Monthly Archives: January 2010
Superlatives are words used for describing something or someone of the highest quality. Most superlatives end in the suffix “-est“; however, being the ever-complex English language, there are exceptions. Other superlatives need to be preceded by “the most” or some other forms. I shall not elaborate on the rules (perhaps in a separate blog).
Well, let me make you more confused now. Do you know how these words are used? The words are oldest, eldest, latest?
- eldest (adj.) – oldest among three or more people
- oldest (adj.) – the biggest number in terms of age for people, animals and objects
- * latest (adj.) – the most recent, the most modern
* “Latest” does not mean “the most late“.
- Jimmy has five brothers and two sisters. He’s the eldest / oldest.
Jimmy has a brother; Jimmy is the older (not the oldest) one.
- My Volkswagon is antique. It’s the oldest car in town.
- Peter has just bought the latest Nokia model at a special price.
- Did you get the latest news about the political situation here?
The newest is not necessarily the latest, but the latest is the newest. You can buy something new, but it may not be the latest model, design or fashion. 🙂
The Malaysian English or Manglish is unique. We seem to make our own rules. We tend to modify the use of words that native speakers might find odd. Two such words are “wish” and “greet“. I’m sure your mom or dad has ticked you off by saying:
- “Why didn’t you wish me this morning? Where are your manners?“
Isn’t that familiar? Is there anything wrong there? Yes, the word “wish” should instead be replaced with “greet“. It is sufficient to say: “Why didn’t you greet me this morning? Where are your manners?“
- * wish (v.) – to express hope of success, happiness or pleasure on a certain occasion
- greet (v.) – to address s0meone with some form of salutation, to welcome
* Take note that the word “wish” has other meanings, too. For this post, let’s just focus on just one meaning.
- We wished every one a Happy New Year. ( = hope for every one’s happiness for the new year)
- Let me wish you every success in your endeavours. ( = hope for your success )
- I was greeted with a bow when I arrived at the door. ( = welcome by bowing )
- It is polite to greet anyone we meet. ( = address that person by calling his name etc. when you meet him )
Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to say:
- Did you wish your teacher today? (X)
Did you greet your teacher today? (√)
- I greet my parents good night every day. (X)
I wish my parents good night every day. (√)
I wish to wish every one a Happy New Year. May this greeting bring cheer to every one’s face. 😛
I find it very common for non-native English speakers to use the word “play” with the word “computer”.
Mom: What are you doing, Miyen?
Miyen: I’m playing computer. I need a break from doing homework. (X)
What’s wrong with the word “play“? Nothing, except that you can’t play computers.
- play (v.) = enjoy
There are other meanings, but in this post, I’d like to focus on the meaning of the word that we all know and have used many times – “play” to enjoy.
Mom: What are you doing, Miyen?
Miyen: I’m using the computer. I need a break from doing homework. (√)
I’m playing computer games. I need a break from doing homework. (√)
Therefore, you see that we can play computer games, but not computers; we can use computers to play those games but we cannot play computers. 😛
Here comes another chaotic pair of words that has got many of my international students confused again and again. Is it “live” or “life“?. Spelling them is confusing enough, saying them and using them correctly in written English is even more confusing.
- live (v.) = to have life (opposite of die), to have a home / reside
- live* (adj.) = as it happens
- life** (n.) = the period of existence between the time a living organism is born till the time they die
* “Live” is pronounced as [laiv] when it means “as it happens“. It should not be pronounced as [liv]. Often, the word is written in quotation marks to show the difference in pronunciation. (e.g.: “live” telecast, instead of live telecast)
** The plural form is “lives“, pronounced as [laivs].
- My dog lived for 13 years with us before he died of illness.
- Isham lives [livs] in a beautiful and peaceful country, and he’ll be there for the rest of his life.
- We should treasure our lives [laivs] and live [liv] to the fullest.
- There will be a “live” [laiv] performance by a rock group at the State Square tonight. (= watch it as it happens; it’s not a recorded telecast)
- Life is full of experiences; some are good and some are bad.
So, as you can see, “life” and “live” are very simple words, yet people pronounce them wrongly; their meanings are different, yet some of us use them interchangeably. Whether it’s [laivs] or [livs] depends on the context of the sentence.
By the way, HAPPY NEW YEAR! The new year brings new life to all. May you live a life of bountiful happiness with the ones you love.
Have fun living with the complexity of the English language 😀