Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hypercritical or humorous?

I have blogged before about this strange peculiarity I've encountered many times in Singapore of folks zealously making up their own grammar rules to trip others up. Click here 

One of the most irritating habits of these over-zealous folks is to pick on the less educated segment of Singaporean society and to make fun of them.  The cardinal rule that governs anyone who attempts to correct others is of course a rather reasonable one - he had better be right.  Alas, these revilers are often guilty of worse errors than the supposed errors they purport to embarrass their victims with.

A recent article published in the Catholic News under "Readers Contributions - General Viewpoints" is, at first blush, a disgraceful example of this.  The writer takes up the cudgels on behalf of the anti-Singlish camp and insists that Singlish speakers are incomprehensible abroad and should remain in Singapore.  At least, that is presumably what the writer intends to say but he lacks the necessary proficiency to accomplish this rather simple task and instead writes this:
Unless an individual or particular group plans on never leaving the warmth and security of the nest, of never venturing outside one’s immediate group, Singlish suffices.
This is one blunder no speaker of Singlish makes.

This article was brought to my attention by the New Nation.  Apparently, the Catholic News, sensing trouble from the article and desirous of staying away from further bad press (a US group is now seeking to have the Pope charged in the Hague for alleged crimes against humanity, ie paedophile crimes and cover-up within the Church), deleted it from their website but as we all know to our great delight, the internet is the internet and any deletion is bound to leave behind an indelible electronic footprint the link of which the New Nation cleverly published .     

I have since read the offending article more carefully and I'm now persuaded the writer is in fact making fun of the anti-Singlish camp by being overtly ridiculous.  Just take, for example, the first two sentences in the article:
The reason for the use of correct English is predicated on pragmatism and not on emotion or group convenience. For the purpose of dialectic let us categorise English into non-standard and standard. Non-standard will include, for example, variations like Appalachian English and Singlish. The refulgence of the differences lie, in general, in the grammar, sounds and vocabulary of the spoken “dialects”.
Leaving aside obvious grammatical errors including mistakes in what in my time was called "Agreement" or "Concordance" but is now more elegantly termed "Concord" by polished grammarians, the vocabulary is itself laughable.  How can the writer be serious?  I'm sure I'm right and the writer is merely indulging in some tongue-in-cheek humour.