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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? 😉


I haven’t subconsciously picked up any Singlish yet, but I do find myself deliberately modifying my speech.

On my way to work this morning I had the following exchange with a cabbie:

Me: Nets can?
Him: Ah, money can?
Me: Eh, no money for lunch, ah!

Which means:

Me: Please could I pay using my Nets bank card?
Him: Waiting five minutes for the card reader to process is something of a hassle. Perhaps you could pay by cash?
Me: Well, I *could* pay cash, but I don’t have much on me at the moment, let’s stick to Nets shall we?

Incidentally, if the card reader were actually broken (or he pretended it was) it would have been:

Me: Nets can?
Him: Nets cannot. Money can.

The definite ‘cannot’ changes ‘Please could you pay cash’ from a question to a statement.

The grammar in Singapore is more Chinese, yet the alphabet and vocabulary is more English. Which is the sensible way round – combining English verb declensions with Chinese characters could trigger some kind of language apocalypse.

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