Thursday, May 17, 2012

Why Can't the Straits Times Get it Right?

This is what I read this morning from yahoo news:

But since yahoo news is notorious for not keeping an archive of its news, the entire article is produced below from my screen-save function (you may ignore the first three images which I've included for the sake of completeness but you need only read the text in the two last images below):

I thought the error was the sort I would expect of the Chinese Embassy.  China is known for more egregious blunders in English than this and I'm always more ready to excuse it but these words jumped off the page and caught my attention: "...said the letter written in CHINESE".   Ah ha!  So, it's back to our embarrassing Singaporean journalists again!  I searched all over the article to see who in yahoo could have made this error.  The top of the article (this can be seen in the second image above) says the article was written by "Yahoo Newsroom".  Now, that's not good enough.  I need a person to pin the error to.

I then read the article again and the culprit was staring at me in the face - the letter from the Embassy was written to the Straits Times, my old friend.  The Straits Times is a newspaper that takes the cake when it comes to the number of grammatical mistakes a newspaper can possibly make.  What's really hilarious about this newspaper is it can publish an article on English usage and make outrageous errors within the article itself.  I have lost count of the number of times I have written to its editor about some grammatical error in his paper and I'm ALWAYS told that they would not publish my letter because it's "embarrassing" to their journalists.  But they've never failed to assure me that they would "alert the newsroom" which of course isn't satisfactory to me.  I am always tempted to post the exchange of letters I've had with the Straits Times but I don't want to be thought of as a petty pedant, which I certainly am not.

Now, it's clear yahoo got the news from the Straits Times and repeated its translation of the Embassy's letter from Mandarin to English.  But that was not the end of the matter for me.  I was curious to see who the journalist was who made the error.

The yahoo link led me to the article in the Straits Times:

I have also screen-saved the Straits Times article and here it is:

Now, we have it.  The error that no average English user will make did not originate from the Chinese Embassy.  Even if did, it can't really be faulted since everyone knows English is as foreign a language in China as Urdu is in Singapore.

Neither did it originate from the Yahoo newsroom.  Yahoo had merely copied verbatim its source, the Straits Times.

The article was written by one Bryna Sim.  I have something to say about the name "Bryna" but before I do so, I have to know if she gave herself the name or it was given to her by her parents.  Those who are not familiar with this strange phenomenon of giving oneself a name (which is always either a Western name or a name that sounds Western) should spend some time in Singapore.  I have a lot to say about this but most of it has been said by Lee Wei Ling (Lee Kuan Yew's daughter) whom I absolutely adore simply because she's even more politically incorrect than I can ever be.

For a previous posting on the Straits Times and the English language, click here.

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