Welcome to the third edition of “Not Say I Want To Say”!
I owe all of you a post on this since I was knocked out on Fri after the ‘twin happiness’ of enduring a somewhat painful surgery and discovering that I’d been selected for the Gangwon-Style Immersion Programme.
(BTW please humour me regarding what I “owe”; it’s a psychological thing to motivate me to post at least one article a day, so please harangue me if I don’t update this site daily!)
Today’s “Not Say I Want To Say” word is “elderly”.
Example from a news report:
Two China nationals from a syndicate were arrested by the police on Sunday afternoon for allegedly attempting to cheat these elderly, mostly in their 60s.
From “Two men arrested in fake gold ingot scam targeted at elderly”, my emphasis.
How has “elderly” been misused here?
The speaker has used the word “elderly” as though it were a noun. However, the word is only used as an adjective or as a collective noun.
In other words, “elderly” can only be used to modify another noun e.g. the elderly person (where “person” is a noun) or to refer to a group of people in society e.g. the needs of the elderly.
How do we use “elderly” correctly?
Ask yourself: am I referring to one senior citizen or a group of senior citizens?
When you need to refer to one senior citizen, use “elderly” as an adjective – not a noun:
- A 40-year-old driver has been fined S$7,500 and banned from driving for 42 months for causing the death of an elderly pedestrian. (Correct)
- A 40-year-old driver has been fined S$7,500 and banned from driving for 42 months for causing the death of an elderly. (Wrong)
When you need to refer to a group of senior citizens:
- It stipulates punishments for people who abuse the elderly, fail to support them and interfere in their freedom to marry. (Correct)
- It stipulates punishments for people who abuse elderly, fail to support them and interfere in their freedom to marry. (Wrong)
- China has passed a new law stipulating that family members should pay regular visits to their elderly relatives, according to the government’s official website. (Correct)
- China has passed a new law stipulating that family members should pay regular visits to their elderly, according to the government’s official website. (Wrong)
Efficiency of non-standard use:
Actually, quite efficient – consider how “family” is used as a noun (e.g. “his family“), a collective noun (e.g. “the role of the family in society today”) and an adjective (e.g. “the family car“).
Potential for adoption:
SOME possibility for adoption. But seriously, you’ll sound like a boor if other English speakers don’t use “elderly” in the same way.
Have a good Monday and don’t let the Monday blues get you down (save that for me and my linguistic fascism)!