English as it is spake

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When I was in Pri 1 (ACJS), I got really annoyed with people who pronounced “their” as “they-are”. My annoyance continued for years, because the correct pronunciation is “there”.

Still, few people bother to correct this kind of vocal travesty.

It is a peculiar phenomenon that annoys me only a little less than people who cannot pronounce their own names…like “Eileen” (it’s Ay-leen, not Ee-leen. Ask Dexy’s Midnight Runners if in doubt).

A few weeks ago, we were at a Chinese restaurant when the mother at the next table kept telling her children to eat their “Spee-Narch” and “Bro-Kor-Lee”. Strangely, the rest of her English was pretty okay.

The worst has gotta be my driving instructor from BBDC, circa 1993.

“EXAGGERATE! EXAGGERATE!” he shouted.

I said, “Huh?”

“EXAGGERATE! Step on the Exaggerator!”

“Oh, okay, go faster ah?”

Anyway, our English is all going to hell, especially mine. To the partial rescue is the book “Eat, Shoot and Leaves” by Lynne Truss, otherwise known as “The No Tolerance Guide To Punctuation”.

I borrowed it from my colleague…it’s damned funny, yet highly instructive. Here’s a quick quote in the chapter about commas:


Of course, if Hebrew or any of the other ancient languages had included punctuation (in the case of Hebrew, a few vowels might have been nice as well), two thousand years of scriptural exegesis need never have occurred, and a lot of clever, dandruffy people could definitely have spent more time in the fresh air.

3 Replies to “English as it is spake”

  1. Eh, I’ve always believed that my English is better than your average Singaporean… but even then, there are times when i come across words that i know how to use in writing, but do not know how to pronounce. What’s worse is that there’s no one around me that I can ask (and i would trust to give me a correct answer)!

    I have my little peeves too about commonly mispronounced words – like “photo-graph-er”… and the word that REALLY bugs me ‘cos it’s totally wrong is… “irregardless”….

  2. Another peeve is “Esplanade”. I don’t understand people who insist on calling it “Es-pla-NARD”. Is it the lemonARD that they drink? For goodness sake, the place is sugly (super ugly) enough as it is.

    Me and a friend do duel over the simple word of “gigabyte”. Is it “Gee-gabyte” or “Gii-gabyte”? Actually, according to Merriam-Webster, both are right. So Jo, pls quit bugging me on this ok!?

  3. I’m one of those that pronounce “Es-pla-NARD”. Sometimes I can’t make up my mind, so I’ll switch between “nard” and “nade”. ha.

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