Archive for April, 2009

Dictionary Skills

By now, most of you would have known about the Altantuya word which was supposedly included in the Malaysian issue of Cambridge Learner’s Dictionary. If you look at the following definitions, you would know that it’s a hoax.

Definitions of Altantuya

Just pay close attention to the magnified words and you”ll see what I mean. It states that Altantuya can be either a verb or an adjective. However, the  5 definitions in no way mention any adjectives. Definitions 1 to 5 point to the fact that it can only be used as a verb.

Look at definition 1. Instead of explosive, it should be pluralised. Even then, the definition is still dodgy. Committing murder by the use of explosives? How? Banging them on the person’s head? It should be made more explicit: To commit murder by blowing the person up with C4 explosives.

Definition 2 should be “make plans” even though one plan is made.

Definition 3 has too many tos.

Definition 4 should be written thus: …by having others do

What’s the moral of this? If you plan to be an English lexicologist, make sure you know the ins and outs of  the English language. And if you can’t measure up to that, at least know the basics of dictionary skills. We don’t want trickters whose tricks fail to achieve their purpose, do we?

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April 30, 2009 at 6:34 pm 1 comment

P/S: Troubling Consonant Clusters

pygmalionDear readers,

Have you tried saying grasp, crisp and hasp in quick succession? If you happen to say them as they’re meant to be pronounced, congratulations to you. However, there are cases where these words come out sounding like graps, crips and haps. And if you fall into this latter category, you are not alone provided you’re living in  Malaysia. The reason for the inversion of the two consonant clusters from sp to ps could be due to ease in pronunciation.

Having said that, consonant clusters like st or sk do not follow the inversion rule. I notice that in colloquial Malaysian English, words like blast, fist, bask and dusk follow a different rule namely the dropping of the last consonant. Hence these words sound like blas, fis, bas and dus. Any idea why blats, fits, bats and duks are almost unheard of? If you do, please let me know.

Regards,
Higgins

P/S: Do mind your ps and sp nonetheless.

April 25, 2009 at 10:10 pm Leave a comment

THE For Emphasis?

Definite ArticleIt has come to my knowledge that there is this worrying trend among some folks in Malaysia of placing the definite article right after the word very. Though it’s grammatically wrong, it does follow the rule as mentioned above. Two examples that I’ve heard of are:

  • Thank you very the much.
  • I am very the angry with you.

I am aware that language use changes over time. In fact, I’m still trying to grapple with “You’re so fired” or “She’s so gonna kill you”. But are you so gonna accept this very the troubling phenomenon?

Do you think this trend is passing or it will catch on? I’d love to hear your comments. And I’d like to know how many of you have heard of this the phenomenon by taking part in my poll.

April 24, 2009 at 8:15 am 5 comments

All Things Under

Any resemblance between this and lingerie?A friend of mine told me recently that she was made aware of the other meaning of sotong. She found it baffling that it’s a euphemism for lingerie. I must admit I agree with her on that.

But I suppose euphemisms are not meant to be explicit, but rather suggestive. If it’s too suggestive, then it borders on vulgarity. Women detest to be compared with tarts, pies, or any other pastries for that matter.

Coming back to what’s worn under, you might be interested to know what  a spender is. It has a different meaning in colloquial Malaysian English. It’s in effect a corruption of suspenders, which in colloquial Malaysian English are actually briefs. Like sotong, I bet you can’t see any resemblance between suspenders and briefs. Perhaps it’s not the physical resemblance that we are looking for, but rather its function.

April 23, 2009 at 5:39 pm Leave a comment

What’s Wrong with Uncle and Aunty?

Ah Chek and Ah ChimWhen I asked Periwinkles to read this article which was published in The Straits Times, she had a good laugh. Of course her laughter was spelt out in her email rather than blasted out. Unlike them, we have been spared from all those terms. Despite our advanced years, people still call us  ko ko (which means brother) and che che (sister).

But even if they were to call us uncle or aunty, we wouldn’t take umbrage. After all, Asians consider relationships very seriously even among friends. Attaching all those terms which are usually found in family circles to friends or strangers indicates the desire to include rather than exclude.

For the Chinese, terms of address found in the family are so complex that it takes a lifetime to learn. Let me exemplify these by sharing with you some of the terms found in the Hokkien community:

  • Ah Pek (dad’s older brother)
  • Ah Chek (dad’s younger brother)
  • Ah Mm (Ah Pek’s wife)
  • Ah Chim (Ah Chek’s wife)
  • Ah Ko (dad’s sister)
  • Ah Tio (Ah Ko’s husband)
  • Ah Ku (mom’s brother)
  • Ah Kim (Ah Ku’s wife)

To simplify things, some have actually resorted to calling uncles and aunties rather than trying to preserve the status quo. Do you think we should move with the time? Or preserve those terms which indicate the close-knit nature of the family?

April 21, 2009 at 9:14 pm 2 comments

The Impossible Dream

Susan singing I dreamed a dream

Susan singing "I dreamed a dream"

If dreams are easily attained, then perhaps they aren’t dreams. They are just mere possibilities. If I am rich, there is no need for me to dream of owning a mansion. That is after all within my reach.

In the case of Susan Boyle, her dream appeared so preposterous that the audience afforded her looks of cynicism and contempt. But dreams are made in the face of all these setbacks. Just because she appears dowdy doesn’t mean she’s  empty inside. And the fact that she doesn’t come in the shape that one desires doesn’t make her unattractive.

My dream is that one day East Malaysian English and West Malaysian English will be found in English dictionaries. What are the chances?? Talking about chances, perhaps it’s good to listen to what Don Quixote has to say about the impossible dream:

April 20, 2009 at 12:38 pm Leave a comment

Fewer or Less


If there is one thing we can learn from this, it’s that what is correct may not sound correct. Part of the reason lies in the ubiquitous “or less” that one sees at the check-out counters.

April 17, 2009 at 12:09 pm 1 comment


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