Blogging from Hong Kong - Roger Goldner (updated 7th November)
Tuen Mun Library (posted 24th October)
I mentioned the library last weekend and have remembered something that
I was absorbed in reading The Spectator when someone spoke to me. It
was an Englishman, about my age. He said, "I don't want to disturb you,
but I always thought that was my personal copy! It's never been off the
shelf before when I wanted it."
I had always thought that it was my personal copy. I had felt guilty,
thinking that the Government was buying i t! just for me.
This week it was announced that HK is to build a new high-speed
railway line, to link with the one being built on the Mainland. It is
estimated that the line - which will be about 25 miles long - and other
related works will cost: five-and-a-half billion Pounds.
If that is how the Government is spending money, they can carry on
buying The Spectator for me and the other old codger.
This may not interest you much but it has been bothering me.
Last weekend I was going to write a natural sentence: "What a
wonderful institution the Hong Kong Public Libraries are!" but something
made me change ! are to is, thinking it should be singular to agree with
institution. I was wrong, of course. It can be seen clearly in a simpler
sentence, for example: "What a nuisance the children is!"
By trying too hard to be right I became wrong. Writers on language
call this over-correction.
Here is something I read recently in a book about style:
Would you write "The worst tennis player around here is I" or "The
worst tennis player around here is me"? The first is good grammar, the
second is good judgement.
SCRABBLE (posted 7th November)
bought an electronic dictionary. It is smaller than a postcard and
less than half an inch thick. It contains an English-Chinese dictionary with
180,000 words. It gives definitions in English, and Chinese translations. It
speaks the word in both languages. In English it can speak at two speeds,
either normal speed or slowly, syllable by syllable. It also speaks the word
in 11 other languages: Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Hindi, Russian,
French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. It also contains a one-
volume English encyclopedia, 85,000 words and 4 million words they say,
translated into Chinese. It is also a calculator. And more.
It wasn't cheap - it cost about Pds110 - but the two books alone would
cost about half that.
The truth is, it will be used most often for Scrabble (Anna's old dictionary,
which was less sophisticated, stopped working). When she plays, with
me or with her family, it is in the East Asian way, partly a vocabulary game,
partly a game of calculated guesses. The letters are put into ways that
look as if they could be English words, for example (authentic) cential or
cental, and then there is a quick look in the dictionary to see if the words
exist. Cential, no. Cental, yes! Never mind what it means.
When Anna plays with me she has eight letters instead of seven, and full use
of the dictionary. She is more competitive than I am and a better tactician,
and wins about half the time. The word she makes more than any other is
qua, often with a triple-letter score for q. She hasn't used qua in