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Bertha HarianBertha Harian

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How can like that?

I wonder what John Lui has against the word “How’’. I happen to think it’s one of the most versatile words in the Singapore English lexicon (note: I didn’t say Singlish) So how to explain Cecilia Sue’s text message which went: How? How? How? It’s a plaintive How can you do this to me?! How can you be so heartless? How am I supposed to cope now? Wonderful word, very textured.
Foreigners would have great difficulty figuring out the Singaporean’s How? I know some of my ex-colleagues did when I blithely ask “How?’’ It can mean How are you today? How about that update you promised? How’s it going with that problem? Context is everything. That, and the tone of voice of course.
Another good word is “Can’’. It can be used with and without a question mark. To the uninitiated and ignorant, it means yes, with and without a question mark. Put how and can together, you get a very distressed How can. How could this have happened to me????? This is so unfair! I can’t believe this! You know, the usual lamentations…
You can also divide How can, as in How? Can? You are expected to reply Can, not Cannot.
I agree with John Lui’s take on the word “like’’. I so dislike “like’’. In the past, I got all het up when it’s used to substitute “such as’’. Now, Facebook has just inspired my total hatred for the word. Why, in heavens name, would anyone “like’’ some silly post, picture? I am, like, so upset with such inanity.
John didn’t talk about this other word “nice’’. Which I happen to think is not nice at all. What’s nice about this? Is that the extent of your vocabulary? No other way to describe what you like about this? I mean, how can?

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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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