Old school

When I attended primary school in the late 1980s, school teachers recommended pupils to buy, in addition to the standard curriculum, an English language guidebook in softcover called ‘Primary English’.

I thought it was one of the best to have come out of our English education system.

I remember reading it every other day for leisure, along with an old English dictionary belonging to Mama, and had learnt by heart the numerous proverbs, idioms and phrases contained in it.

It helped that I was an English nerd but really, when it comes to learning the myriad ‘exceptions to the rule’ in our language, there is no other way except Old-School rote-learning.

England since the 1960s, to their detriment, has all but ditched its traditional teaching of English grammar in its schools. The empirical data from England speak for themselves. It is now a cliche that a person who speaks and writes English as a foreign or secondary language tends to have a higher proficiency in it than the average native user.

Singapore appears to be heading the way of England when MOE dumped grammar drills for ‘functional literacy’. Should it be a cause for concern? I don’t know. It seems that I have to trust the ‘experts’ on this one.


Proved vs proven

The past participle of ‘prove’ is not ‘proven’. It is ‘proved’.

E.g. We have ‘proved’ our theory to be correct.

Careful writers and editors will use only ‘proved’ in spite of some dictionaries’ including ‘proven’ as an alternative.

‘Proven’ is used only as an adjective.

E.g. It is a well proven model.

Profanities and verbal intelligence

A recent study conducted on only 40-odd participants in the US, age 18-22, concluded that ‘people who are well-versed in curse words are more likely to have greater overall language fluency’.


First, the sample size is too small to make this certain a conclusion.

Second, the number of profanities with which one is able to come up does not mean one uses them habitually in everyday conversation. Mere knowledge does not equal practice, it just means that people who KNOW more curse words tend to have larger vocabularies.

Third, let us assume the conclusion is accurate. This still does not account for the rest of the native and non-native anglophone world. Results may differ.

Fourth, I have yet to meet someone whose every other word is R-rated use a variety of such expressions: it seems to be the same few words. How is that a reflection of a rich vocabulary?

Only an ass

I studied ‘Maths’ as a school boy whereas my children study ‘Math’, an abridged version that discards the all-important ‘s’. ‘Maths’ as an abbreviation has more going for it because it consists of the first and last letters of the full word, ‘Mathematics‘.

‘It is only an ass’, some say. No, it is not only an ass. It is the creeping kowtowing to American imperialism.

Domestic helpers are human too

Before one sits comfortably in the moral high chair and ejaculate (pun very much intended and very viciously so) simplistic ripostes about their not getting pregnant in the first place, put oneself in the shoes of these workers.

They are human beings, like all of us, with social and sexual needs. They are working in an alien country for long stretches of time without going home, without hugging their children, without making love with their partners.

What would the average person, with an average muster of self-control, do? It has nothing to do with their work attitudes. The saintliest among us if given similar circumstances might also falter.

A man would at the very least masturbate, if not visit the red light district. So maybe the domestic workers should do the same?

Otherwise quit the holier-than-thou rhetoric about how these foreign domestic workers are not to be trusted and are unruly and how they should focus on only working in their employers’ homes instead of finding for themselves Bangladeshi construction-worker boyfriends.

Instead of thou-shalt-nots and thou-shalts, for goodness’ sake offer a listening ear and an open heart.

Maybe a vibrator and boxes of condoms too.