31 August 2008
Educating Phua Chu Kang - and failing
This year's Good English “It’s Not A Campaign” Movement was launched on Tuesday and somehow I feel I’m partially to blame for its existence – even though I speak English more gooder than the Queen.
The movement was first launched in 2000, a year after Phua Chu Kang was criticised for promoting Singlish by then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong in his National Day Rally speech.
And just my luck, I happened to be executive producer and writer for PCK at the time.
I’m accustomed to having my work rubbished by reviewers, bosses, colleagues, family, acquaintances and strangers I meet on the street, but when the head of state expresses his disapproval of your little sitcom in front of the whole country like that, it stings just a little bit more
There were fears that the series would be cancelled. Or the Government might even shut the whole TV station down (which to some, wouldn’t have been such a bad idea).
The more paranoid warned that there would be a knock on the doors of all those who were involved in the show and we would never be heard from again.
My biggest worry was they would bring back Three Rooms.
So when the PM suggested that PCK should attend English lessons, who was I not to dutifully write the episode where PCK had completed those lessons?
To keep Singapore’s favourite contractor alive, I had to neutralise what made him both popular and undesirable – the Singlish.
Then going beyond the call of duty, in the same episode, I took the opportunity to correct the mispronunciation of the name of PCK’s nephew “Aloysius”, which should be pronounced with four syllables, not three. (Incidentally, Aloysius was played by future detention barracks guest Marcus Ng.)
But soon after I left the series midway through the third season, the show – which survived eight seasons until February last year – reverted to the mispronunciation, which is understandable because it reflects how most Singaporeans speak.
I guess if Ralph “Call Me Rafe” Fiennes can insist on pronouncing his name differently from how the rest of the world pronounces it, all the Aloysiuses of Singapore can do the same.
(Try whispering “Aloysiuses” really fast a dozen times in its correct pronunciation without sounding like you were imitating the ocean.)
So my mini Speak Good English Movement on Phua Chu Kang failed, and rightfully so.
The actual Speak Good English Movement, on the other hand, has outlasted the sitcom whose linguistic influence the movement was created to counter.
That is, assuming PCK isn’t coming back.
Or is he? Stay tuned.
- Published in The New Paper, 31 August 2008
TRENDING POSTS OF THE WEEK
It’s the biggest chicken-related food news to hit Singapore since KFC’s Chizza . On Friday, Ikea posted on its Facebook page : "De...
First, the species confusion over Hello Kitty , and now this. Online registration opened at noon today for the Hello Kitty Run and the ...
It’s like 1996 all over again. Only instead of the Macarena , we’re dancing Gangnam Style . Instead of watching the White House get bl...
Toggle has reported that actress Carole Lin has given birth to her first child: Despite being told by a gynaecologist that conceiving at ...
I first met Darryl David at Gurmit Singh's wedding dinner in 1995. David's date was a woman named Lynette Pang , who was a stag...
Okay, I surrender. I admit it. I was wrong. In April last year, I wrote a column called “ So is Joanne Peh really going out with Qi Yuwu? ...
A week ago, The Straits Times reported that middle-aged men are getting testosterone injections to boost their sex drive. This confused...
Lately, I've been noticing the recurring use of an unfamiliar word on social media. Aisey. Posted by SMRT Ltd (Feedback) on Wedne...
It started with this Cyberpioneer Facebook post: What does Military Expert (ME) 1 Clarie Teo enjoy, when she is not busy keeping ship eng...
Two years ago, when celebrity radio deejay Glenn Ong revealed that he was dating fellow MediaCorp deejay Jean Danker after splitting fro...