Not say I want to say, lah, but…

I don't think I can ever look at a frog the same way again after watching the frog sashimi video on YouTube

I went swimming with two of my closest friends yesterday.

Our engrossment led my sister to say, “I see this is why you are not replying to my Whatsapp messages. You are hanging out with other people who don’t need to work today!”

Sour grapes aside, why I was so engrossed in swimming was because I learnt something very important and potentially life-changing.

One of my friends, who previously worked as a lifeguard and a swimming coach, told me, “Eh fatso, you’re doing the breast stroke wrong. You’re doing this,” he said and demonstrated what I was doing.

“You should be doing this instead,” he continued and demonstrated the correct stroke, which I subsequently tried and kept on practicing for the rest of the time we were swimming.

I don’t think I’ve mastered the correct stroke yet, but suffice to say, I could immediately feel the difference in my speed and efficiency in the water.

And all the time, I thought I was a slow swimmer.

So when I got out of the pool, I realised: What the f-awrawrawrawrawrawr, man.

I’ve been swimming the breast stroke wrongly for 22 years! It’s like speaking the English language wrongly and saying things like “in the society” and “an elderly” and having no one correct you.

How inefficient and backward is that? Shouldn’t we be utilising the respective strengths we have to inform each other of what we’re doing wrong to help each other improve?

So to this end, I’ve decided to start a regular feature in this blog (alongside my other regular “Shared Items” feature) called “Not Say I Want To Say”.

It’ll focus on the appropriate use of Standard Singapore English (SSE) so that my desire to blurt out statements like “Add value! Not value-add!” or “Take medical leave! Not take MC!” in conversations with people no longer needs to be suppressed.

NOTE:

  1. I acknowledge that language can be fluid and meanings of words and styles of expression do evolve over time.

    So besides pointing out the standard form of usage, I’ll also discuss the efficiency of the current meaning/expression and its potential for adoption.
  2. Also, the name of the category itself (“Not Say I Want To Say”) is an expression in non-SSE which means “It’s not that I really want to mention it” – a qualifier that a speaker uses before saying something undesirable in order to ‘give face’ to someone else.

    Why I am using it then, even though it’s in non-SSE? To give you face, lah… LOL! But…
  3. …I’m not infallible myself, so do let me know when I’ve gotten things wrong too – I’d appreciate it very much.

 

About the author

Laremy Lee

A versatile educator, writer and editor, Laremy Lee (李庭辉) has the uncanny knack of being one of the few among his generation in Singapore who crafts compelling stories in different genres.

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  • Very interesting — language variants are important for editors to be aware of. For example, as an editor in the United States, I would use “learned” instead of “learnt” and “utilizing” instead of “utilising.” Not wrong — just different! Phrases like “not say what I want to say” are so interesting, as a cultural thing — how much of our spoken language expresses not specific content but rather social needs?