Friday, August 17, 2007

Speak Good English

One small irony of Singapore's Speak Good English movement is that for most Americans, the phrase "Speak Good English" would probably be treated with suspicion as potentially ungrammatical, thanks to the same instinct that makes us think we should say "I feel badly" instead of "I feel bad."

Even I, non-prescriptive-grammarian that I am, have to pause.

Speak English Correctly?
Speak English Well?
Speak Better English?
Speak English More Properly?
Speak Proper English?

You have to wonder what they really mean, though. "Speak Good English," in Singapore, I imagine, is code for "don't speak Singapore English." Which some would go so far as to say is code for "don't express your identity in the way you feel most comfortable." I'm not sure I'd say that. But when the name of the movement makes a "native speaker" like me trip up, you gotta wonder what's going on ah.

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