounded. Someone at the dinner asked me if I was the writer of this blog. He liked some of my blog posts criticising the SGEM. He told me that a group of women writers in Singapore compiled their writings into a book but everything just fizzled out because of the negative blog review of one Ludwig Tan, a committee member of the SGEM who criticised a very small grammatical error in the book and blew it up. He thanked me for 'being instrumental in shutting down Ludwig Tan's obnoxious blog'.

He was a total stranger to me and there were many other people at the dinner I had to talk to and so I didn't have the chance to speak more to him but what he said puzzled me throughout that evening. I know that Ludwig Tan used to have a language blog that was not only hypercritical of Singaporeans but also highly erroneous in its treatment of the English language and I have had some occasions to expose his errors in this blog. And although I would be delighted if indeed my just criticisms were the reason for the shutting down of his 'obnoxious' blog in which he used to write his scathing but unjustified excoriation of the language of Singaporeans, there can be many reasons why someone removes his blog from the internet and the reason that would warm the cockles of my heart may not be the only reason or even one of the reasons.

At the time when I first discovered Ludwig Tan's highly critical blog, I was really surprised that someone who purports to teach the English language could make so many ridiculous language mistakes. I wanted to explain in this blog why everything Tan said was wrong and why his sometimes harsh criticisms of Singaporeans were not just unwarranted but blatantly wrong. The people he criticised were linguistically correct and it was he who was wrong. But because Tan's mistakes were numerous and almost every blog post of his was riddled with shocking errors that I would not even have expected children to make, I could not address the mountain of errors in his blog. What I did was to screen-save many of his outrageous posts so that I could address them in the future.

When I got home, I looked up my album of screenshots to see if I could find any post by Ludwig Tan that criticised the writings of women writers in Singapore. What small grammatical error could he have chosen to slam?  Was Tan correct in the first place? If the many language mistakes Tan makes are symptomatic of his innate inability to get his language right, there is a high chance he was grammatically wrong in his criticism of the Singaporean women writers.

Sure enough, I found precisely what the person was talking about at the dinner.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

The endless mistakes of the Speak Good English Movement

You may be forgiven for thinking that I have a personal vendetta against Singapore's Speak Good English Movement (SGEM) when I honestly have none. You may think that way because this blog has more than a hundred posts that highlight the ludicrous language mistakes made by the SGEM. But the fact is the SGEM is unbelievably ignorant of even the most elementary rules of English grammar and I can't help picking on it when everything it says or publishes is erroneous. I just went to its Facebook page and I saw this:
'Do you say "the photos you sent me" or "the photos you sent to me"? Let's learn and improve our English with Kai Ying and Robin!'  
I was naturally curious what nonsensical error the SGEM might come up with this time and I clicked on the link which brought me to a video that the SGEM produced, complete with real actors. It's a cringe-inducing video which is just what I expected of the SGEM. The video pokes fun at how an uneducated Singaporean speaks which is of course in poor taste. Although the SGEM loves to make fun of the the way an uneducated Singaporean speaks, it is itself hopelessly unable to get its own grammar right. I forced myself to continue watching the video and I waited for the SGEM to make a pronouncement on grammar. As I have shown in countless articles in this blog, the SGEM is totally incapable of getting its grammar right. I knew that all I had to do was to wait for it to condemn a sentence as grammatically unacceptable and the SGEM would most certainly be in error and expose its own ignorance of English grammar rules.  I didn't have long to wait.

This is what the SGEM says:

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Should Singapore Schools Teach English Grammar?

Most people are not aware that English grammar is not taught in Singapore schools. Neither is it taught in any other school all over the world except those in Britain which recently re-introduced grammar in their curriculum because of the prudent educational policy of the Tory government. However, parents in Britain have staged huge protests against this. They don't want their kids to be taught grammar.

Many people don't realise that most English-speaking people are grammar illiterates. This has everything to do with the history of English teaching. In the 1960s, educators came up with the novel idea that English grammar was too difficult for children and it would take away their interest in creative writing. This idea soon spread to schools in all other parts of the world and children were taught how to communicate effectively and correctly in English but grammar itself was left out. However, it became clear a few years ago to educators in Britain that this was a huge mistake. We now have a whole generation of people who may be English-speaking but have no knowledge of English grammar at all. The government in the UK took the decision, even though it's an unpopular one, to re-introduce English grammar in all schools and make it essential for all 11-year-olds to sit an examination that tests their knowledge of grammar.

It was in this context that Nick Gibb, the UK education minister embarrassed himself when a BBC presenter asked him if 'after' in the sentence 'I went to the cinema after I'd eaten my dinner' was a preposition or a subordinating conjunction.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

What Lucien Wong, Singapore's Attorney General, wrote

Many years ago, in the middle of work, my then secretary entered my room to ask me if 'organise' should be spelt with an 's' or a 'c', or at least that was what I thought I heard. I told her there was no 'c' in 'organise'. She repeated what she had said more carefully. 'Should "organise" be spelt with an "s" or a "zee"?' I asked her why she called it a 'zee'. All self-respecting citizens of this country were taught from the cradle to call a zed a zed. She eyed me as if I was a fossilised specimen from the Jurassic Period and said haughtily, 'That is so passé! Stylish people today call it "zee"'.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Section 377A - the slippery slope: a short musing

Everyone around me is now divided on whether Section 377A, an outmoded law which criminalises homosexual acts between consenting adults, should be repealed. Churches seem to be quite eager to see that homosexuals remain branded as criminals. While that may be the official stand of the National Council of Churches, individual Christians are very much divided on this issue.

Sunday, June 3, 2018


Recently, many newspapers all over the world reported the story of a retired school teacher who purportedly corrected Trump's language in his letter to her.  You may read the full story in USA Today which gives more details about this retired teacher that other newspapers have chosen not to reveal. First, the 'corrections' of the retired teacher Yvonne Mason appear more like the ravings of a hysterical woman.  What's amusing to me is Mason has not shown a single language error that Trump has made. We will examine what Mason says are errors made by Trump. We will then take a look at those who defend Mason and of course there are legions of them - anyone that takes a swipe at Trump is always supported by a massive cheer-leading team and the story is always blown up out of all proportion; CNN even gave Mason two interviews at prime time.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Singapore's Good English Award in Bad English

Singapore's Speak Good English Movement (SGEM) is currently asking school students to nominate their favourite English teachers for the Movement's 'Inspiring Teacher of English Award'. You would have thought that the least the SGEM could do was to ensure that their own Nomination Form for the Award was grammatically correct. How can the SGEM assess English teachers and give an award to the best English teacher when the whole world can see that it can't even churn out a few sentences that are free of grammatical errors?

You must be wondering how anyone can make grammatical errors in a Nomination Form which has mainly empty spaces for students to fill in. You underestimate the SGEM's propensity for making grammatical errors if you think it can't possibly trip up on a Nomination Form. At the start of the Nomination Form, there is an explanatory note consisting of only five or six sentences. Short though this explanatory note may be, you can be sure that if there is room in any bit of writing for grammatical errors to be made, the Speak Good English Movement is sure to make them.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Fools or Liars?

A couple of months ago, I was seated by myself in my favourite restaurant eating my favourite meal when I overheard a conversation at the next table which was occupied by a small family consisting of a Brit (presumably so from his accent), his Asian wife and their young son of kindergarten-going age. The boy was eating fish and chips and he said very loudly, 'These are my all chips'. His father very swiftly corrected him, 'These are all my chips'.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Not another preschool ad!

Stuffed into my letter box recently was yet another preschool promotional flyer, this time by Learning Vision. What surprises me is Learning Vision takes in really young children - infants who are only two months old. What can one possibly teach a baby of that age? But whatever the preschool's ability may be in communicating with babies of such a tender age, I am tempted to think after having read the ad that perhaps it is less effective when communicating with parents.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Why the Merriam-Webster Dictionary should not appeal to you

In my last post in which I criticised the Speak Good English Movement for using the word 'collaterals' to mean 'books on grammar', a friend of mine informed me that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary has this as one of its definitions: 'informational materials (such as brochures and fact sheets) used in selling a product or service to a prospective customer or buyer'. It may be a little far-fetched to extend that definition to 'grammar books'. Further, this preposterous definition is only found in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and absolutely nowhere else, at least at the present time. And it's certainly not a definition accepted by the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) or the constantly updated Oxford Dictionary Online (ODO).

There are very good reasons why you should not consult the Merriam-Webster and I'm not talking about the reasons I gave in this blog post I published a few months ago: Don't buy a Webster's Dictionary! That blog post deals with what the Merriam-Webster Dictionary has to say about a small area in English usage which, as I have demonstrated, is incorrect. What I'm questioning in this article is Merriam-Webster Dictionary's lexicographical reliability. I'm not only talking about the dictionary's comment on usage. I'm going to the heart of the dictionary - lexicography itself.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Chairman of the Speak Good English Movement blunders again and again - PART 2

What I will show in this article is the similarity between Humpty Dumpty and Goh Eck Kheng, Chairman of the Speak Good English Movement. They both use a word to mean what they choose it to mean, even though the dictionary gives a totally different definition of the word and nobody else on this planet uses the word to mean what they choose it to mean.

At the start of Part 1 of this blog post, I briefly mentioned Goh's incorrect use of the word 'authenticity'. While scanning through the SGEM's website, I discovered another glaring misuse of a common enough word.

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Chairman of the Speak Good English Movement blunders again and again - PART 1

In 2014, Mr Goh Eck Kheng, the Chairman of the Speak Good English Movement (SGEM), made a speech which was published on the SGEM's website. In the speech, Mr Goh used the word 'authenticity' without understanding its meaning. I posted a critical comment of this. Thereafter, there were no further publications of the Chairman's speeches or any other announcements under the heading 'Press Release' on the SGEM's website. I wanted to look for Mr Goh's speeches in 2015 and 2016 but they could not be found on the website. I was particularly interested in a conference the Movement held in 2015. That was the conference the Movement got even its title wrong. Can you imagine that? The Speak Good English Movement has such a poor command of the English language that it could not even get the title of its conference grammatically correct. Click here to read what I wrote about that Conference. Recently, I discovered that the SGEM is getting more confident and has published its Chairman's 2017 speech on its website. Surely after all that has happened the SGEM must get its act together to ensure that the speech contains no error? You don't even need to speak English to be able to publish a grammatically correct speech in English.  All you need to do is to get someone who speaks English well to write it for you. So, what do you think? The 2017 speech of the Chairman of the Speak Good English Movement contains no grammatical errors? Is this too much to ask of the Speak Good English Movement?