19 July 2016


In a recent post, I discussed the lack of concern by Brunei newscasters about how they pronounce foreign names; and I had always been under the impression that the BBC took more care over it. After all, they have a pronunciation unit whose job it is to give advice over the issue.

Last night, I watched the BBC programme HARDtalk, in which Zainab Badawi was interviewing the Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, Mehmet Şimşek, and inevitably much of the discussion involved the President of Turkey, Tayyip Erdogan.

Throughout the programme, Zainab Badawi pronounced Erdogan as [ɜːdəʊɡæn], while Mehmet Şimşek pronounced it with no [ɡ], as is usual in Turkish - the 'g' is a silent letter.

So, why did Zainab Badawi persist on pronouncing it wrongly? Did she fail to notice that her pronunciation deviated so obviously from the native speaker? Or did she believe that the anglicised version of the name should have a [ɡ] in it, even if the Turkish pronunciation has no [ɡ]?

It seems that the BBC is not as careful about getting foreign names right as I believed.

06 July 2016


This is the directory of departments for the First Emporiurm Department Store in BSB. Luggages?

I would never use 'luggage' in the plural. For me, it's a mass noun.

But logically, there's no reason why it shouldn't be countable. So it is just like all those other logically countable things which are often counted in varieties of English such as that of Brunei: furniture, equipment, accommodation, information, and many more.

I suspect that 'luggages' will become standard in the not-too-distant future, and it will only be a few old-fashioned people like me that cling to the traditional form and insist that 'luggage' cannot be used in the plural.

05 July 2016


This is the headline from page M6 of the Media Permata of 4 July 2016:

Corak ringkas, warna pastel pilihan busana Hari Raya

which might be translated as:

Simple design, pastel colours (are) selections for Hari Raya clothes

I did not know the word busana. I looked it up in my Malay dictionary, and it was not there; and it was not in my Brunei Malay dictionary either. Eventually, I looked it up on the Internet and found that it is an Indonesian word for 'clothes'.

The Malay of Malaysia is generally used in Brunei. But I wonder how extensive the use of words from Indonesian is. Furthermore, I wonder how distinct Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia are. Are they merging? Or are they diverging? And how familiar are people in Malaysia with words such as busana from Indonesian?

My impression is that British and American English are merging. For example, most of the words for things involved with computers (mouse, hard disk, software, etc) are the same. In contrast, many words associated with cars (windscreen/windshield, gear lever/gear shift, bonnet/hood, etc) differ between British and American English. This is presumably because of the ease of international communication, and because of widespread access to films from both countries. But what about Malaysia and Indonesia? Are their languages also merging? That would be an interesting research topic.

03 July 2016

Foreign Names

The newsreaders at RTB (Radio Television Brunei) take great pride in pronouncing local names correctly. For example, it would be a major faux pas to mispronounce the name of anyone in the royal family; and the way they read the name of the Sultan (which is rather long) is impressive.

However, they take much less care over foreign names. In fact, it seems they can't be bothered to even try and get them right. Yesterday, on Nasional FM, I heard Francois Hollande called [fræŋko] (a better approximation would be [frɒnswɑː]); and this morning I heard Calais referred to as [kælaɪs] ([kæleɪ] would be better, or maybe [kɑːleɪ]). It is disappointing that RTB newsreaders don't look up the pronunciation of these words and try to get them reasonably accurate.

Mind you, if people in Britain can pronounce Paris with a final [s] (instead of the French [pɑːriː]), maybe people in Brunei putting an [s] on the end of Calais is no different. Perhaps you could say that foreign words are pronounced according to their spelling in Malay?