Author Topic: A wide-raging potpourri of bad English aired in the Forum 12 years ago  (Read 20197 times)

Joe Carillo

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From 2010 to 2011 or 12 years ago, the Forum had an informal and wide-ranging colloqium of sorts on bad or questionable English usage participated in by an Irish priest doing religious missionary work in the Philippines, a former University of the Philippines-Diliman chancellor, a former Filipino accounting associate professor in Okinawa, and at the time a Europe-based Filipino foreign service professional. Learn from their lively and incomparable potpourri of insights on proper English as used in various parts of the world.—Joe Carillo, April 27, 2022

                     IMAGE CREDIT: PINTEREST.CH                                                                    IMAGE CREDIT: MAXENGLISH.TIPS

MISTAKES CAN VARY FROM SIMPLE TO INTERMEDIATE TO COMPLEX GRAMMAR ERRORS LIKE THE ONES SHOWN ABOVE

The colloquium of sorts was started by the e-mail sent to the Forum by an Irish missionary priest based in the Philippines:

Fr. Sean Coyle, a native English-speaker from Ireland who has been doing missionary work in the Philippines since 1971, sent me the e-mail below in November of 2010. He is the editor of Misyon, the website of the Columban Lay missionaries in the Philippines, which can be found at www.misyononline.com.

Dear Mr Carillo:

If you haven’t done so already, maybe you can address some common mistakes in writing. One is, e.g., ‘The church is across McDonalds on Rizal Avenue’ instead of ‘The church is across from McDonalds . . .’ or, better, ‘The church is opposite McDonalds . . .’

I often come across such things as ‘I was discriminated by the head of the Organization’ instead of ‘I was discriminated against . . .’

Another very common misuse of English here is ‘I asked sorry’ or ‘I asked for an apology’ when the very opposite is meant: ‘I apologized’.

Another common mistake I come across often in the broadsheets is ‘Majority of Filipinos are opposed to . . .’ instead of either ‘A majority’ or ‘The majority’, depending on the context. The word ‘majority’ should always have either the definite or the indefinite article in front of it except in headlines.

‘Taken cared of’ instead of ‘taken care of’ is one of the most common mistakes.

I often read ‘The President’s plane arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport’ instead of ‘. . . arrived at Ninoy Aquino . . .’ You don’t read in American papers ‘He arrived at the John Kennedy . . .’ or ‘He arrived at the JFK’ but rather ‘He arrived at John Kennedy . . .’ or ‘He arrived at JFK . . .’ On the other hand, if the name of the airport isn’t used the use of the article is proper, e.g., ‘He arrived at the airport’.

Maybe this is due to the influence of the languages of the Philippines which use the preposition ‘sa’, e.g., in Cebuano, ‘Nakaabot siya sa Ninoy Aquino . . .’

I have come across some very fluent writers of English who nevertheless make grammatical mistakes. I don’t know if there is a good summer course available to give good writers a good grounding in English grammar.

PS I prefer to follow British usage with regard to abbreviations, e.g., ‘Mr’ instead of ‘Mr.’ The top English and Irish broadsheets go even further: ‘Major-General’, for example, becomes ‘Maj Gen’. I’m surprised that American-usage is still so old-fashioned in this digital age!

My reply to Fr. Coyle:

Thank you so much for pointing out the English-usage errors you commonly encounter in your readings. I have had occasion to discuss many of those errors myself in my weekly English-usage column in The Manila Times over the past eight years and, lately, also in my English-usage website, Jose Carillo’s English Forum, that I launched in May 2009. I agree with the correct usages you prescribed, and I’m enjoining the members and guests of the Forum to take careful note of them.

The only point where I differ with you is in the matter of your preference for not using the article “the” in sentences like “The President’s plane arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.” I think this a stylistic choice that’s best left to the writer or speaker, not prescribed or forced on him or her. As far as I can gather, in both their written and spoken English as well as in the print media, Filipinos automatically put the article “the” before the proper name of international airports as a matter of convention and stylistic choice, and I think it’s best to leave it at that.

On the matter of punctuation: Since you are a native English speaker from Ireland, Fr. Coyle, I made it a point to print your e-mail as is, retaining the exact way you use punctuation marks like the period (it’s the “full stop” in British English, of course), the comma, and the single-quote quotation mark as well as the way you don’t use the period to punctuate abbreviated words like “Mr” and “Maj Gen.” The way you use those punctuation marks is actually very illustrative of how British English differs from American English—the English standard used in the Philippines—in the matter of punctuation alone.

Let me just quickly summarize those punctuation style differences for everybody’s benefit:

1.   British English uses single-quote quotation marks, while American English uses double-quote quotation marks; then, for quotes within quoted material, British English uses double-quote quotation marks, while American English uses single-quote quotation marks.
2.   British English puts the closing quotation mark inside the period (“full stop”) that marks the end of a sentence, while American English puts the closing quotation mark outside the period that marks the end of a sentence.
3.   British English puts the comma outside the quotation mark that closes quoted material (whether the quoted material is a statement or a quoted term) before the word outside the quotes that immediately follows it, while American English puts that comma inside the quotation mark in such grammatical constructions.

(Click this link to read my extensive discussion of how American English and British English differ in the way they handle quoted material.)

You say that the American English style for the use of punctuation marks, particularly its preference for putting the period in the abbreviated “Mr.”, is “still so old-fashioned in this digital age.” I must say that I disagree with you on this. I think it’s simply a widely accepted grammatical convention that’s no different from the way British English spelled “music” as “musick,” “traffic” as “traffick,” and “check” as “cheque” way back in the early 1800s, until Noah Webster in the United States decided to change them to their simpler spelling that are much more widely used until today. As I said earlier, style in language is a matter of choice and whatever becomes predominantly accepted is the “correct” one.

Like you, Fr. Coyle, I also don’t know if there’s a good summer course currently available in the Philippines to give writers a good grounding in English grammar. Perhaps we should address this question to Forum members who might happen to know of one. In the meantime, if I may be allowed to pitch a little commercial, I would like to suggest as reference my three English-usage books, Give Your English the Winning Edge, English Plain and Simple, and The 10 Most Annoying English Grammar Errors. They deal with practically all of the grammatical mistakes you mentioned—plus so many other interesting things besides about English writing and exposition.
« Last Edit: April 29, 2022, 06:41:42 AM by Joe Carillo »

Gregorsoph

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Re: Some common mistakes in English writing
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2010, 10:45:36 PM »
Hi Joe,

To add to Fr. Coyle's list of common Filipino mistakes in English, may I point out the following common mistakes which I often encounter in my students' papers, in newspapers, in street signs, and in some uniforms of traffic officers:

1. "cope up with" instead of cope with

2. "avail of" instead of avail oneself of

3. "request for something" instead of request something

4. "bound to Antipolo" instead of bound for Antipolo

5. "Filipino-Chinese" to refer to Filipinos with Chinese genes instead of the correct term, Chinese- Filipino. A "Filipino-Chinese" is a Filipino immigrant in China just like a "Filipino-American" is a Filipino    immigrant in the US.

6. "for a while", used in answering a telephone caller, instead of the correct "just a minute"

7. "result to" instead of result in

8. "traffic enforcer" instead of traffic regulator or traffic officer. One can enforce traffic rules but one cannot enforce traffic.

I can cite many more common Filipino mistakes, particularly in English pronunciation, but this list is getting too long. I'm certain that you have already addressed most, if not all, of these mistakes in your previous postings and columns.

Best regrads


Roger Posadas   

Joe Carillo

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Re: Some common mistakes in English writing
« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2010, 09:23:30 AM »
Ms. Aurora Riel-Grimes in North Carolina sent in by e-mail this morning, November 7, this feedback about common errors in English writing:

Dear Joe,

Call me “Simple Simon.”

I suspect that most of our errors can be avoided by using short and simpler sentences. I also suspect that we need to learn how and when to use each of the 90+ one-word prepositions.  Such may help retire most of our trite prepositional phrases we call clichés.

For subject-predicate disagreement, it is easy to lose sight of the subject that is amidst wordy clauses, modifiers, and prepositional phrases. 

Misplaced modifiers and clauses suggest that we did not plan to say them before we opened our mouths. They were second thoughts. They should not be forced insertions. They belong in the next sentence. The next sentence will allow us to place the modifier close to the modified, whether before or after.
 
As communicators (writers, speakers), we need not feel like we should say everything in one breath.

Pausing, we may hear how our listeners hear us. We may realize how good, or awkward, or pretentious, or even ludicrous we sound.

scoylumban

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Re: Some common mistakes in English writing
« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2010, 04:23:36 PM »
Thanks for your reply to my email. When I became editor of Misyon in 2002 I asked a journalist on the Sunday Business Post, published in Ireland, about 'correct' usage. He told me that each paper has its own style and rules. Publications in Ireland, Britain, Australia and New Zealand follow British usage generally while those here and in the USA use American English. In Canada they use a mixture of both, as far as I know. Having lived in Ireland, the USA, Philippines, Canada and Britain I'm sometimes confused about the spelling of certain words such as 'surprise' or 'surprize' and other words that end in 'ise' or 'ize' and also about words such as 'windshield', the British usage for 'windscreen'.

I accept your point about Philippine usage with regard to 'arriving at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport' even though I would never write that myself nor do I think that 'he arrived at the Heathrow Airport' would be accepted outside this country. However, it is an area where the writer's 'feel' for language comes into place. I would be inclined to write 'He went to the University of San Carlos' because it 'runs' better than 'He went to University of San Carlos'. Yet I would write 'He went to USC' and not 'He went to the USC'.

With regard to quotation marks, British usage allows both, single or double, using the opposite for a quotation within a quotation. I checked today's Irish Independent online and found double quotation marks in one article and single in another.

I've moved towards placing the period or full stop at the end of quotation where logic dictates it should be. I'm not always consistent.

I still think that the convention in American English of using the period at the end of an abbreviation such as 'Mr." is curiously old-fashioned, though correct. It is strange that the country that gave us 'plow' as an alternative to 'plough' and 'labor' instead of 'labour' still sticks to the period where British English has largely, though not totally, discarded it. However, this is not a question of correct or incorrect. For me it's also a question of aesthetics. To me 'Mr Carillo' looks better than 'Mr. Carillo'.

The Dominican Province of the Philippines have a family magazine - I can't remember the title - that doesn't use the period at the end of abbreviations, so I'm not a lone voice. However, I stress that this is not a matter of correct and incorrect. Language is living and would never change or grow if writers and editors didn't make choices.

The closing paragraph of former Chief Justice Panganiban's column, With Due Respect, in today's PDI reads:

As a footnote, may I add that the inquisitorial system is still regularly used in many countries. On the other hand, the adversarial system was introduced to the Philippines by the Americans at the dawn of the 20th century and had been used regularly since the Supreme Court was founded in 1901. As an exception, contempt cases initiated by the judges themselves had always been decided via the inquisitorial method.

Surely 'has' should have been used instead of 'had' since Artemio V. Panganiban was explaining the difference between the adversarial system and the inquisitorial system and when the Supreme Court uses each. 'Had' seems to imply that the Court no longer uses either system.

Thank you for reading this.

Fr Sean Coyle

Joe Carillo

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Re: Some common mistakes in English writing
« Reply #4 on: November 08, 2010, 08:04:49 AM »
Hi Joe,

To add to Fr. Coyle's list of common Filipino mistakes in English, may I point out the following common mistakes which I often encounter in my students' papers, in newspapers, in street signs, and in some uniforms of traffic officers:

1. "cope up with" instead of cope with

2. "avail of" instead of avail oneself of

3. "request for something" instead of request something

4. "bound to Antipolo" instead of bound for Antipolo

5. "Filipino-Chinese" to refer to Filipinos with Chinese genes instead of the correct term, Chinese- Filipino. A "Filipino-Chinese" is a Filipino immigrant in China just like a "Filipino-American" is a Filipino    immigrant in the US.

6. "for a while", used in answering a telephone caller, instead of the correct "just a minute"

7. "result to" instead of result in

8. "traffic enforcer" instead of traffic regulator or traffic officer. One can enforce traffic rules but one cannot enforce traffic.

I can cite many more common Filipino mistakes, particularly in English pronunciation, but this list is getting too long. I'm certain that you have already addressed most, if not all, of these mistakes in your previous postings and columns.

Best regrads


Roger Posadas   

Yes, Roger, I must have already addressed in my previous postings and columns several of the grammar errors you listed above, but it's always good to point them out every now and then as part of a continuing effort--shall we call it a grammar drill?--to completely eliminate them. Your listing is therefore most welcome and greatly appreciated!

Joe Carillo

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Re: Some common mistakes in English writing
« Reply #5 on: November 08, 2010, 08:25:35 AM »
The closing paragraph of former Chief Justice Panganiban's column, With Due Respect, in today's PDI reads:

As a footnote, may I add that the inquisitorial system is still regularly used in many countries. On the other hand, the adversarial system was introduced to the Philippines by the Americans at the dawn of the 20th century and had been used regularly since the Supreme Court was founded in 1901. As an exception, contempt cases initiated by the judges themselves had always been decided via the inquisitorial method.

Surely 'has' should have been used instead of 'had' since Artemio V. Panganiban was explaining the difference between the adversarial system and the inquisitorial system and when the Supreme Court uses each. 'Had' seems to imply that the Court no longer uses either system.

Thank you for reading this.

Fr Sean Coyle

Your observation is absolutely correct, Fr. Coyle. Actions, activities, or activities that have continued or persisted up to the present should be rendered in the present perfect tense, not in the past perfect as was done by former Supreme Court Justice Artemio Panganiban in the above passage that you cited. That passage should therefore be corrected as follows:

"As a footnote, may I add that the inquisitorial system is still regularly used in many countries. On the other hand, the adversarial system was introduced to the Philippines by the Americans at the dawn of the 20th century and has been used regularly since the Supreme Court was founded in 1901. As an exception, contempt cases initiated by the judges themselves would always be decided via the inquisitorial method."

Note, though, that I used the present perfect "has been used regularly" instead of "had been used regularly" only in the case of the adversarial system, but used the habitual modal form "would always be decided" instead of the past perfect "had always been decided" for the use of the inquisitorial method of trying cases. The habitual modal form is called for in the case of the inquisitorial method because it is evidently a standard practice that hasn't changed at all since it was started.   

bance33

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Re: Some common mistakes in English writing
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2011, 09:11:47 PM »
You wrote (to Fr. Coyle):
"I agree with the correct usages you prescribed, and I’m enjoining the members and guests
of the Forum to take careful note of them."

I wonder if the verb "enjoining" is aptly used in the above sentence. While there is no doubt in my mind that you are the authority here as far as correct grammar usage is concerned, somehow, the use of the verb "enjoin" doesn't seem, well, agreeable ;)

Joe Carillo

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Re: Some common mistakes in English writing
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2011, 12:16:15 AM »
I’m comfortable with my usage of the transitive verb “enjoining” in the sentence in question. In the Philippines, it’s very widely used in that context to mean “urging strongly, “prescribing a condition,” “giving instructions to,” or “directing” somebody to do something, as in “She ended up enjoining everyone to ‘like’ her page on Facebook.” These definitions are, in fact, duly noted by a number of authoritative dictionaries, among them Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged and Random House Dictionary. Some people, though, believe that “enjoin” should only be used to mean “to direct or impose” or “to prohibit,” as observed by my friend Butch Dalisay, the UP English professor and Palanca Awards Hall of Famer, in his Philippine Star column “Penman” in January 2009. May I invite you to specifically explain your own objection to this particular usage of “enjoin”? That way, I think we can more fruitfully pursue the discussion.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2011, 12:34:14 AM by Joe Carillo »

bance33

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Re: Some common mistakes in English writing
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2011, 11:54:22 PM »
Webster defines "enjoin" as "to command, order someone with authority: to forbid, to prohibit". I remember using this word a long time ago believing it meant the same way as you mean it now. However, my British editor colleague disagreed with the use of the word and when I checked the dictionary, I got Webster's meaning which was not what we wanted (we didn't want to sound arbitrary). I recalled that incident when I saw your use of the word. However, if other dictionaries define "enjoin" as "urging strongly" or "giving instructions" then I agree with you that the use of "enjoin" in that context is just fine. And it's good to know its meaning is not limited to Webster's.

Joe Carillo

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Re: Some common mistakes in English writing
« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2011, 07:48:35 AM »
That’s right, bance33. Surprisingly, despite being reputed to be more descriptivist and permissive than other dictionaries in its league, the Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary indeed restricts the verb “enjoin” to the following definitions:

enjoin
1 : to direct or impose by authoritative order or with urgent admonition  <enjoined us to be careful>
2 a : FORBID, PROHIBIT  <was enjoined by conscience from telling a lie>  b : to prohibit by a judicial order  : put an injunction on  <a book had been enjoined prior to publication — David Margolick>
synonyms see COMMAND

In contrast, the Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged provides more definitions for “enjoin” and much wider latitude for its usage:

enjoin
vb (tr)
1. to order (someone) to do (something); urge strongly; command
2. to impose or prescribe (a condition, mode of behaviour, etc.)
3. (Law) Law to require (a person) to do or refrain from doing (some act), esp by issuing an injunction
[from Old French enjoindre, from Latin injungere to fasten to, from in-2 + jungere to join]

The Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary similarly provides more definitions and senses for “enjoin”:
 
enjoin
• formal to tell someone to do something or to behave in a particular way
[+ to infinitive] We were all enjoined to be on our best behaviour.
He enjoined (= suggested) caution.
US legal to legally force someone to do something or stop doing something

It’s evident that “enjoin” is used in many more senses than what the Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate has captured in its more restrictive definitions. This shows that the sense of a word in actual usage can prevail over the definitions prescribed for it by particular dictionaries.

(Full disclosure: I use the Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary in CD-ROM as a quick reference for my English-usage columns and this Forum, but I don't feel bound by its prescriptions when they don't dovetail with what I personally know to be a word's denotations in actual usage in my own linguistic community.)