Go big or go home…

Archive for June 2010

Bookends

Posted on: June 29, 2010

It was sixteen months ago. The first day of my shiny Singapore job. I chatted to the receptionist while I waited for HR, and smiled when she said her name was Rose. The receptionist at my London office was called Rose – maybe this was a good omen, perhaps I was meant to work here.

She asked the usual questions – where was I from, how long had I lived here? “Only a month,” I said, almost apologising. “Don’t worry,” she replied, laughing, joyful, “the hot weather will soon melt all that fat of you.”

Now it’s a year on. Tomorrow I leave this job. The coincidence of a shared name didn’t turn out to be that good an omen, but neither was it the worst. Everything teaches us something.

I go to say goodbye to Rose. She hugs me and says it’s always the nice ones who leave. Then she steps back and cocks her head, eyeing me critically. “You’ve lost weight. Whatever you’re doing it’s working.” I smile. Skinnier to start my new job. That must be a good omen. Right?

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The following is quite old. I wrote it when I was frustrated but I’m a happy monkey again now.

I am British.

*hefts leather-bound, gold-edged, old-skool passport onto the table with a resounding clang*

I write like a British person. I would suggest, immodestly, I write rather well. Certainly my blogs provide semi-regular entertainment for literally tens of people.

Conversely, I’m not Singaporean, and don’t write like a native islander.

This is understandable on many levels. For example, someone who speaks both English and Chinese is more conscious of word order than someone who speaks English alone.**

In other ways, this thoroughly confounds me. I will never understand why “persons within the vicinity of” is deemed simpler than “people nearby”.

**One of the reasons English is a successful lingua franca is that its structure is so utterly forgiving. You can treat English like a bitch and she’ll come right back for more.

This explains why English speakers developed beat poetry, for better or worse.

For a grown-up discussion of why English (and Chinese) rocks, I recommend Otto Jespersen’s Growth and Structure of the English Language (1912). Because I love you, here’s a free copy.

Mind you, counter to my argument Jespersen feels it is the degree of rigidity rather than permissiveness that makes English successful.

He sez:

Apart from Chinese, which has been described as pure applied logic, there is perhaps no language in the civilized world that stands so high as English.

Existing as it does at the intersection of these languages, perhaps it’s really Singlish that’s at the pinnacle? 😉

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