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English Time


To “Go Through” the files becomes “Go Foo” files

After graduating and entering the workplace, you can easily make a fool of yourself, or even make grave mistakes, by misusing English. There was an interesting story that began in this fashion: Once, a newly-employed fresh graduate participated in a meeting during which the boss asked the participants to “go through” (read carefully/read ahead) the documents once. To everyone’s surprise, the company’s newcomer suddenly shouted out loudly, and shocked the whole room into silence. Colleagues later discovered that the reason behind this funny feat was that the fresh graduate thought the boss asked them to shout out loudly. I cannot guarantee that the story is true, but “Chinglish” is very common in the workplace. Yet, if you listen carefully and try to understand them, these mistakes can be prevented.


Boss infuriated by correct English vocabulary
Once, a new employee was assigned to submit a document, signed by his supervisor, to the administrative department, but there were some amendments that again needed the signature and approval of the supervisor. The employee therefore returned the documents to his boss and wrote: “Boss, please resign.” near the signature blank. Naturally, the boss was infuriated. “Sign” means writing one’s signature, but when it is preceded with the “re” prefix, the word’s meaning is transformed, meaning to give up one’s position or job, and most unfortunately, the company’s newcomer wrongly placed the prefix onto the word. “Re” followed by “do” means redo (i.e. to do something again); when it is followed by “cycle”, the word “recycle” means to use again; when “re” is placed in front of “structure”, the word “restructure” means to change the structure of something. It is worth noting that not every verb/noun can be preceded with “re”. Furthermore, “repeat” and “report” can never be separated into “re” and “peat”, “re” and “port” respectively, because the two words are inseparable.


When perfect grammar makes no sense
Sometimes, perfect grammar, when used inappropriately, can cause great embarrassment. For example, there was once a foreign customer, who asked a waiter whether or not his little daughter had passed by. The waiter replied by saying: “Yes, she just passed away”, which shocked the customer exceedingly. This is because “pass away” means “to die” and what the waiter wanted to say was “pass by”, which means “to move pass”. The manager took great effort to explain to the foreign customer that the waiter had mistakenly used the wrong word and it was just a misunderstanding.


Yet, employees need not worry too much, because if you carefully memorize the vocabulary usage and examples, you can then master basic communication skills to cater for the needs of customers..



 (The article is provided by HKVEP, the illustration is provided by Tim)