Monday, June 30, 2008

Open/Opened Revisited

The photo below was sent to me by a friend (thanks, Leonard).

‘This Upgraded market and Food Centre was declared opened by ...’.

Make it open, since it is an adjective here and not a passive verb form. (The opposite of open, however, is closed.)

Friday, June 20, 2008


Seen in a British supermarket (Sainsbury’s, Lancaster in northwest England) in May 2008:

Hmm, isn’t vinegar an uncountable/noncount/mass noun? So why the plural –s marker?

That’s because it’s not the substance that is being referred to here, but specific varieties thereof: indeed, on the shelves we see balsamic vinegar, white balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar and cider vinegar, amongst others.

Likewise, we can say I have drunk all the finest coffees of the world, but not *I love coffees.
Also, As Well, Too, Either In Negative Clauses

‘He can take some comfort in the fact that others did not fare well too’ (Sunday Times, 1 June 2008).

‘Oh boy, no break for tots, too?’ (Sunday Times, 1 June 2008).

Interestingly, both mistakes appeared on facing pages in the same edition of the Sunday Times. Make it did not fare well either and no break for tots either.

According to Michael Swan’s Practical English Usage, ‘After mentioning a negative idea or fact, we can add another negative point by using not … either’. The example he gives is:

You can’t have an apple, and you can’t have an orange either (not *you can’t have an orange also/as well/too).
Thou Shalt Not Share Your Prepositions

‘America stays largely silent or tiptoes around the unquiet realm of race’ (Straits Times, 22 March 2008).

Wrong: America cannot stay silent around the unquiet realm of race, but it can stay silent on it. Since the verbs stays and tiptoes take different prepositions, they cannot share a single one, so we need to recast the sentence (the commas are optional):

America stays largely silent on, or tiptoes around, the unquiet realm of race.

Similarly, it would be wrong to say:

Kate loves reading and experimenting with new technology.

Rather, we should say:

Kate loves reading about and experimenting with new technology.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Mall [sic] Perplexing Headlines

These two headlines, from a recent Great Singapore Sale ’08 special, will probably have you scratching your head if you pronounce your /l/s at the end of syllables.
For many Singaporeans, however, mall rhymes with more — this is because syllable-final dark /l/ is liable to become a vowel (i.e. it is ‘vocalized’) or be deleted altogether.
Friends Car

Seen in London recently: ‘It’s like borrowing a friends car’.

Make it a friend’s car. Guess one out of two is not bad, but curiously the writer got the ‘easier’ possessive apostrophe wrong and the notoriously problematic contraction apostrophe (it’s = it is) right.

A similar problem below (Today, 23 May 2008): make it 25 years’ jail, since it’s possessive.
Manila Buys Choppers From Singapore

The New Paper, 9 June 2008