Friday, May 27, 2011

Catholic Tradition or Epic Fail ?

Following my previous blog about St Theresa's Convent, my sister text'd me to say that another venerable Catholic school, St Joseph's Institution, also has the same anomaly.

That got me wondering and so I looked up the Catholic Directory for Singapore.
Guess what I found?

Catholic schools and churches with the following names:
St Theresa's Convent
St Joseph's Convent
St Anthony's Convent
St Magdalene's Convent
St Patrick's School
St Anne's Church
St Joseph's Church
St Gabriel's School
Holy Innocent Girls' School
St Stephen' cetra..

Wow, what happened?
Most of the above names are schools where English is the language of instruction.

Maybe, it is a Catholic tradition to give possession of the school to its patron saint? I don't know.
Though I was born and raised a catholic, I didn't go to a catholic school so I wouldn't know if that's a school tradition, or an error perpetuated since the 1st Catholic school, St Joseph's, opened in 1852.

Anyway, not to dwell on this anomaly as I really don't know the background to it, I'd rather comment on the proper use of the 's in English grammer.

The best example for the proper placement of the apostrophe comes from the great poet Kingsley Amis when he was asked to demonstrate with a single sentence. He gave this....

  • Those things over there are my husband's. (Those things over there belong to my husband.)
  • Those things over there are my husbands'. (Those things over there belong to several husbands of mine.)
  • Those things over there are my husbands. (I'm married to those men over there.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Is it mine or yours? St Theresa's or St Mary's

I have this thing that's actually been bugging me for years and years.
I am sure it is wrong and yet I have not been able to get out of my malaise long enough to find out more, much less correct it or manage to do anything about it.
So I have been living with this irritation in the back of my mind all my life.

And what is this? It is St Theresa's Convent.

No, nothing personal against the school or the staff or her alumnae.
It is just the use of the name. Or should I say mis-use?

Even when I was a schoolboy passing the institution at Telok Blangah I have had this nagging thought that the name is wrong. After all these years, whenever I pass it now I still have that same feeling. Of all places, a school should not be called St Theresa's Convent!

And why not, you ask?   Well, it's simply incorrect, plain and simple.
Don't they have English language teachers who should have known that it is incorrect all these years?

Shouldn't it be rightly called St Theresa Convent?

Putting the 's behind St Theresa makes it the possessive of the proper noun, i.e. the convent belongs to St Theresa. But this cannot be as St Theresa died long before the convent was built and I am sure she didn't have possession of it at any time.

I searched their website but could not find any reason why the convent belongs to St Theresa. Often in the past, I had the thought of dropping them an inquiry to this effect but again never got around to that. haiz

So presumably, the convent was named after that humble nun, St Theresa. Therefore, it should be called St Theresa Convent and not St Theresa's Convent.

We honour famous people by naming  buildings, streets, places or even convents after them but it surely would be as a proper noun and not in the possessive syntax. It's like calling the Fullerton Building Fullerton's Building, or even horrors, as one Straits Times reader recently suggested renaming Singapore Changi Airport to Lee Kuan Yew Airport, it might then become Lee Kuan Yew's Airport instead!  
*(Lee Kuan Yew, the former prime minister of Singapore)

I hope to find some closure after all these years by speaking it out.
Any Theresians or English teachers reading this?

Closer at heart, I attend a catholic church called St Mary of the Angels. There, the welcoming ministers a.k.a the wardens, wear a sash proudly emblazoned with the words St Mary's.
I always wonder if that is also incorrect but I'll let that pass as they may associate their group as belonging to the Church, rather than being the name of the church, which then would be more or less correct. Guess it depends on how you see it.

Disclaimer: No Theresians were harmed in the writing of this piece. Any similarity to saints, persons or alumnae dead or alive is purely coincidental.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Don't say CUM !

I presume many will read this blog as a curious response to the word Cum in the header.

Wikipedia defines cum as:
A sexual term, meaning to orgasm
  • Semen or vaginal fluid, produced in ejaculation
  • A Latin word, which can be either the preposition with or a conjunction meaning whenbecause, or although.

I am actually going to blog about the 2nd definition (bummer, u say. haha)
Following my previous writeup on the difference between day off & off day, I just wanted to add to the growing list of mis-used words and phrases that are so often taken for granted here.

The latin word cum means with, but so often people here take it to mean And or Includes, which is wrong. Locally, you often see the word cum in the classified advertisements. 
e.g. Looking for Secretary cum typist, or people saying "I am having my breakfast cum lunch"

When you graduate cum laude, it says that you graduated with great praises (an honour) such as magna cum laude or summa cum laude. These are about the only latin references that uses cum nowadays.
So if you are placing an advert for a Secretary, you would phrase it as "secretarial duties cum typing".

On a funnier note, if you did graduate cum laude and if you don't seem to be getting responses to your online resumes for jobs, the reason is that most filtering computer servers will take the 1st definition of cum and mark your resume as pornography. ha ha.

Here's a clip from 'The Noose'. Listen to Babarella using the correct meaning of cum.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rule of 78s - the pitfall of credit rebates.

I get the monthly Lifestyle magazine courtesy of the NTUC, which I hardly ever take out of its plastic wrapping.  It's supposed to be Singapore's Largest Circulating Magazine, whatever that means. I always know it as a booklet full of adverts instead of being a serious 'lifestyle' periodical.

But once in a while I do rip the packaging and flip through the pages. Something caught my eye in this month's issue. An article called "Small weekly payments" in their MoneySENSE feature.

In the article, the author was relating his experience of buying a HD TV on credit installments. The TV cost $6,500 but was being offered at $5,200, (saving $1,300!). To avoid the heavy upfront outlay, the writer opted for the installment plan of paying only $44.90 a week. With a tinge of regret and in hindsight, the writer later calculated that in the end he would be paying $8,620 which was 33% more than the usual price or 66% more than the offer price.

I took an interest in the article because I previously worked for a major retailer who did precisely this kind of transaction, offering credit installments on purchases.

One thing that most customers don't realise, or are not informed of, is that the repayment scheme is based on what is called the Rule of 78s.  This is what most car loan companies, banks and finance companies use in calculating interest rebates.
I will not even try to explain it to you!

You'll probably be lost within the 1st sentence of the complicated formula. Look up Rule of 78s in Wikipedia if you really want a background on calculating your loan payments. 

In a very simplistic nutshell explanation, it means that you pay the interest on your loan before your payments start reducing the principal amount.   That's why you always lose out when you decide to foreclose the loan earlier than the term allows. There is hardly any interest rebate left to take back. What's left of your outstanding loan is most of the principal sum because you have only been repaying the interest portion of your loan first.

A simple example is your credit card bills. If you just pay the minimum monthly sum each month, you will realise that you are just paying interest for that month and there is hardly a reduction of the credit amount used.

Caveat emptor.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Father of modern Singapore

As I write this, my country is in the midst of a General Election. The populace will elect or re-elect a government in a few days time according to their vote.

In the press, on the Net and in the coffee shops, arguments and counter-arguments, points and counterpoints, insinuations, mudslingings and the usual campaign gimmicks are all the talk of the day.

One particular piece of writing on the Net caught my eye. This person described the venerable Mr Lee Kuan Yew as the founder of modern Singapore. Hmmm, I was wondering. Is this what is being taught in schools now? I don't know.

From my own pathetic knowledge of local history, I thought that modern Singapore was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles back in 1819?  Was I wrong? 
Then again, when I took History of S.E.Asia as an A Level subject, it was way back in 1972, but I still can recall certain facts vividly because of my interest in local history at that time. Or has history been re-written since then?

From my aging memory, I recalled something like this....

The region around us then (i.e. S E Asia) was divided and controlled by both the Dutch and British, who were bitter enemies at that time.
Stamford Raffles, the British lieutenant-governor of Bencoolen in Western Sumatra, wanted to impress his bosses, the East India Company. He sought permission from his superior, Lord Hastings in India, to try and establish a greater presence right in the middle of the Dutch territories. (very garang! especially because the EIC Court of Directors were against this idea, but he went ahead anyway)

Raffles considered places like Bangka, Karimon, Bintan and Lingga before finally settling on an island called Singapura.  All these places were within the domain of the Rhio Sultanate, now know as Riau, Indonesia.  (Trivia- his initial preferences were actually Bangka or Bintan.)

The Sultan of the Rhio Sultanate, Sultan Mahmud, had recently died and his throne, based at Lingga under the Dutch, was usurped by the younger son Abdul Rahman instead of going to the rightful elder son Hussein Long.

Through political intrigues, Raffles brought the elder Hussein Long to Tumesek and installed him as the Sultan to be recognised by the British, in exchange for trading and administrative rights over the newly founded trading port (Singapura). The date was 6 February 1819.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew was not the founder of modern Singapore. He happened to be the incumbent prime minister of the island when Singapore was kicked out of the Federation of Malaysia on 9 August 1965. By default, he became the head of the government of a newly independent country.

Full credit must go to him and his team of people in the immediate period following Singapore's independence as a soveriegn country and the most difficult task of continuing to govern without much resources.

In 8 years time in 2019, Singapore will celebrate its bicentennial of its modern founding and its 54th year as an independent country. We should celebrate our modern founding with as big a bang as we can.
200 years of Singapore!

I hope I will still be around then.

Photo by hjtann