7th Dec 2005
British can be wrong
I refer to the letter by Paul Soh (Nov 10) on the use of “departmental store”.
I agree with him that technical terms or words that are part of company names need not be found in the dictionary. Otherwise, we would be questioning the correctness of names like Malayan Banking Berhad, Philip Morris Companies, Inc, etc.
However, it is naive to assume that just because the British use “departmental store” in Britain, we can blindly say they are correct and therefore we should not be questioning “the English on their use of English”.
That is like saying the English are the best in football now just because they invented the game of football.
Let us not forget that the people running these department stores in Britain are not English professors/experts. They are probably too busy competing with each other to survive to bother about using the right term and worry about whether the world is watching their use of it.
There are English who are less proficient in English than non-English just as there are Chinese who are less proficient in Mandarin than non-Chinese or Malays who are less proficient in Malay than non-Malays.
In this modern era, English is a global and evolving language and is no longer the sole province of the British. In our efforts to excel in the English language, let us take the objective approach and discard our traditional colonial mindset. – J. Tan
Check the dictionaries
With reference to the comments on my remarks on “departmental store” by Paul Soh (Nov 10), I would like to say that I have shopped in the giant stores Harrods and Selfridges in London, and in other stores in England, Australia and the US, in which originated the term “department store”. In none of these countries did I come across either in speech or in print the term “departmental store”. It was always “department store”.
Furthermore, the Concise Oxford Dictionary, Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, Reader’s Digest Great Dictionary of the English Language, Roget’s Thesaurus and Collins Thesaurus in A-Z Form all without exception present the term “department store”.
Readers may verify what I have stated by checking these British publications or other authoritative English dictionaries.
If I am wrong, I am in darned good company.