Friday, March 7, 2014

Ultra CRAP!

If you have been following my blog, you will know that I've been excoriating the language experts of the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Speak Good English Movement in Singapore for their unpardonable ignorance of even the most basic English grammar rules. There is nothing more dishonourable than for an ignoramus to arrogate to himself the authority to teach others a subject that he knows absolutely nothing about.

Pliny the Elder tells the story of Apelles of Kos, a legendary painter, whose painting was once criticised by a cobbler who pointed out that the sandals in the painting were defective. The renowned painter corrected the error in his painting but the cobbler proceeded to point out other parts in the painting which he felt should be corrected, to which Apelles remarked, "Sutor, ne ultra crepidam" or "Cobbler, not beyond the last". The cobbler was told to venture no further than the last of the sandal which is where his expertise lay. He should not go into areas he knew nothing about.

It's from this that we get the English word ultracrepidarian which means a critic who is ignorant and presumptuous. The writers of ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN are all ultracrepidarians even though they shamelessly consider themselves English language experts. If the word is too long, you can always call these experts "ultra-CRAP" which is precisely what they are; not just ordinary turds but the ultra-excremental variety and they must be if they can't even get simple points of grammar right.

You can pick any page of either ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN or ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN 2 and I assure you you'll see something shockingly wrong. I've just allowed my fingers to touch one of the two books and it's ENGLISH AS IT IS BROKEN 2 and I picked a page at random and it's page 77 and sure enough there is a shocking error there. Here's a pic of it and you decide for yourself if the "expert" who gave the answer to the question is indeed ultra-crap.

From the answer given above I'm able to say a few things about the language "expert" who wrote this.

First, the English language must be as alien to him or her as Swahili is to me. Anyone who has some knowledge of the English language however rudimentary it may be cannot possibly make such an egregious blunder.  Next, only an ultra-Crap can be so ignorant of a subject and yet be so brazen as to hold himself out as an expert and I don't think anyone will disagree with me when I say that the writer of this passage fits the definition of an ultracrepidarian to a T.

I have been informed that no Primary school pupil will make the kind of mistake the language expert has made. This is so basic that all Singaporean pupils in Primary 3 must know this in order to be promoted to Primary 4.  How can the MOE be so misled as to hire language experts who don't even know a basic grammar rule that every nine-year-old in Singapore knows?

The rule in indirect speech is the opposite of what the "expert" says. The present tense in direct speech is often backshifted to the past in indirect speech when the time reference of the original utterance no longer applies at the time that the utterance is reported. I'll give an example from A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language (Section 14.31 at page 1027):
'I am being paid by the hour,' she said.
She said she was being paid by the hour.
The example our disgraceful language expert gives is a stupid example because it doesn't illustrate anything and it only serves to convince the reader that the "expert" knows nothing about grammar. What he gives in the example is a to-infinitive and only a nitwit with a bad concussion will give such a dumb example. In "He told me to go to bed" go will always not be in the past tense because it's an infinitive. Any child of ten can tell you that.

Let's alter the dunderhead's stupid example and we can see how moronic he is:
He said, "Go to bed after you have said your prayers."

Of course there are always exceptions but as a rule, the indirect speech will have to be
He told me to go to bed after I had said my prayers.
The present perfective is backshifted to the past perfective.  As I have said, as in anything in English grammar and usage, of course, there are exceptions. If I haven't gone to bed yet and my mum asks me what the man just said to me, my reply would be "He told me to go to bed after I have said my prayers." But this is not what our dumb expert writes. As you can see from the excerpt I posted above, he or she says, incorrectly of course, "As you are reporting what the person told you, the tense does not change for the reported part of the speech." I still can't get over the fact that anyone can make such a stupid statement. You can't get more wrong than that. I used to have a pet parrot called Polly who knew better than our language expert. She would always say, "He said I was a bad bird". The MOE should dismiss their panel of birdbrained language experts and keep half a dozen parrots which I'm sure won't be so featherbrained as to make such an outrageous blunder.

If you are interested in seeing thousands of other errors Singapore's English language experts have made, click here. Please note that the list will be updated every time I publish a fresh post in my blog on the subject.

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