Sunday, 18 September 2011

English as it should be writ (Part 5)

The headline CNB officers seize $70k worth in drugs in 3-hour sting (10th September 2011) refers.

9/9/11 I sent this email to the Straits Times editor:

Dear Sir

As we begin the Speak Good English campaign this year, may I urge journalists to (please,) write good English.

Yesterday I read online "CNB officers seize $70k worth in drugs in 3-hour sting" and wondered what is a "3-hour sting".

A "sting" or undercover operation, especially in the context of illegal drugs, often takes weeks and months to conduct.

Immediately I thought a "3-hour sting" is highly improbable.

When the report then goes on to describe a "three-hour operation" I was convinced that the word "sting" had been used in error.

Whilst the three-hour operation and eventual S$70K seizure might have been the result of a sting operation, it is incorrect to describe this three-hour police action as a "sting".

"Raid", "blitz", "roundup" or "exercise" would have been more appropriate.

Please teach our children well.

Surprise, surprise, nochet got reply.

Meanwhile I shared this with my Arer-Gee-Ess girls.

I seyz:

My main objection was "sting". I think it has been used in a totally wrong context. If I read this in pemmery skool I would think that, ah, "three-hour sting" equals "three-hour operation" and therefore, logically, "sting" equals "operation".

So nex time i write composition instead of using the boring word "operation" I substitute with the cool word "sting".

Eg. Making alterations to a dress is not as easy as it sounds. First you have to .... Then you have .... Finally you must not forget to .... All in all, turning my cheap $10 dress into something remotely suitable for the graduation dinner was a five-hour sting.

How can liddat?

Methinks the word "sting" has undertones/overtone/in-between tones/whatever of undercover work which is unlikely to have been completed within three hours.

A "sting" if you remember Robert Redford and the unforgettable music of "The Entertainer" and all that, is a complicated confidence trick, double-crossing and double double-crossing.

In the context of a police investigation it means tedious hours of undercover work, infiltration, furtive alliances, etc. etc.

So for me, rightly or wrongly, either it's not a sting, or it's not three hours long. Putting the two together does not make sense.

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