Saturday, August 25, 2007

More Straits Times Blunders

Think the Straits Times is the premier English language broadsheet in Singapore, JB, ... and some say Batam? Think again…

Trodding the path (Straits Times, Aug 24, 2007)? Goodness, no: make it treading. This is an irregular verb with the forms tread, treads, trod, treading, and trodden. Hence:

Pat tries to tread carefully. (to-infinitive; base form)
Pat treads carefully. (present tense)
Pat trod carefully. (simple past)
Pat is treading carefully this time. (present continuous/progressive)
Pat has trodden carefully this time. (present perfect)
Pat shunned the well-trodden path. (–en participle as adjective)

His daughter, whom was now holidaying in South Africa (Straits Times, Aug 16, 2007)? Wrong. Make it: … his daughter, who he pointed out was now holidaying in South Africa.

News have been making headlines (Straits Times, Aug 25, 2007)? Do we say The news are brought to you by the BBC or No news are good news?

Surely not. Make it has and is, since news is a non-count (uncountable) noun and hence always singular. News is, therefore, like information, furniture and equipment.

So, is the Straits Times the world-class broadsheet that it claims to be? And is it in any position to help ordinary Singaporeans ‘speak good English’, when it can’t even get primary school-level grammar right?


lovelyloey said...

"...his daughter, who he pointed out was now ..."

Will "is now" be better? "was now" sounds odd to me. It's just like saying "He said that she was currently the class president".

The Grammar Terrorist said...

It's fine actually -- in reported speech, it is very common for a present-tense verb to go into the past tense, even if the fact it describes is still true at the time of reporting. This is called 'backshifting'.

But in many cases this is not a hard-and-fast rule, and the writer/speaker is free to choose: e.g. 'Jim told me that his hometown was/is smaller than NUS campus'; 'Jim told me he had a friend who believed the earth was/is flat'.

Anonymous said...

frankly speaking.. i have not heard of the word 'holidaying' before.. and it kinda sounds weird.. is there such a word?


The Grammar Terrorist said...

Hi, Bhairavi!

Yes, there is such a word -- I've just checked my Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary and it is listed without any cautionary comment (e.g. slang or informal). This is British English. The American English counterpart would be 'vacation', e.g. 'She is vacationing in South Africa at the moment'.

Anonymous said...


why is it "who" and not "whom"?

The Grammar Terrorist said...

The faulty sentence is:

'He pointed out that he loved ... his daughter, whom he pointed out was now holidaying in South Africa with her son at his expense'.

It's wrong because 'he pointed out' is a parenthetical thought: It (i) behaves as if it were in brackets; (ii) can be removed; and (iii) does not have any effect on the sentence grammatically. This is illustrated below:

(i, iii) '... his daughter, who (he pointed out) was now holidaying ...'

(ii, iii) '... his daughter, who was now holidaying ...'

Note that if you use 'whom', you get the ungrammatical 'his daughter, whom was holidaying ...'. This is because 'whom' is an object pronoun, whereas it is not an object here (of the verb phrase 'pointed out') but the subject.

The error here is an instance of hypercorrection -- when people try to be correct/too correct and end up committing a blunder.