Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Speak Good English Movement's Consultant Strikes Again

In my last post, I wrote about a blogger who is a Vice-Dean in the School of Arts and Social Sciences and a consultant to the Speak Good English Movement. He holds a PhD in Linguistics from Cambridge University; his PhD dissertation was on some aspect of Singapore colloquial English. I would expect him to be far more careful before he denounces anything as non-Standard Singapore English. As you can see from that previous post on this blog, he was totally ignorant of a rather fundamental rule of grammar when he wrote in his blog that the Straits Times' use of a verb was not Standard English but was a feature of Singapore English derived from Chinese.

There is more in his blog. For instance, this:

Those who have been following my blog must know by now how I detest anyone who would, at the drop of a hat, brand anything as Singlish or non-Standard Singapore English. I always ask myself why this captious nutter can't simply look up a dictionary or a book on grammar before he puts on his pointy hat, plonks his rump on St Peter's throne and pontificates on what Standard English is.

This blogger is a good example. I won't name him because the purpose of my blog is not to name and shame anyone. I merely want to draw the attention of the people of Singapore to the fact that our command of English isn't bad at all. As a fervent supporter of Singlish, I really don't see anything wrong with a beautiful variant of English that is steeped in the history, culture and flavour of this land. Singlish is as homey to us as the fragrance of satay, prata and char kway teow. It's stupid to suggest that since foreigners might not understand Singlish, it should be abolished. You might as well say we should abolish Hokkien, Tamil and Malay because foreigners don't understand them.

Why does the blogger not check the dictionary before he declares that "departmental store" is Singapore English while "department store" is Standard English? I can't speak for the blogger because I do not know him but I do know some people who have this tendency of looking at any piece of writing in Singapore with a jaundiced eye. If you have been following my blog, you should be aware of some of the instances I've pointed out in my previous posts.

The simple thing to do when one is in doubt is to look up a good dictionary.  From the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, we learn this: "departmental store = department store". Nowhere does it relegate "departmental store" to Singlish or Singapore English.

I asked myself why the blogger didn't look up a good dictionary. Bear in mind that the blogger is the Vice-Dean of the School of Arts and Social Sciences in one of our new universities. As far as I know, all universities in this day and age channel funds first to their Business schools and if there is any money left over in the Finance Department, the Linguistics Department might see a tiny trickle. Perhaps you can't find the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary in the Arts library of any university. After all, this two-volume dictionary cost me quite a fortune and universities these days would rather spend their money on management books than invest in a mere dictionary.

So I looked up my old Concise Oxford Dictionary which I bought on a meagre schoolboy allowance. Now, surely this is something any library can afford even if it's starved of money by a university policy that generously favours the more money-generating faculties. This is what the Concise Oxford says: "departmental store = department store".

There we have it. "Departmental store" is Standard English and not Singapore English derived from Chinese.

It's interesting to note that one of his readers made a comment on his blog.

She asks if he's right. His reply is really amusing. This is what he says, "'Departmental' is an adjective that means 'connected with a department', e.g. 'departmental supervisor' (supervisor connected with a department). So, a 'departmental store' would be odd, because it would describe a store that is connected with a department." Well, the Oxford English Dictionary says you are wrong and that's that!

For a list of my blog posts on grammar terrorists, click on this. Please note that this list of grammar terrorists will be updated every time I publish a fresh post in my blog on the subject.

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