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IT'S ONLY WORDS
Most misunderstandings are caused by a misinterpretation of words. The bulk of these can be avoided just by being more diplomatic and choosing the appropriate words to convey a more polite version of the contents of one's intended speech. Some people prefer to call it tact but to others, it is a devious usage of the complexity of the English Language. Why not call a spade a spade? Ah! But it displays one's mastery of the versatile yet confusing English Language.
"Due to unforeseen circumstances....." is a most convenient phrase for a non-committal letter-writer. Somehow, even though we can read in between the lines, it sounds so polite that we just can't lay the blame on the writer - the poor and unfortunate creature!
Well, if you're broke and your House Treasurer is breathing down your neck for your unpaid termly subscriptions, try telling him that "due to my negative financial situation plus my untimely lack of monetary resources at the present moment, my due payment will have to be withheld till a more favourable opportunity arises" - and he may gulp in all that you say. You may also add more colour to his by now pale face by comforting him that he can rest assured that you will endeavour to make that in the shortest time.
Or you may try one on your teacher if you happen to be late for class, that it was due to an unaccustomed delay in the public general mode of transport which rendered the schedule behind normal expected time that happened to create an unfortunate circumstance that particular day. After saying your eloquent explanation, deftly slip behind your desk with a portrayal of innocence with a "couldn't harm a fly" kind of smile. But don't try it on your English teacher - you'll never get away with it!
They are just words - mere words. It's just making the simple hard. These phrases tend to conjure, in the listener's mind, a different idea of what you intend to say. To put it crudely, the main aim is to confuse. We do not usually speak what we write. Therefore when we use written terms which we normally do not hear as spoken language - we do cause a bit of a tickle. These phrases are just for laughs. Try some. It may make life more amusing. But if we carry on confusing our friends and associates, we may end up being ununderstood instead of being mis-understood.
OF DIEHARDS AND BONEHEADS
Lee Yu Kit
The word 'chauvinism', like 'chivalry', speaks of an age long gone, when knights jousted with fiery dragons and eccentric Englishmen glared at eccentric Frenchmen across the English Channel.
Both words have their origin in French: 'chivalry' springs from cheval meaning horse, and originally represented the honours of knighthood, (knights rode horses) while 'chauvinism' owes its meaning to one Nicholas Chauvin, a French veteran soldier of the First Republic and Empire, whose demonstrative loyalty was celebrated and at length ridiculed.
In a world plagued by modern social ills, one might muse that chivalry and chauvinism have no place, but chauvinism is alive and kicking, not perhaps in its original form as 'an unreasonable enthusiasm for the glory of one's country' (Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current English), but as 'an unreasonable enthusiasm for the glory of one's cause'.
Often unrecognised, chauvinism plays an important role in the world today, from politics down to petty quarrels. Every one of us is capable of being chauvinistic at times, but we seldom realise or admit it, and we are only often reminded of it when, in an apperceptive use of this charming old word, some liberated female unreasonably screams "Male ... pig!"
Chauvinism is rather an extravagant emotion, demanding as its prerequisites, an unshakable faith, a bull-headed disposition, vehement denials, and last, but not least, the quality of being unreasonable. Chauvinism comes in several sizes, and there are several types.
Marque chauvinism is only too evident in the many clubs and societies patronising only one particular make of car, or even worse, one particular car. Owners of vintage Rolls-Royces carefully look up into the air and sniff when Cadillacs, Daimlers and Mercedes-Benzes are discussed in their company. Their attitude says .... "A… uh.. nice effort… try harder next time." Owners or one-time owners of the legendary Porsche Speedster look down with varying degrees of disdain on anything and everything else that seeks to emulate their motor-car, while members of the Corvette Cult sneer superciliously at anything else on four wheels that moves.
Marque chauvinism doesn't ignore or overlook faults; it glorifies them. The faults of the beloved (car) add to its character. Any other car that irrefutably matches their apotheosis is immediately held in blackest contempt as a foul impostor. (Chauvinism can be very vehement indeed.)
The fact that chauvinism makes almost no concession at all can be damaging to all concerned. The chauvinist who discovers that his piece of perfection isn't as perfect as perfection demands may be shattered psychologically and emotionally, although outwardly, he will still do his mouth-foaming, breast-beating, hair-pulling act if anyone dares drop a hint that his perfection may be lacking. The chauvinist's unrelenting stand may also result in a display of copious human emotion, especially so if chauvinist meets chauvinist, for when the Unmovable meets the Irresistible, the result can be quite Remarkable.
Everyone, in growing up, goes through stages of implicit belief in the one, the subject of idolatrous veneration depending on age. For small boys, the challenge, "My dad can beat your dad" often results in a beat-up dad, while slightly older boys assert that "Rover is the best dog in the whole doggone world." Pimply teenagers simper and turn an embarrassed beet root red when their goddess - who may be anybody from Sophia Loren to the girl next door - is mentioned.
It may be argued, of course, that these are only transitory phases, only akin to chauvinism; when the little boy discovers that his dad can't, and not won't, fly like Superman, when the slightly older boy finds that Rover left his signature at the most embarrassing place, when the teenager finds out that his goddess wears false eyelashes. Even in later life, however, blind belief that we call chauvinism (we call it childishness in younger life) pops up now and again, and often, this is a reflection of the times.
Women a century ago seeking emancipation poured acid down letter-boxes and screamed ribald abuse at blue-clad bobbies, but today, a liberated woman in demonstrative extravagance, burns her bra and seeks to bring down that legendary establishment, the alleged male chauvinist.
A male chauvinist, let it be said, is one who asserts that males are superior to females, and has the unmitigated gall to actually behave in this - this - condescending - manner. He airily assumes that she cannot do a job as well as a male, he airily assumes she has weak and delicate hands by opening doors for her and pulling chairs for her, he airily assumes that she is defenceless in a thousand and one gestures, he airily assumes she is inferior to the male, and he airily assumes that females need his protection and strength, and he throws a temper tantrum if she isn't impressed by his rolling biceps. How humiliating! How debasing! How chauvinistic!
The liberated woman seeks to end all this - her battle cry is 'From Adam's Rib to Woman's Lib,' and any mention of disparity between the sexes - except that females are superior - immediately brings about an attack of classic chauvinistic epilepsy and its concomitant symptoms - lots of foam at the mouth, red, glaring eyes, brow-beating, and hairpulling and a cry seeking to emulate Tarzan, for added dramatic effect. The liberated woman's life-long ambition is to make males realise that females are equal and even better; she seeks to change the social system of behaviour today so that she can make men feel inferior - (Oops!). Chauvinism does reflect the prevailing social mood, that of aggressiveness to assert superiority.
Chauvinism- so much in evidence today in a hundred different aspects and roles, is a sign of healthiness - it would be a far poorer and unhealthier world if everybody was logical and reasonable; it would be a far poorer world without screaming demonstrators protesting that hedonism is the way of life, without left-wing Communists and right-wing Fascists slinging insults and abuse at each other, without politically motivated urban guerillas trying to take on whole armies single-handed, for all these signs of chauvinism are signs of life, showing man's zesty approach to a life full of ups and downs and vicissitudes. Zealots are often feared for their fanaticism and unshakable beliefs, but zealots add spice to life, for this life is for living in, and a bit of eccentricity may be all the difference between a humdrum existence and one full of arguments to prove that that is best.
Human nature is such that life is seldom boring; everyone has a cause to champion; let us not say that "He's a stubborn bonehead," or "He's a stubborn diehard" but let us next time just smile and say instead "He's a stubborn chauvinist."
Greetings to my fellow nuts and nits, pests and what-nots. Before you fall off your worm-eaten chairs with the unbearable suspense, let me introduce myself. I'm Recce, the all-new snooping, sneaky, diabolical see-all, tell-all who's going to succeed fellas like Vikki, Vic and Choong as V.I.'s very own superduper spying pest. Now, ain't that just swell? Please, please...... no standing ovations. My deep-rooted sense of modesty will not allow me to bask in the glow of the Reverently Worshipped.
How? What? Why? When? Who? I can imagine those mind-cracking questions swirling around in your watery skulls and causing the most excruciating anguish. Sorely tempted though I am, I will suppress my sadistic instincts and nobly save you guys and gals from any further mental torture, thus revealing that basically, I'm an honest-to-goodness goody-goody and the next in line for the Nobel Peace Prize.
How did yours truly get the job? That's easy. I qualified for it by possessing a particularly misleading, innocent-looking face capable of producing, at a moment's notice, the blank I-Don't-Know-What-You-Are-Talking-About Look for sticky situations. Besides, I have a devastatingly disarming manner and most important of all, a keen survival instinct. All these come in handy for the unhealthy job of keeping a watchful eye on the underhanded things Victorians get up to when they're frustrated by anything from exams to girls. Now, it isn't low-down spying. It's an experiment in Watergate-style reporting and the ability to evade the clutches of red-seeing, snorting amoks. Gee, the day I decided to take on the job, my ever so sombre, nearby undertaker acquaintance started humming 'Top of the World' and throwing suspect glances at me.
Anyway, now that the introduction's over and I'm wearing ol' Vikki's oversized sieve-like shoes, let's get down to the real business in hand i.e. exposing all the little scandals hiding in the cobwebby nooks and crannies, dragging them out and building them up into respectable,award-winning BIG SCANDALS .......
SCANDAL: THE SCRAWNY CHICKENS
Yours truly was strolling round the school one sunny afternoon, quaffing in the inebriating beauty of the ever so familiar sights after a prolonged absence when he encountered a dastardly looking band of feathered cacklers. The astonished leader of the foul-looking fowls gave me a beady look - the kind of look my dear old man always gives anyone remotely resembling an Income-Tax Collector - that nearly threw yours truly off balance. I had been mortally insulted. Before I could collect my wits, the coward had scurried off. Now, how did he know I was going to grab him for an impromptu barbecue party?
What, I wonder, are those scrawny, sorry-looking so-called chickens doing wandering round the school? Has some bird-brained soul legalised Chickens' Lib? Has a Declaration of the Rights of Fowls been drawn up by Chicken Lovers Anonymous? Yours truly is very liberal-minded but not when it comes to having mean-looking feathers on two legs strutting around giving the school the image of a Home For Aged Fowl. Fence them in somewhere, say I. Or alternatively, yours truly would be glad to have them for surgery practice
SCANDAL: THE MYSTERIOUS DELUGE
I was ambling along to my Chem class in U6BM4 when I suddenly found myself slushing around in H20 in the corridor on to which U6BM4 opens. A new swimming pool? A hitherto undiscovered underground spring? The thoughts raced through my inquisitive mind as I rummaged through my pockets for my pencil-cum-divining rod. Having got it out, it was only a matter of minutes before I located the source. Well, whadduyerknow, it was the Girls' Room immediately opposite. I was prevented from carrying out any further investigations by a locked door. I didn't have any compunctions about inquiring further via the keyhole but my sense of ethics and fair play prevailed. The unnerving sight of a Blue Shirt further sharpened my sense of ethics.
Now I can only speculate as to the cause of that wishy-washy business. Solution one: The girls mass-attended the sob-sob show "Gone With the Wind" and came back to turn on the waterworks. Talk about orgies.
Solution two: It's a conspiracy to make life worse for hard-slogging, good-natured Lower Sixers like yours truly who wouldn't dissect a toad without writing a letter of condolence to his wife and kids, and who have to trudge the weary miles to various classes to attend their precious lessons. Yours truly might easily have slipped and hurt his lovable self.
Solution three: Some bright spark of a gal decided to turn the corridors of the Upper Six Block into canals like those good ol' Venice has, and give us blokes the chance to serenade her as we passed by in gondolas on our way to lessons. Yours truly would like to know who the gal is so that he can take the necessary steps to stay out of her clutches. Long live the bachelor species…
SCANDAL: MUGGERS, MUGGERS AND YET MORE MUGGERS
The mugging season has come round once again, and "there's a kind of hush all over the school." Silence please… the printed word is being arduously studied…
"Did you know that when Burt Bacharach plays, his fingers execute a rudimentary form of Simple Harmonic Motion?" "Now if we assume the acceleration..." "SHADDUP!" "SHEESHHHHHH........." "I titrated my coffee this morning and guess what I found!"
Your ever inquisitive Recce, keeping both eyes unobtrusively wide open, found, to his unending surprise, a plethora of specimens of the class Muggus Victorianus among his very own fellow Lower Sixers. In my own class, I discovered an unusual number of ardent Chemistry-Maths-Physics-Biology fans. Shuddering with shock, I managed to force myself to delve further into the matter, and came up with other mind-shattering facts. Having pieced my shattered mind together with the nearest tube of Airfix Glue, I'll now proceed to give the indisputable facts plain and straight.
The majority of these enthusiastic, untiring BORERS-OF-THE-PAGES-OF-BOOKS are… rrright!… members of the fairer sex. Who always have rapt faces during Chemistry lessons? Who always pass up their assignments first? And who always have completed maths problems to lend out? Now, make no mistake, yours truly isn't a misogynist (as a matter of fact, being a true humanist. I'm a great admirer of sylphlike forms and the MINI-SKIRT). But alas, do these delightful creatures have to be so single-minded as regards the cold, impassionate matter of MUGGING? How many aspiring Rudolph Valentinos, I wonder, have been put off by the flame-extinguishing look of pure, cold intellectualism?
And that's not all. Armies of nymphs continue to make inroads into every field previously sacrosanct to the MALE. The poor, harried MALE, alas, is going frantic with worry. He gazes at the up-and-coming SUPERWOMAN with a quaking heart and knocking knees. The myth of male superiority is no more.
Hold it though. All is not lost yet. The rugged Male knows he will survive, by hook or by crook. His devious mind will prove a match for the wiles of the Female. Johnny Weissmuller once said to a meek faylike creature, 'Me Tarzan, you Jane' and didn't get clobbered for assuming a lordly stance. (Of course, the modern Jane has come up with a reply, "That's fine. Now go and wash the dishes!")
But male pride lives on yet. Yours truly will set a shining example by paying reverent attention from now on to his Chemistry lessons. I go now to set up a proper working relationship with the pages of my Vines and Rees… three cheers for Bobby Riggs…
Mokhsein bin Tahir, L6A2
If there is something you have not studied,
or having studied it, you are unable to do it,
do not file it away.
If there is a question that you have not asked,
or to which you have been unable
to find the answer,
do not consider the matter closed.
If you have not thought of a problem.
or, having thought of it,
you have not resolved it,
do not think the matter settled.
If you have tried to make a distinction
but have not made it clear,
do not sink into contentment.
If there is a principle
which you have been unable
to put into practice,
do not let up.
If one person gets there with one try,
try ten times.
If another succeeds with a hundred tries,
Make a thousand.
Proceeding in this manner,
even one who is slow
will find the light;
even a weak person will find energy.
A First Former Writes
Before comng to the V.I., I was under the impression that the V.I.'s population comprised just brainy, cissy boys. But now, I know that I was wrong. The boys here are good at sports too. When I received word that I was joining the V.I. I jumped for joy for I was going to one of the best schools in Malaysia. I recalled the time when I used to go along to pick up my sister from school. The old Victorian building had really looked grand with its imposing clock tower.
On the morning of Tuesday, the 2nd of January, I woke up exceptionally early and got ready for school. I wasn't very sure whether to wear a tie or not but I wore one just the same. The bell rang and all the new boys lined up on the basketball court. I couldn't see even a handful of familiar faces there. I felt excited as Cikgu Jaafar read the names of the boys according to their classes. A feeling of slight panic came over me by the time the names for one and a half classes had been read out. It was then that my name was finally called and I walked over to the other side of the court. After everyone had been placed, we started walking to our classes.
After two periods, my class went to the laboratory. This was something special because we didn't have any laboratories in primary school. As I entered the laboratory, I spied many bottles of chemicals, test tubes, beakers and all sorts of scientific equipment. When the bell rang for recess, I went to the canteen and was surprised to find it so crowded. I was lucky to have brought my own food or I would have starved because the food was almost sold out. During the following days we did some cleaning up of the classroom and I started to talk to some of my classmates. There was not a single boy from my former school in my class.
Agricultural Science is a new subject to me, but it is an interesting experience to learn it and to do the practicals. The V.I. has a nice swimming pool and I have improved a lot under Mr. Marsh's training programme. It was really fun but a bit tiring. It is a pity that it had to be terminated when we changed to the afternoon session. On Mondays we have Physical Education on the field. Very few schools have such a beautiful large field.
After the first term holidays, we went back to school but instead of going in the morning, we went in the afternoon. We had to share the classroom with the Form Two's. There were no workable fans but after a while they managed to get one fan to work.
Despite some shortcomings, the V.I. is a nice school: and I am proud to be VICTORIAN!
Jaws- A Prelude
Anonymous, Form 3
It was a typical day in August, hot and humid. Unless rain came soon the city would have to experience water rationing. However, I was not here at the cinema to brood over the city's water problems. I was here to see the sensation of the year in Malaysia: Jaws. With the newspaper publicity it was receiving, just about everyone in town knew it had finally arrived. It went through the Censorship Board and came out with flying colours: not a single snip. The Singapore viewers were not so lucky.
Ticket peddlers were in full cry here. Here is an account with one of them. Maybe it was my anxious and worried appearance about my ticket which was in the hands of my two "ever reliable" companions that attracted him. It was already fifteen minutes past the appointed time and still they were nowhere in sight. Well, whatever the reason, the peddler made his move when I had worked myself into a corner.
He suddenly came up to me, shifty eyes and all, and asked if I wanted to purchase a ticket. Before I could reply, he was off on his prepared lecture. By the time I had collected my wits he had already given me a complete rundown of the latest prices. The price, in case you are interested, was $12 for a $2 ticket. What did he take me for, a raw kid fresh out of nursery? I firmly said no.
He looked set to begin another attempt to persuade me when he caught sight of someone approaching our quiet little corner. He promptly vanished. Poor guy, he probably took him for a plainclothes detective. Thus ended my first meeting with a member of the breed of fast talking businessmen.
A few minutes later, my two companions, Steel Nerves and Chicken Heart, arrived on the scene. The first thing I did was to ask if my ticket was safe. Fortunately for Steel Nerves it was. I wasn't in exactly a good mood after that harrowing experience.
Steel Nerves, on the other hand, was in a jovial mood. Ever since the film hit town, he had been telling people that Jaws was only good for scaring kids and weak-kneed adults. Everyone muttered their agreement, not quite agreeing and yet not daring to contradict his views either, for fear of showing cowardice in public. Unhappily for us it never pays to show how yellow you are in this tough world of today.
Personally, I did not quite know what to expect in the film. Reading the film's preview was clearly inadequate. As the saying goes, seeing is believing. For Chicken Heart (can it be his Chinese name is…?) this film would be something new as his previous film viewing had been limited by his Mum to Disney productions and cartoons. So we, Steel Nerves and I, took a bet on how he would take to the film. Steel Nerves finally fixed the odds at three to one that he would faint. I said he wouldn't. (People in the same boat tend to stick together). So the bet was on. The amount of money in question? Ah, mind your own business.
Although it was some time before the show was due to start, the crowd was gradually filling up the lobby in the cinema. As excitement reached the fever stage, some of them started getting restless, shuffling around aimlessly. I found myself scrutinizing the people when my companions wandered around. Unfortunately it worked both ways and I found myself shifting my weight uneasily as they stared back in return. With the colour rushing up my face, I decided to turn my attention to less human objects, things that would not stare back. Well, that was a lesson in human nature.
At last the hall doors opened. Steel Nerves gingerly fished the tickets out of his pocket as soon as he saw this. With a diabolical grin he strolled towards the hall, following the general direction of the crowd, with Chicken Heart and myself close at his heels.....
Life.... is this life?
Little babies crying for a feed
Night and day, day and night
Students going back and forth
From home to school, school to home
Pendulums of life swinging
Left to right, right to left
The earth spinning round and round
On its axis.
Life.... is this life?
Laughter and tears of joy for the successful
Pearls of water dripping from the eyes for the failures
Harsh words and flushed cheeks for the angry
Blushes and crimson faces for the naïve and innocent
Miseries and sorrowful tears for the unhappy
Confusion and restlessness for the troubled
Cheering and being cheered for the jovial.
Life.... is this life?
The rain doing its tip-tapping dance
on the roof and against the window pane
The sun playing hide and seek
behind the clouds and trees
The snow melting from its white blanket form
to bring spring into human hearts
Trees obeying nature's rule, shedding their leaves
like man shedding his sinful habits.
Life.... is this life?
Babies are born one day
Become kids the next day
Turned into adolescents another day
Growing into adults some day
Then into aging and dying people
Finally 'sleeping' peacefully
With no one to disturb
And none to hurt.
If this be life
Be it so wondrous as created by Allah
And may all parts be played to the full
By the living.
Last update on 5 October 2000.