Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Singapore School Anthems Part 2

We have awarded the MOST ROTTEN SCHOOL ANTHEM AWARD (click here)  and have scoured many school websites in search of the RUNNER UP to the MOST ROTTEN SCHOOL ANTHEM.  Many school anthems are rather nondescript; they aren't very good and neither are they so terribly rotten that they are worthy of a mention here.  These school anthems aren't featured in my blog.  I've got to have a limit on the number of school songs to write about in this blog and only the top two and bottom two school anthems will be presented in great detail.

But this does not mean that I have not looked at many other school anthems. Just to show you that I have been doing my homework, I'll give an example of a school anthem that is typical of many school anthems which are rather middling and they are not very good or very bad.  The example I'll pick is that of Marymount Convent School, a girls' school.

The song consists of a few short simple lines that one would expect because of their simplicity to be at least flawless in grammar and usage but alas, that is not the case.  Desiring always to be just in my judgment and mindful of the possibility that the school could have misprinted the lyrics, I googled the school song and was led to an excellent performance of it by a lady with a beautiful voice called Geraldine Png.  Here is the screen capture of the youtube performance of the anthem of Marymount Convent and the same erroneous sentence can be seen here:

Nobody who has an elementary knowledge of the English language can possibly defend that sentence as grammatical and I'll be insulting your intelligence if I take up space on this blog to explain why it's wrong.

[EDITOR: Very shortly after I posted this article, I received three separate calls from my friends who told me that they could not see anything wrong with this sentence and one of them hastened to inform me that he was not in any way unintelligent.  Of course not.  I didn't mean it that way. 
Here I will explain to all my intelligent readers why the line is wrong.

Ever to thee we will abide 
The word "abide" used here has the archaic meaning of "live" or "dwell".  When used in this sense, the correct preposition is "in" and not "to".  
The anthem writer, if I may add a little facetiously, bearing in mind always that she might very well be a nun, should have taken more care in her Bible reading since this word with its archaic meaning is liberally sprinkled all over the first 10 verses of St John's Gospel in the 15th chapter.  In fact, in those ten verses, we see "abide" repeated some ten times or so.  "Abide in me and I in you", "He that abideth in me and I in him...", "If ye abide in me and my words abide in you...", "ye shall abide in my love" and many others. 
To use the preposition "to" instead of "in" with the word "abide" is very unusual. If I may go into the psychology behind the error, my guess is the anthem writer was thinking more of TURNING to the school.  She very likely had in her mind "Ever to thee we will turn" which would have been correct.]

This is typical of many school anthems which consist of short unassuming lines and they would have been reasonably passable if not for some glaring grammatical mistakes.  Why these schools did not bother to run through the lyrics of the song with a competent English language teacher is something I can't understand.

But these songs aren't outrageously rotten and they don't come anywhere near winning the RUNNER UP award for the MOST ROTTEN SCHOOL ANTHEM.

What then am I looking for in a school anthem that is worthy of the second most rotten award ?  The anthem has got to stand out for being really bad.  If you have read Singapore School Anthems Part 1, you will recall that the recipient of the MOST ROTTEN SCHOOL ANTHEM was guilty not just of plagiarism but it even failed to make the minor necessary changes to the lyrics in order to adapt the words to the school.  It's the ultimate in rottenness and I can't even conceive of anything worse than that in a school anthem.

That is the most rotten school anthem.  Here we're looking for the runner up. It can't be as bad as the ACS anthem but it's got to be outstandingly bad.

I've already mentioned in Part 1 that I have in my mind some categories in which points are given to the school.  Grammar, language, elegance and musicality are essential components.  For a long while, I could not find a school anthem that is bad enough for this runner up category and I was about to give up and focus my attention on the good school anthems when I stumbled upon a school song that fits the bill perfectly as the second most rotten anthem.   This school song is so badly written that it took me quite a while to get into the shoes of the composer in order to understand what it was that he (or more likely, she) meant to say in the first place, so incomprehensible and garbled are her sentences.  Here we have it -



Before I begin, let me stress once again that the school anthem is not a reflection of the quality of the school.  I embarked on this exercise with a view to moving away from all this talk about "good schools".  Instead of adding to all the stressful talk that is currently going on about which schools are better or give superior education to students, I decided, purely with the intention of taking the heat out of schools, to zoom in on something which isn't all that crucial and for which no current teacher or headmaster needs to bother about because these anthems were written by their predecessors who have long left the world of the living.  This is a fun exercise which I hope will bring the smile to your lips.  In any event, everyone knows that RGS is indisputably one of our finest girls' schools in Singapore and this award does not in any way detract from its excellent academic credentials.  All the same, it does have a terrible school song.

Now, that I've settled that point, let's examine the school anthem.

I must admit I was totally flabbergasted when I first chanced upon the lyrics of this school song.  I couldn't believe my eyes that this was the RGS anthem.  I had to check the school's website just to be sure it wasn't a joke posted by some student of a rival school.  Everything is wrong about this anthem.  The music is awful but I have already decided from the start to pay the least attention to the musicality of the anthem because this can be highly subjective.

Let's look at the grammar.  The writing style tells me immediately that it was probably composed by a Chinese language teacher in the school.  The writer hasn't got a proper grasp of the rudiments of the English language and she lacks the linguistic sensitivity in weighing which of two words is more apt in a sentence.  This is a handicap very commonly seen in Chinese language teachers and I'm really not criticising these fine teachers whose strengths lie in the highly complex Chinese language which the Guinness Book of World Records tells us is the most difficult language in the world to master.  It may just be pure speculation on my part but I'm fairly certain the song was composed by a Chinese language teacher and why RGS picked a Chinese language teacher for this task is a mystery.

The very first sentence is elliptically jarring.

From high Olympus flows to us the glory

The glory of what?  That's probably on everyone's lips when he reads the first line of the anthem of Raffles Girls' School.  We saw in Part 1 the strange tendency of the ACS anthem in leaving out an article in a sentence but here, the addition of the article leaves the reader hanging in midair.  What the writer probably means is "Glory flows to us from high Olympus".  That would be grammatically more acceptable but it doesn't cure the sentence of the pervading sense of childish hubris that informs the entire anthem.  It reminds me of a loud bungling supercilious little girl who doesn't know how to be tasteful in her boastful speech.  This reference to Olympus is pretentious and falls flat particularly when there is no reason to speak of it in the first place. I'll deal later with this tiresome need of the anthem writer to force a bit of Greek mythology into the song and I'll suggest what I believe is the reason for this need.  I love to get to the psychology behind the problem.  But more of that later when I discuss the anthem's allusions to Greek mythology.

While still on the first stanza, we next see one of the most jarring lines (it's hard to decide which is most hideous since every line seems to be jostling for that honour) -

Rise, sisters, rise, the world is all before ye 

In standard usage, "ye" is the archaic form of the 2nd person plural pronoun in the subjective case.  In standard archaic English, "ye" has from its first usage been nominative.  There are of course later instances in the past where its use in the objective case is recorded but in these instances, such use is almost without exception colloquial or dialectical.

The Authorised Version of the Bible gives the best illustration of how one should use "ye" but this is hardly useful to most of us who are quite content with using the good old "you" (or perhaps I should say the newer "you").   But we always have in our midst those who think they can spice up their lacklustre writing with a few archaic expressions and these are the people who should take heed of the following highly instructive sentence from the Bible which illustrates quite comprehensively how one may properly use "ye":

If ye love them which love you, what reward have ye?

If Madam RGS-Composer (that's the honorific Chinese language teachers love to use) had read her Bible diligently, she would have written "the world is all before you" and the hope and rousing beauty that this line evokes in its Miltonian simplicity would have been spectacular. 

I always like to do a bit of investigative work and get into the mind of the writer just to see why she wrote what she wrote or as Jeeves would put it simply, to get to the psychology behind the problem.  Why did she write "ye" when "you" would have been so much more elegant?

My guess is she had probably been reading the Scottish poem called "The Bonnie, Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond".

Oh, ye'll tak' the high road, and I'll tak' the low road,
And I'll get to Scotland afore ye;
But me and my true love will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond.

Notice the use of "ye" in the objective case?  "And I'll get to Scotland afore ye". I've already explained that "ye" used in this way can be found in dialectical writings and it is easy to see many examples in Scottish poems.  But I really doubt very much if any respectable girls' school will want to fashion their school anthem after "The Bonnie, Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond" especially when for the rest of the anthem, we see failed attempts at Greek mythological allusions. The two just don't make good bedfellows.

There are many other glaring errors in the anthem and they are too numerous for me to list them all here.  The error we see in the first line is repeated in some of the other verses.  For example, "The fire by which the will attains". What does this even mean?  It sounds like a word-for-word translation from another language, presumably, Mandarin Chinese which was what Madam RGS-Composer taught in the school.

There are many instances where the writer of the RGS anthem leaves the reader befuddled as to the intended meaning.  For example, in "So heart to heart we'll scale the heights of learning," what is meant by "heart to heart"?  I'm tempted to think Madam RGS-Composer meant "side by side" which would appropriately highlight the solidarity and camaraderie of the girls.  In the Mandarin Chinese language, the word for heart is liberally used in just about anything you can think of.  The anthem writer availed herself of the same liberty when she wrote this anthem.

Apart from linguistic problems, the writer is obviously unsure of her Greek mythology.  Writers of school anthems must be careful when they want to introduce elements from Greek mythology into a song.  If they do it clumsily, they can appear pretentious and silly.  They must not do it on the misguided understanding that it will imbue the song with a respectability it otherwise lacks. You can't make a rotten song great by throwing in the names of Greek mythological figures especially when you know nothing about Greek mythology. My sympathy is actually with RGS.  I understand why this was done.  RGS is closely related to Raffles Institution (RI) which is Singapore's top school.  The RI anthem makes a direct reference to Prometheus but it is done in a subtle and tasteful way.  The reference to Greek mythology in the RI anthem lends further depth to the meaning of the song and it enhances the beauty of the song.  RGS, ever envious of RI's superiority, probably felt that it should not be left far behind and so it threw in Greek mythological references without a firm grounding in mythology. That may have moved the RGS anthem writer to write "On us the sacred fire descends" but then she should have read up more about this fire before she comes up with this gaffe:

The magic fire that moves the gods to love us.

When Prometheus stole fire and brought it to men, the gods were far from being moved by feelings of love.  If the punishment they meted out to the thieving Titan is anything to go by, love is the last emotion they felt.

Quite apart from all this, every line in the anthem is shockingly inelegant.  The chorus, "Sisters in learning and sisters at heart / Life lies before us, here's luck to the start" is simply hideous and coarse and is really inconsistent with the kind of school RGS really is.

The RGS anthem suffers from what I would term the "Ye Olde Tea Shoppe" syndrome.  Some coffee shop owners think they can increase their business by giving their shop a name that smacks of antiquity.  The writer of the RGS anthem craves respectability for the school anthem which is decent enough and one can't fault her for that.  But the way she goes about doing it only serves to win for RGS the Runner Up prize for the Most Rotten School Anthem. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Singapore School Anthems Part 1

There has recently been a great deal of hype and angst about schools in Singapore and the government is scrambling to assure us all that every school is a good school.  I have written a lot about schools in Singapore and I'm sure I have ruffled a few feathers especially of those who may have misplaced pride in some schools but the time is right for us to forget the academic records of schools and focus on something quite inconsequential, trivial and lighthearted - the school anthem.  The school anthem doesn't really mean much. If a school is unfortunate enough to have a rotten anthem, it may be saddled with this disgraceful yoke on its neck for a long time to come because schools don't normally alter their anthems.  But a bad anthem is no indication that the school is bad, as we shall see soon enough if you follow my blog on to Part 2.

Let me begin with the worst school anthem.  How bad can an anthem be?  It can't be that difficult to write a school anthem and I'm sure I can sit down for no more than a couple of hours and come up with something quite respectable. The fact that some of these schools have rotten anthems does make one wonder what the school administration was up to when some teacher or, as is usually the case, the school principal came up with his or her own composition.  But these are usually former teachers or former principals who are long dead, so please understand that I'm casting no aspersion on the current crop of teachers and principals who are all wonderful people and are perfectly able, at the drop of a hat, to write the most glorious anthems.

But really, how bad can an anthem be?  What makes a school anthem truly bad?  Naturally, because it's to be sung, the musicality of the anthem is important.  But I will attach less importance to music since I have to admit that this is one area that can be rather subjective and besides, whatever I used to study for my ABRSM Music Theory exam is all forgotten.  But any one of us can judge the language or grammar in a school anthem and we don't need to have a training in music theory for that.  We can also judge an anthem by looking at its choice of words.  This is different from its grammar.  For example, if the lines are largely in iambic pentameter  and we see a stray line "We in our youth try to acquire knowledge" which will immediately strike anyone as jarringly ugly and inelegant and that's because the metre is broken even though it's grammatical.  Perhaps "Despite our youth we'll scale the heights of arts" would be a great improvement.

But for the bottom-of-the-heap school anthem that wins our "Most Rotten School Anthem" award, we don't even have to examine the metrical structure of the lines.  Such a close scrutiny of the metre may only be necessary when we want to decide which of two great school anthems should win our coveted top prize for Singapore School anthems.

I will begin with the worst school anthem and work my way to the best, so please look out for future parts in this series.  I will be guided purely by aesthetics, poetry, grammar and less so, music.  I will be purely objective and I will give my reasons and you are free to disagree with me if you think I am wrong.  Just post your comments on this page below.

Which school takes the MOST ROTTEN SCHOOL ANTHEM award?  Such an anthem must not just be grammatically wrong.  It's got to be worse than that. And there is one school anthem that has just about everything you can think of when you want to look for a really rotten school anthem.  This anthem doesn't just get its grammar wrong, it does something truly shocking - it steals its song from elsewhere.  You probably think I'm being a bit harsh and the school merely "borrows" the tune of another song but no.  This is outright plagiarism in that not just the tune is stolen but the lyrics as well.

Now, you're probably wagging your finger at me in disagreement.  How can anyone plagiarize the entire lyrics of another song?  Yes this school anthem does precisely that with the exception that it sneaks its name in where someone else's name appears.  I will present the facts and leave you to be the judge.

It's with a heavy heart that I denounce the anthem of a school that I should feel something for but since I have decided to be purely objective so here it is -



(or ACS, as they would rather be called)

This school anthem is shamelessly a shocking plagiarism of the Canadian anthem "The Maple Leaf Forever".  It is shocking in that not just the tune was stolen by ACS but the lyrics as well. I'll just say a few words about the Canadian anthem.  "The Maple Leaf Forever" was written by Alexander Muir in 1867, some 19 years before ACS was founded.  In the song, we hear of "Wolfe, the dauntless hero", a reference to James Wolfe who captured Quebec from the French. It's not surprising that the song was not picked to be the official national anthem of Canada because its strongly pro-British stance would be objectionable to French-speaking Canadians but it was one of the songs considered for the national anthem and it is still widely sung today and is generally known as the unofficial national anthem of Canada.

Click here for the lyrics of this beautiful national anthem The Maple Leaf Forever and do a mental comparison with the ACS anthem (note: the music is identical):

You would have thought that a school that filches a national anthem would of course get its grammar right so on my score board, the school should at least pass the grammar category.  But not so for ACS.  With the ACS anthem, we don't have to go very far.  Just look at the second line of the anthem: "Oldham dauntless hero came".

The very first time I heard the ACS anthem, I felt strangely uneasy and I got a copy of the lyrics to see for myself if it really was printed as it was sung.  I'm sure all of you had that same feeling.  It's because we get this sense that there is something grossly wrong about the anthem.  It's the problem we have when we are drafting an email hurriedly and we copy and paste from wikipedia onto our own text and we fail to read through the email and click "SEND".  When we finally read through the email, we wish we could edit it but it's already sent. But folks, this is a school anthem we are talking about and not a personal email written in a hurry!!!

Leaving out an article in a sentence is common in Singlish but I have to remind myself that this school anthem was written in 1926 by a teacher called Henry Hoisington.  This was before Singlish even came into being.  Why then was the article left out in "Oldham dauntless hero came"?  Bishop Oldham, a great man for whom I have the highest respect, is of course the founder of Methodism in Singapore and the founder of ACS.  It is only when you look at the Canadian national anthem from which this line was copied that you will understand the reason for the error.  In the Canadian anthem, the line is "Wolfe, the dauntless hero, came".  Presumably, Hoisington, thinking to himself that since "Oldham" has two syllables while "Wolfe" is monosyllabic, felt he had to remove a syllable from that line and he must have decided that the article "the" was dispensable.

Whatever Hoisington taught in ACS in 1926, one hopes that he didn't teach the poor students English or English literature.  Anyone who reads poetry knows that you can always abbreviate the article the to th' so that you don't count it as a syllable.  It's a little like a grace note in music.

But Hoisington goes on to remove the article in other lines in the ACS anthem.  I just have to glance through the lyrics and I see a few examples: "emblem" stands by itself without any article but the most hideous error must be "the Land of Rising Sun".  I know a young boy who sang it as "the land of Rising Suns".  The poor lad is at least grammatically correct even if he badly needs a lesson in geography and possibly astronomy.

The other line that brings deep furrows to the brow is this:

No discord e'er will sever

You immediately look at the preceding line to see what it is that discord won't sever.

Our hearts our hopes our aims are one
No discord e'er will sever

This is inelegant even though it's not ungrammatical.  You sever chords, ties, bonds and knots but you don't sever hearts, hopes and aims.  Again, all you have to do is to look at the Canadian anthem and you will see why plagiarism can bring disgrace to your school for a very long time to come.  If you must plagiarize, at least put in the effort to tidy up the parts that differ from the source from which you stole the lyrics.

In the Canadian anthem, the lines are

And may those ties of love be ours

Which discord cannot sever

There you have it.  The original song talks about not severing the ties of love which is a perfectly correct usage.  Shame on Hoisington not only for plagiarizing the music and lyrics but also for making no necessary changes to the lyrics to ensure that the school anthem doesn't sound like the theme song for Jack Neo's future movie, "When an Ah Beng Copies a Song".

It's only fortuitous that Hoisington picked the Canadian anthem for the ACS anthem. He might very well have chosen a more famous national anthem and today, we'll all be laughing away every time ACS students sing with pride and gusto (which they will no doubt do in blissful ignorance of how rotten their anthem is):

God save our ACS
Long live our ACS
God save our school
Send her victorious
Happy and glorious
Long live to be our school
God save our school.

EDITOR:  In case you think I'm just doing a spot of ACS-bashing which I assure you I'm not, in Singapore School Anthems Part 2, I will be presenting the Runner Up Award for the Most Rotten School Anthem to a school that is famous for its high academic achievement.  It is a school loved and respected by all Singaporeans and parents will give an arm and a leg to see their child in the school.  I have only recently heard the anthem of that school (obviously the school would do well to take pains to conceal its anthem) and it's astoundingly ROTTEN!!!  Stay tuned for Singapore School Anthems Part 2.

NOTE: Singapore School Anthems Part 2 is now posted on this blog.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

How bad is bad?

I've just read a very interesting Facebook posting by a friend who was complaining about the growing use of the term "my bad" to mean "my fault".  I don't know if you have come across this usage but I'm inclined to think that anyone who hangs around on Facebook, google+, online forums and chat sites is sure to have seen this.  When I first read it online in either a chat site or a forum, I didn't know what the writer meant.  But with time and the frequency of its use, I soon understood it perfectly and I'm quite adept now at the proper usage of this phrase.  It's only used when you want to admit to a mistake.  For example, if you describe someone as fat and others remonstrate that you're rude and insensitive, you simply say, "Sorry, my bad".  Succinct and to the point and the entire internet community forgives you for your earlier indiscretion.

In her posting, she frowns on the use of this phrase, "my bad".  I won't do justice to her witticism and humour (her article is very witty and humorous) if I do not quote verbatim what she wrote:
We had formidable English teachers at Marymount Convent whose mission in life was to ensure that if nothing else, we would speak English properly. One of my enduring Primary 4 memories is of sitting at my blue wooden desk in my green graph-paper uniform watching our teacher write out in white chalk on the blackboard the difference between nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs.  
I can still hear her voice: “Girls, a verb is an action word. An adverb describes a verb. A noun is an object or a person. An adjective describes a noun.” 
By those rules “bad” was definitely an adjective, as in, “a bad day”. Having had those rules drummed into me since the tender age of ten, encountering “bad” as a noun left me feeling a little linguistically dislocated.
"Bad" is quite a bad deal for those of us who want to make some sense of the language. As a slang, originally US Black English, "bad" undergoes a reversal of sense so that in some circumstances, it can mean "marvellous" or "very good". Before Michael Jackson became white, he sang his greatest hit "Bad" which carries that meaning.  When used in that sense, the degrees of comparison for "bad" are not the standard "worse" and "worst" but "badder" and "baddest". For example one may say as a compliment, "Hey man, that new kid in town is bad, man.  Badder than anyone we know.  He's the baddest."

While I totally share the writer's view on the ugliness of "my bad" and I can never get myself to use "bad" in this way even when I want to sound young and cool, I'm not so sure I agree with the rigidity with which she (or more accurately, her English teacher) pigeonholes each English word strictly into one of the many parts of speech, as such categorization is called in grammar.  As everyone knows, many words can come under different parts of speech and some, like the word "fast" can be a noun, a verb, an adjective and an adverb.

But the writer is not talking about that.  She is saying, and quite rightly too, that "bad" cannot be a noun.

Now, how bad can "bad" be?  When I gave the matter some thought, I realised that "bad" can be pretty bad.  "Bad" has not only encroached into the realm of nouns, but also clawed its way into the arena of adverbs.  How many times have we heard someone say that he wants something "real bad"?  Or "my school didn't play too bad in that football game"?  You may say "bad" in these examples can only be used informally or colloquially but you have to admit that "bad" assumes a surer footing in the following sentence: "I felt bad after running up that hill" which is permissible even in formal English.  Notice however how peculiar the rules of grammar are in that once you use a different verb or when it is used with the auxiliary verb, "bad" becomes ungrammatical and unacceptable even in informal English.  Try forming a sentence in your mind if you don't believe me.

The writer goes on to decry the use of other adjectives as nouns and in an amazing display of her knowledge of modern songs, she quotes liberally from lyrics which I'm ashamed to say were totally alien to me and I had to look them up on youtube just so I didn't feel as if the world of music had passed me by.

After quoting from the lyrics of a song, "Would you let me see beneath your beautiful?", she wrote, "In the world of perfect grammar it should of course be beauty (a noun), not beautiful (an adjective)..."

Of course she is absolutely right but I cannot help feeling that a little more should be said about how bad the other adjectives really are in the world of grammar and they must have taken a leaf out of bad's book by showing the world how bad they too can be.  In fact, the OED tells us that adjectives have been making forays into the world of nouns for centuries.  For example, the OED records "intellectual" as an adjective that was first used in 1398.  By 1599, it made its first recorded incursion into the domain of nouns and up to this moment, it's not uncommon for us to refer to an intellectual as a person who is intellectual.  There are other examples that I can think of such as "explosive" a perfectly good adjective that somehow decided one fine day to metamorphose into a noun while retaining its adjectival properties.

Even the example given by the writer, the adjective "beautiful", refused to remain a mere adjective all its life.  The OED tells us that by 1756, "beautiful" took upon itself the right to be a noun.  More than a century and a half later, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a novel called The Beautiful and Damned.  

Now I daresay not even the English teachers of Marymount Convent with their forbidding exterior that the writer writes about with such reverence will dare expose their frown beneath their wimple.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Still Small Voice

An insect got into my cup of milk and I took it as a sign that I shouldn't drink so much milk. After all, milk is high in cholesterol and I could do with less of it.  I threw the content away and didn't pour myself more milk.  

What do I mean when I say I took it as a sign?  Taking things that happen as a "sign" or as "the still small voice of God" is common among religious people.   You may not be aware of this but "still small voice" can only be used for God's voice.  When I was a lad, I wrote in an essay about how I heard my mum's still small voice from the kitchen and my teacher circled "still small voice" in red and wrote in the margin of the page, "I hope you are not claiming divinity for your mother."

Why, you may legitimately ask, should God's voice be still and small?  Do people really hear the voice of God?  I have asked many of the parishioners in my church and in other churches and nobody really hears the voice of God.  It's always an impression that we have and that impression is of course strongest if we are in a religious mood.  "Still small voice" is by far a more respectable description of a voice that is absolutely inaudible to those of us who are sane.  

I knew someone a long time ago who told me he had schizophrenia.  He told me it was difficult for him to decide what was God's voice and what were hallucinations which he had regularly. I told him it was very simple.  Anything he heard or saw which was out of the ordinary had to be a hallucination.  If he heard a voice and it wasn't the voice of another person within earshot, it's got to be a hallucination.  He asked, "What about the voice of God?"  I told him the voice of God was inaudible.  He said something that was quite wise for someone who was grappling with hallucinations all through his waking hours.  He said, "Wouldn't that make God rather pathetic that he can't even have an audible voice?"

Who needs an audible voice when he's got that still small voice that others can't have and if you so much as attribute it to your mum in an essay, you will see it circled in red.

Microblog: Turning Singapore into a Christian Nation?

I've been reading a lot about Lawrence Khong and his mentor, Peter C Wagner on this website:

Click here.

I don't think Singapore will ever be a Christian nation and I hope it won't.  Singapore is best kept as a secular nation and that's the way it should stay.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

On hawkers and hawker centres

I read with amusement a letter to the Straits Times yesterday written by a reader who complained about the use of "hawker" and "hawker centre" in Singapore.  He maintains that since hawkers have from the 1960s been prohibited by the government to move from place to place to sell their wares, the centres which the government built with the purpose of making these hawkers stay put in one place should not be called hawker centres.

Any country that uses the English language extensively is sure to have some form of variant that distinguishes it from the standard language of England.  Sometimes, the history and collective national experiences of a country make it necessary for the people to use terms which aren't heard of in the West.

The hawker centre is a term that Singaporeans should be proud of.  In the 1960s, street food vendors sold unhygienic food and there was widespread food poisoning.  It was very difficult for health inspectors to ensure cleanliness because these hawkers could be here today and somewhere else tomorrow.  The Singapore government is not known to let the grass grow under its feet especially when the welfare of its citizenry was involved.  Laws were passed and hawkers were systematically required to place their carts permanently in designated spots in a large building that came to be known as a hawker centre.  In those days, one could see individual carts in hawker centres and some even had their wheels intact.

Many hawker centres are now called "food centres" but this is a trend that should be stopped.  The term "food centre" is merely an anaemic description of a place where food is sold and it is quite unlike the term "hawker centre" which encapsulates the story of our past.

But in every former colony you are sure to find those who would grovel before their former masters and for these people, what's not said in England should not be said here.  There are varying degrees of such grovelling.  The more extreme cases are those who insist on calling the current academic term in Singapore "Michaelmas" but thankfully for the rest of us, there are very few such people around.

I'm not one who encourages the flouting of grammar rules but neither do I bend my knee to anyone.  We should take pride in our history and our past especially when what seemed draconian to the hawkers of old proves to be a huge success today.  It is a fact that Singapore has the fewest cases of food poisoning in Asia.  The hawker centre stands for the great qualities that Singapore is famous for - efficiency and cleanliness.  I have this to say to the grovellers.  Grovel all you want but don't erase our history in the process.