Sunday, February 9, 2014


This is a continuation of the previous post.

In the previous post, we see the cowardice of our language experts. A reader makes a bold claim that the correct usage in England and in the US should be what he says is found in two books:  the Reader's Digest, The Right Word at the Right Time and Webster's Guide to English Usage. Our poor experts are now confused. Can one really say "There is a dog and a cat"? We are of course not referring to a situation where a hunter after trekking through an African jungle sees a large snake and he wants to caution his friends behind him. He intends to say "There is a snake here" but just as he says "There is a snake...", he sees a lion waiting in ambush and he adds "and a lion". What's acceptable in spoken English especially given the exigencies of our exciting everyday drama cannot be the basis for grammar rules. I have no idea what The Right Word at the Right Time says nor will I bother to find out. Whatever your views may be on the publications of the Reader's Digest, I need scarcely say that no grammarian or even a student of grammar will refer to these publications as an authority on English grammar and usage. As for Webster's English Usage, no English speaker east of the Atlantic and west of the Pacific will bother to look at it.

But our dear language experts are unnerved by the reader and they quietly tuck their tails between their legs and remain totally silent. But as the Bard rightly points out, when sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions. Almost immediately after our poor language experts from the Ministry of Education are cowed into silence by a reader's opinion, someone else has to ask again this infernal question of fiendish complexity.

Now, you would have thought this was the sort of question not even someone in a semi-comatose state would have to struggle with in order to come up with the right answer. But brace yourselves for the shocking answer from MOE's panel of English language specialists.

Yes, that's the answer of MOE's panel of experts. What could have possessed MOE's experts to come up with this insane statement?  In the next paragraph, they relent a little and say that you can use the plural verb and mind you, not because it's the only right verb to use but because it will be easier for the listeners!  They then give two other examples which show how clueless these English specialists from MOE are.

As anyone knows, "bread and butter" and "fish and chips" cannot by any stretch of the imagination be likened to "Alan and George" and we are not talking about a partnership entity called Alan and George. If MOE's language experts don't know that, I'm sure there is a kindergarten in Singapore that will take them in and teach them the rudiments of the English language.

For a full list of grammar errors made by MOE, the Speak Good English Movement and other language teachers, please click here.

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