Pretentious Singlish

Sunday Times column today by John Lui laments the English language quirks in Singapore that makes him

…break out in a word nerd sweat…”

For example, recent discussions in Singapore about “meritocracy” exposes how it is bandied about by many without a careful consideration on the limits of its usage. A meritocracy is a system of advancement based on “merit”, which is usually measured in terms of ability (and usually not, to the contrary or what one might think from the common usage of the word “merit”, contribution or hard work). The suffix -ocracy is probably in the same sense of “autocracy” or “democracy”, i.e. referring to systems of government and leadership.

The author lists other “crutch words” that Singaporeans rely on when feeling insecure to show that they can pepper their sentences with long, cheem-sounding phrases, like

…”what it boils down to”, “essentially” and “at the end of the day”, to fill gaps.

Agreed. There are others that we can add to the list. Especially when spoken with a self-importance tone and exaggerated intonation. It just gives me the shivers.

And not just spoken: even when used in writing by large companies and government agencies in important-sounding declarations.

“Culture of excellence” as the corporate slogan of the moment… combines two good words, culture and excellence, into one blood-curdlingly vacuous phrase. It also carries the unfortunate implications that before its arrival, employees strived to fail.

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