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Mind Your Language! May 12, 2006

Posted by The Truth in Im Allgemeinen.

Of course, this will appear on ClubLife…but all of you, my faithful flock, get to read it first. Yosh.

Yes, you’ve probably heard the following saying:

Good grammar is the key to all good communications

Probably used by English teachers on recalcitrant students, this saying probably has some degree of truth in it. I mean, good communications can also mean the steamy moaning and grunting with your partner in a cramped toilet cubicle (or her boudoir, for that matter) – it simply means you’re enjoying the action you’re getting (you lucky bastarddude/-tte…) But, good grammar is more than that. It’s not just something you learn in school to ace your examinations (although that’s a rather spiffy side benefit. Yosh.) but it’s something which is useful for much of your life, no matter what you pursue – yes, from boardroom to boudoir, seriously.

Let’s see. Do you think you’re going to impress with a lot of basic grammatical errors, like false conjugation of verbs (a cardinal sin in English, considering verbs are very much simplified,) wrong tense usage, wrong pronouns, et cetera? Are you going to convince that HR manager/scholarship agency/university admissions office/girlfriend-to-be that you really give a damn when your language implies that you don’t? I think hearing your lover whisper in your ear ‘i loves you velly velly much’ is a particular turn on, unless you find broken English especially titillating.

Correct expression. Communicating to impress isn’t just about being grammatically sound. Communicating to impress also requires of you the command of a sufficiently broad vocabulary. Use words like revert, reflect, get back to you, et cetera. They imply that you, having a sufficient command of the language, will thus be able to understand exactly what they’re going to tell you. It also shows that you are comfortable and in your own skin when expressing yourself; more plus points for your image! A pitfall for many who try to over-embellish their language, however, is that of false expression. Let’s ask you some questions.

  1. How do you use the terms e.g. and i.e. respectively?
  2. What’s ‘tautology’? How do you avoid it? Why should it be avoided?

If you can’t answer any of the two questions, then please go and wiki them or something like that. It’s some pretty useful information indeed.

Drawing words from other languages. Yes, although English is more or less the global lingua franca today, you can still draw many many words from any of the Germanic or the Romantic tongues – words which have no equivalent in the English language.

Fun fact: English was actually once a Germanic dialect.

Anyway, words you’ve probably heard of are stuff like Zeitgeist, Wunderkind, Sauerkraut, Schadenfreude, Doppelgänger, Poltergeist, ménage à trois (*chuckle*), vis-à-vis, à la carte, c’est la vie, enfant terrible, au pair, R.S.V.P., Antipasta, la Madonna (that’s actually Italian for Mary), maestro, exempli gratia, id est, nota bene, in vitro, Urbi et Orbi, yadda, yadda. You’ve probably come across these terms somewhere, but it’s just out of your reach. Yes, you can use terms stemming from other languages to zhng your language but ONLY IF YOU CAN USE THEM CORRECTLY. You’d make a fool of yourself if you didn’t know how to use them correctly.

Avoiding tautology is a big issue when using foreign terms. So be careful. For example, you could say ‘The Zeitgeist of the Renaissance period…’ but you can’t say ‘The Zeitgeist of that time…’ because the word Zeitgeist means spirit of the times. Careful formulation, plus a strong knowledge in these words, will ensure that you will be able to communicate in a colourful and interesting manner.

Another plus point for a wide vocabulary: you can now rephrase things to make yourself more convincing/appealing/(insert desired adjective here.) Yes, you REALLY CAN! That’s the power of words.

It’d be interesting, for example, if the current challenging procedure in the Army was changed to ‘HALT! Quo vadis?!‘ Okay…back to topic.

Spelling. I should not have to give anyone a lecture on spelling, but if you type too quickly without looking at the keys your fingers are mashing on, please use a spellchecker. Nothing is more frustrating than words which are wrongly grouped, because although your sentence makes sense, it’s frustratingt otryt odeciph erthem. Getw hati mean? If you’re really not confident with your spelling, there are a huge variety of online spellcheckers available for your usage. If not, just go and check an ordinary dictionary. Swallow your pride for once, won’t you…

Successful communications begins with the self. If you don’t emphasise on good grammar, who will?

Ed: Forgot to insert this…

Disclaimer: No one’s English is perfect. And no, the author does not possess a doctorate in English, and he just got ownedcorrected on a few problems here and there. Therefore, as you will probably see, dear reader, improvement is always possible. Happy zhng-ing your language!



1. Sam - May 12, 2006

Erm, pardon me…but isn’t it either “If you don’t place emphasis on good grammar” or “If you don’t emphasise good grammar”?…I might be wrong, of course…after all, my command of English grammar is pitiful. My Classroom English teacher will testify to that.

2. Sam - May 12, 2006

Ok, don’t wanna nitpick, but there are some other errors too…like “If you’re not really confident ABOUT your spelling..” Ok, I know you hate me now…but erm, if you do write a piece on such a topic…then you’ll have to deal with the extremely nitpicky critics. But you do make some good points…I cringe when I read “I’ll revert back to you!” Please don’t take this the wrong way, ok? Es ist alles lieb gemeint…

3. guojun - May 12, 2006

sei doch lieb, suesse…and…OH WELL SORRY EVERYBODY…as you can see, i’m not infallible too. haha. Good grammar forever!

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