A blog dedicated to English grammar, usage and phonetics/phonology, and errors by proficient users (because they teach us more than typos and badly written signs by the semi-literate)
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
No Outside Food
In Singapore, signs like the above are very common. You’ll find them in restaurants and cafés whose owners, perhaps understandably, want to restrict the use of their tables to their customers. In this context, the term outside food refers to food bought elsewhere, i.e. not from the restaurant or café displaying the sign. It may also be used as an antonym of home-cooked food.
Among campaigners for good English in Singapore, there is a sense that the above message is non-standard and hence to be discouraged. The following sign appears to be an attempt at expressing the same message in Standard English.
I am not entirely sure that this is an improvement, for it does not sound very idiomatic either, i.e. not something a native speaker (however you choose to define her or him) would say. Perhaps it is necessary to recast it more radically, as any one of the following (or variants thereof):
These tables are for the consumption of food purchased/bought here only.
These tables are for our customers only.
Only for the consumption of food purchased here.
Only for food purchased here.
Not for the consumption of food bought elsewhere.
You’ll probably agree that this little exercise is a good example of a cure being worse than the original ailment! Note that, by comparison with any of the above, the original message, No outside food allowed, is beautifully concise, precise and immediately comprehensible, at least in Singapore.