Speak Ostentatiously Alienating English

Welcome to the Speak Good English Movement 2006!

This Movement celebrates its 6th anniversary on 25 July 2006 with a slew of announcements on new partnerships with various organisations that will result in a series of exciting activities throughout the year.

Slew? SLEW??? SLEW??

The last time any normal (i.e. non-teacher) English speaker used the word SLEW as an noun meaning "a shitload" was in the kiddies book Enid Blyton's Famous Five Finally Fuck-Up.

"Quick Jemima!" called young Alfred as he deftly climbed over the unlikely and contrived plot obstacles which implicated the unkempt old hobo living a dissolute life by the beach as the likely kidnapper and child molester, which we all knew from page fucking 1 anyway. "There's a slew of amazing coincidences that will wrap up the tenuous threads of this implausible story very quickly, just a few pages on, unless I fuck this deus-ex-machina thing royally up."

I'm thinking the good and proper Mrs Blyton probably wouldn't have used such an uncouth word as "slew" in good conversation, as it is "informal" according to Answers dot com, and Irish-Gaelic to boot! Not quite slang, but nearly.

According to E@L dot com "slew" is a pretentious wank word to use in this context and, now he thinks about it, it is probably quite inappropriate to use a word of Irish-Gaelic origin in a campaign that seeks to reduce the incursion of regional - Hokkein, Malay or whatever - words into the spoken English of Singaporeans.


To the discerning Anglophone [me!] the title of the entire campaign "Speak Good English" itself reads as a semi-pidgin phrase anyway, rather akin to David Sedaris's ironically titled Me Talk Pretty One Day. Am I Robinson Crusoe on this one?

"Speak Better English" would be... better an improvement.

"Speak Fucking English" is what E@L normally has to say to the Singaporean taxi-drivers of his acquaintance.


Fucking speaking of speaking fucking English, I've spent most the day when I should be either sleeping off a massive hangover or going to work (managed to do both!) watching a shitload (a slew) of hilarious "Chopper Read" videos on Youtube. From an Australian TV show that I have not otherwise heard of or seen.

This is not a TOTAL non-sequitur, blog-wise. William Gibson used Mark Brandon "Chopper" Read as the model for a toe-cutter (standover man) character in his novel Idoru.



Posted by: expat@large on Sep 26, 06 | 11:34 pm | Profile


Ya have to love chopper..."I'm sorry I shot you but you shouldn't have stuck me with the knife mate."

You really do hate Taxi drivers don't you?

Posted by: Indiana on Sep 27, 06 | 7:36 am

In my opinion, any kind of English that can be used to communicate one's message loud and clear to one's intended audience is good English.

I can't believe the Singapore government is still at it. Is the campaign actually effective at all?

Posted by: TruthSeeker Mama on Sep 27, 06 | 9:08 am

Indy: Chopper or Steve Irwin (if he was still alive) - whom would you rather have a beer with in a pub? Yes to the taxi-driver question.

Ange: to me "Good English" means the speaker has avoided unnecessary ambiguity by the correct choice of words and the proper use of basic grammar. Communication will follow automatically. When the wrong words are used, and in the wrong order, there will be a reduction in the quality of communication. Certain/most/all Singaporean colloquialisms - and the common misuse of proper English sentence construction - often render the sentence's meaning as greatly ambiguous to an International audience. Pity those for whom English is a second language; they find Singaporean English to be nearly incomprehensible. For me, it is difficult, even after more than 2 years living here.

The harsh brusqueness of the Singaporean accent and people's tendency to give each syllable equal emphasis make it difficult enough to comprehend what a local speaker is saying. Adding weird grammar and local dialect to that only creates more difficulties.

Speaking "loud and clear" - louder doesn't make it clearer. LOL! It is the syntax, look to the syntax!

I jokingly pretend that my blog is written in "good" clear English. I know it often isn't! But that is why the subtitle of this blog is "E@L Vs the fraternity of infinite monkeys": those who cannot reconstruct a coherent thought into a coherent unambiguous sentence but are just banging away on their keyoards with all the concern for accurate communication through correct prose as a bunch of ignorant monkeys. That any one of them (other bloggers) occassionaly strikes a sequence of keys which make sense is more a wonder of chance than of logic to me. IMHO. Joking. Pretty much. Those who are wilfully obscure I forgive - that is the privelege of creativity which I also value highly.

On an associated theme, blogging in pidgins (such as Singlish) immediately cuts your audience down to a strictly local one. I don't read Singaporean blogs which use Singlish expressions and neither do most people anywhere else in the world.

Talk about insular.

Other than that, no opinion.

I guess that means that the 6 years of the "Speak Good English" campaign have not been enough!

Posted by: expat@large on Sep 27, 06 | 10:33 am

Ah! Uncle Chop Chop on the Ronnie Johns half-hour. You're in good company there. My dear son, Daniel, has been wetting himself over this every week for the past few months. Totally UnPC and I'm proud of the boy!!!!

As for English, no-one mutilates as well as we do down here. PS Just sent the Chinese hospital e-mail 'cos I just remembered!!!

Posted by: Pete3859 on Sep 27, 06 | 5:19 pm

Bit of stronger parental guidance needed at Chez Pete3859's place, yeah? Next thing is you'll all be talking about turkey slaps around the dinner table!

none of that stuff ever happened at puritanical E@L GHQ when the golden-haried son was growing up!

Posted by: expat@large on Sep 27, 06 | 5:47 pm

Hey, I use slew. My mother uses slew. My dear departed Grandma used slew. But that may be because we's of Irish descent, sure an' begorrah.

Posted by: MercerMachine on Sep 27, 06 | 8:14 pm

Texan/Irish dialect hardly amounts to English... LOL...

Are you not confusing it for "the gunslinger went fer a dram a whusky in the s'lewn" ??

My mother is pure Irish - fourth generation Australian but they're still pure Irish in the hills around Colac...

She wouldn't be saying "slew" now, would she, t'be sure? Herself'd be saying "a shiteload". Arrrggh. Oops bit of pirate talk got in there..

Posted by: expat@large on Sep 27, 06 | 9:05 pm

Copper Read is farking sexy.

Today I kind of figured out why Singapore has a speak good english campaign.

we were on a call with colleagues from the other side of the world (ie. i really mean the united states)

one of these yanks spoke normally when in exchanges with her own kind. but when she spoke to us (ie. the Asians on this side of the world) she was s p e a k i n g a t a farking s p e e d of 1 w o r d f o r e v e r y 5 s e c o n d s. i kid you not.

I was horribly insulted. do these ppl think we don't speak english here?

The Speak English Campaign, i suppose, is in defence against instances like this.

but if you tried shoving it into my face, I'd tell you to bugger off.

Posted by: The Ivy on Sep 27, 06 | 9:26 pm

Ivy - yes. People think that you don't speak English here.

That's because you don't speak English here.

Posted by: expat@large on Sep 30, 06 | 11:34 am

This conversation reminds me of one I had recently with a lovely Taiwanese lady who now lives in Singapore with hubby.

It seems she had expectations when she moved here of fitting right in. You see, she speaks pretty good (Canadian) English and perfect (Taiwan-style) Mandarin. No such luck obviously. Forget English, she often can't understand the Mandarin!

I'm told she hears weirdly abbreviated sentences and couldn't make any sense of them at first. For instance, at the food court, in Mandarin: "EatPack?" Her response was, "Umm, what?"


Posted by: knobby on Oct 01, 06 | 2:21 am

I think every country has its own colloqualism. For example if I went into a deli in Australia and asked for a sanger I'd get a sandwich. If i did the same in Singapore, i'd get a blank stare.

Singapore English is often perceived to be incorrect English, which i think isn't fair. Frankly I regard it as a dialect, or a kind of psuedo language of its own.

I mean, whose bright idea was it to decide that the Brits spoke a standard, and we should all follow suit?

Just cos we were once colonised don't mean we should keep believing in it.

PS. nothing against the Brits. I happen to get along pretty well with a large number of them.

What do you think, knobby?

Posted by: The Ivy on Oct 01, 06 | 8:38 pm

Miss Fiesty,

Couldn't agree more with the bit about slang. Which is why Phil says (and I concur) that we don't speak English here when we speak Singlish.

But I also think that people here aren't really speaking English even when they think they are. I mean basic grammar. Take singular vs plural, or tenses or any of that other boring stuff -- many (most?) Singaporeans don't know the basics.

Which is fine for Singlish, it's a language all its own, but *isn't* for English, is it?

Posted by: knobby on Oct 01, 06 | 9:59 pm

At Indy's BBQ last night, somebody said... "yada yada a slew of blah blah blah"

Mind, he was a teacher.

Ivy: If you ask for anything in Singapore, you get a blank stare in my experience.

You may be right, but colloguialisms, slangs, jargons, etc are uniquely interesting and wonderful in the their cultural isolation, but they are not as uniformly and widely accepted injections of other languages' words and grammer to create a new and completely local pidgin which threatens to disrupt international communications like Singklish does. IMHO. I could of course be wrong.

"Sanger" is not a foreign word the way "ah beng" is.

"Strewth, darl, isle ave a vegemite sanger, an make it snappy wouldja?" is perfectly comprehensible English that everyone can understand, particulary when mumbled softly at a million words a minute from behind a can of VB. Too rght!

Posted by: expat@large on Oct 01, 06 | 10:02 pm

Knobster - true, it isn't fine for Standard English, but then shoving a speak english campaign into the faces of common folk like you and me isn't fine either, even if we're living in a "fine" country.
(ok, I admit, I am being corny here)

E@L - do people really eat vegemite sandwiches with beer? not a very good combi, right?

Posted by: The Ivy on Oct 01, 06 | 10:37 pm

Just realised I didn't really answer your question about following a standard. I made the point about grammar because without basic rules that everyone followed, how would we understand each other? I've seen several examples of what E@L mentioned further above -- non-Singaporean English speakers scratching their heads at something they've heard and non-Singaporean non-English speakers being completely flummoxed!

Like you, I have no quarrel with either Singlish or English. I speak Singlish when the situation warrants it. But I don't confuse one with the other and I do speak both reasonably well.

What do you think?

Posted by: knobby on Oct 01, 06 | 11:42 pm

Just saw your last comment. Ok, looks like we're in violent agreement. Haha!

Posted by: knobby on Oct 01, 06 | 11:44 pm

such is the strangeness of the english language - how else can agreement be violent? hahaha

Posted by: The Ivy on Oct 01, 06 | 11:56 pm

Considering the potentially sensitive nature of my views on this subject, I have decided to post them on my own blog.

Posted by: TruthSeeker Mama on Oct 02, 06 | 2:29 am

okie angie, see ya at your blog!

Posted by: The Ivy on Oct 02, 06 | 10:57 pm


Notify me when someone replies to this post?
Submit the word you see below:

Powered by pMachine