Can’t use Singlish, but Indian English can?

Dey. Do you have a PhD in English Literature? If you don’t, you can’t use Singlish! And you better ensure that your kids correct common errors in their English from a young age! So you may think that it’s a good idea to get a book titled “Common Errors in Pupils’ English”. You may think that that will help you guide your kid to avoid the potential pitfalls in learning the langauge.

And you would be dead wrong.

According to the book, it’s ok to use “revert” to mean “reply”. As in it’s ok to tell someone that you will “revert to him” when you mean that you will “reply to him”. No. it doesn’t work that way. When you say that you will “revert to someone”, it means that you will change back to that person. Unless you have some mutant power, I highly doubt you are able to change from one person to another and then change back. So no. If you are using “standard English”, there is no way you can “revert” to someone.

Then why the flying fuck does the entire bloody civil service think it is ok to use “revert” to mean “reply”?

According to this New York Times article, the use of “revert” to mean “reply” started in India:

“It turns out that unbeknownst to most dictionaries, revert has been leading another life in several varieties of world English, notably the kind spoken on the Indian subcontinent. The usage has finally garnered the attention of the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, which amended the definition of revert for its newly published eighth edition to include the meaning “to reply.” Marked in the OALD as “Indian English,”(emphasis mine)…”

That’s right folks, you read it right. The use of “revert” to mean “reply” is Indian English. Not “standard English”. It seems that the civil service condones the use of Indian English. If Indian English can be accepted to be used in the civil service, then why do we reject Singlish?

If the PM’s press secretary is so fixated about Singaporeans using “standard English”, then perhaps she ought to start with the civil service. Anyone in the civil service who uses “revert” to mean “reply” ought to be fined. If that doesn’t happen, then perhaps our government isn’t quite certain what is “standard English” in the first place!

[Featured image: from Mr Brown’s Facebook page]


2 thoughts on “Can’t use Singlish, but Indian English can?

  1. Pingback: Daily SG: 31 May 2016 – The Singapore Daily

  2. Actually don’t even need to know std eng or singlish or us eng or ahneh eng or peenoi eng or African eng. Totally cannot speak eng also can. Most important to survive & make a living in S’pore is to be able to speak Putonghua or cheena mandarin. Witness the millions of cheenas in s’pore who can’t even speak a word of eng or singlish and still earn good salaries; some even working for umpteen years in stat boards or GLCs.


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