Thursday, February 27, 2014

MOE's Joke Book

I sometimes feel a little down and exhausted and I need a good joke book to perk me up. Last night, I was in a pensive mood thinking about a friend who recently passed away when my eyes rested on the Ministry of Education's ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN. To be fair to the Ministry of Education (MOE), it is only openly responsible for that book and not its sequel ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN 2. These two books are Singapore's all-time best sellers and each one of them has seen no fewer than ten re-prints. As I have shown in more than a dozen posts in this blog, both books are a huge minefield that will most certainly mislead young students of the English language into making outrageous grammatical mistakes that they would not have made if they hadn't read the book. If you want to have a look at the long and growing list of shocking mistakes made by Singapore's English language experts, please click on this link. But for those of us who are not so misguided as to rely on books written under the auspices of the MOE and Singapore's Speak Good English Movement for our knowledge of English grammar, this book by both the MOE and the Speak Good English Movement together with its sequel affords hours of entertainment and laughter. ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN is the MOE's most successful joke book. It is quite aptly titled - English as it is broken by Singapore's language experts.

I was thinking of my friend who passed away just a week ago (God bless his soul) and reflecting on the transience of human life as I leafed through ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN 2, when I came across this passage in the book that brought laughter and mirth back to my downcast spirit. Both books follow a simple question-and-answer format. First, a question is asked by someone who may be a student or just anyone from the general public. This is immediately followed by the answer given by the language expert. In the first book, this panel of language experts are clearly stated to be English language specialists from the MOE.

Here is a pic of the question followed by the expert's answer.

I will ignore the obvious typographical error - the omission of "be" after the word "should". This happens to the best of us. So far, the "experts" have not made any error. I thought that was rather surprising because I've read both grammar books and I stand by what I say - almost every page contains some ludicrous error that even young kids wouldn't make. Anyway, I didn't have long to wait. On that very same page, another reader challenges the experts. But what is really priceless is the experts' answer. Read it for yourself and if you don't burst out laughing, I'm prepared to streak down Orchard Road.

The language experts who had a hand in the writing of this answer must be a bunch of illiterate ninnies with an IQ way below that of a retarded bonobo. Of course the reader is wrong. "Premises" used in that sense is one of those nouns that are always plural and there are no exceptions. Any average English speaker knows that. One doesn't even have to be an English language expert to know something this basic and simple. And yet Singapore's English language experts are as clueless as a newborn babe in swaddling clothes.

Both books are filled with such priceless gems. It's hilarious to see how these ignorant experts hedge their answers or conceal their ignorance with jokes and generally make all kinds of ridiculous statements which, I'm convinced, will leave the reader with the unmistakeable impression that they are no more language experts than a troop of jabbering baboons.

I highly recommend ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN and ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN 2 to those who are reasonably proficient in the English language and who may have need of something to make them laugh. For learners of the English language, it is prudent to assume everything stated in both books to be wrong because the odds are high that it is wrong.

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