"If you're the best today, strive to be better. If you're better today, strive to be betterer and if you're betterer today, strive to be betterest so that overtime, Singapore's service standards can just keep getting better, betterer and betterest."
- Mr Lim Swee Say, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office &
Secretary-General (NTUC) (2nd July 10)
Yes, the language is pretty mangled, and for many, this is a gaffe of the highest order, certainly something unbecoming of a highly educated Singapore Government Minister. The people in the Speak Good English movement must be groaning how a Minister just destroyed all the effort they had undertaken or plan to undertake to get Singaporeans to speak good English
But wait, did he do this on purpose, or at least made use of his inimitable style to get the message across? If he did (and even if he hadn't), he has succeeded marvelously. There was no stopping the ridiculing of how a $4 million dollar man could be so broken in his English. Yet in doing so, attention was brought to his message. That was how I heard about it. And I told other people who otherwise did not know about the latest joke on the island.
Let's be honest, no matter how broken the language is, all of us understood what he said and what he meant. There wasn't any ambiguity. He didn't use any word which will cause us to run to our Cobuild or Oxford Dictionaries. And better yet, the man in the street, who may not have had a lot of education, could understand what he said. They may even speak like him, So what if he gets an "F" for English Language? He gets a thumb-up for communication. In this sense, he is in the haloed company of Lewis Carroll, who created nonsense words that have entered the English dictionary. Perhaps the editors of the major Dictionaries should take another look at words such as betterer, betterest and rethink whether better must necessarily come before best.