Saturday, 4 June 2011

English as it should be writ (Part 1)

The headline Clementi's first full-fledged mall officially opens (22nd May, 2011) refers.

22/05/2011 I sent this email to Straits Times  Forum as well as the contact email on their website:

Dear Sir/Madam

My husband and I looked in puzzlement at this headline.

What animal is this Clementi mall that it is now full/fully-fledged?

In what way has this Clementi mall lost its fledgling status to gain maturity (hence fully-fledged)?

If your writer/subhead writer* means "complete" as in fully-built does that imply that previous malls, in Clementi perhaps, have never been fully-built?

I used to learn my English by reading Straits Times a lot. I am glad that my son does not have to do the same.

Please take note.
* My mistake here. I meant headline writer, or sub-editor. 

Didn't expect a reply, but it came on 26/5/2011:


Dear Dr Lee,

Thank you for taking the trouble to point out the wording of our headline.

"Full-fledged" in this instance refers to the "full status" (New Oxford Dictionary of English) of the mall as one that comes complete with major anchor tenants (a big supermarket, department store, public library, etc) and a wide variety of other shops, including specialty stores, restaurants and a foodcourt, among other tenants.

This is as opposed to smaller malls which do not have major anchor tenants or a wide range of shops/services.

And it is the first such mall in the Clementi area, a point the headline writer saw fit to point out.

Apologies for the slow reply; our usual person who deals with external emails is away.

I hope you and your family will continue to read The Straits Times.

Lim Chuan Huat
Associate Night Editor
I mulled over this, but was still dissatisfied with the answer and responded.


Dear Mr Lim

Thank you for your reply.

I am still not convinced that the phrase "full-fledged" has been used in its correct context.

How does one define when a shopping mall [has**] acquired "full status"?

You might argue that it has anchor tenants and such. I could argue that it lacks a fitness gym and a swimming pool, for example. A very important feature of new shopping malls is that it has a creche for shoppers so that little children could be taken care of while parents/carers shop. Does Clementi Mall have one of these? Also it should have a "motobility" shop, hiring out motorised scooters for elderly people who cannot walk the distance.

I hope you begin to see how illogical it is that one would describe a mall as "full-fledged". Someone else might argue that it lacks a place of worship, a place of meditation (for stressed out shoppers or husbands of shoppers), a funeral services shop (convenient for those who like to shop till they drop?), a maid service agency, etc.

There is no agreed definition of when a mall is "complete" or of "full status" in your usage. Whereas in describing an animal that has fully matured, all the biological indicators are there (or not). In describing whether a professional person is fully-qualified, all the requirements are legislated (eg a medical student who has not completed x period of internship, certified by professional body, etc. cannot call himself/herself a "doctor").

If you could describe a shopping mall as "full-fledged", you would next describe a car as "full-fledged" (because it comes with satnav, remote controlled seats, etc).

You get the picture ....

Yours truly

Dr Lee (full-fledged busybody)
**Omitted inadvertently in my email.
I'm still waiting for Mr Lim to reply.

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