The Cemetery

Don’t get me wrong. The words/phrases are fine. Grammatical, even appropriately used. It’s just that they’re used so often, they are like “templates”. Surely, there are original ways to write stuff!


A case in point.

Just tell the reader what this is. By the way, using such stale language (except if it is really quite apposite and applies to CASE the consumer body) makes YOU sound old, unhip and unswinging. This was stuff used in school debates in the Jurassic period – that is, 1960s.

(Alone) She/He/It/Singapore is NOT ALONE.

Come on, own up… How many of you have written this line that comes after a human interest/anecdotal opening? Can we save the NOT ALONE phrase for when Earth finally discovers other sentient beings?


Especially in the  area of cuisine. Wonder how food reviewers attest to the authenticity of a country’s cuisine. Like, what’s authentic local fare? Just the right dash of vinegar in chicken rice chilli sauce? Good food might be a good enough substitute.




As in bagged an award or three. So over used that you think award winners are stuffing them into bags. Can please stuff it?

Be Prepared to, Brace yourself for …

No need to tell readers what they must do when it’s obvious from reading the news story what is going to happen.


Come November/next week/Monday, blah-blah. type of intros.

Ask yourself if the date is REALLY the most important thing. And even if it is, isn’t there a sexier way to tell it??? Can we leave come to comings and goings and in the bedroom only?




Any performance with plenty of lights and loud sounds. And looks like it cost a bomb to put up. Hence, extravagant in more ways than one. Maybe so. But can reserve it for the really big, and really splendid instead of any old show?



Flying off the shelves

Only if the stuff’s really flying off or levitating in some manner please.

Forked out

Whether it’s $20,000 or $20, seems everybody is forking out. Unless it’s like gigantic amount, to be left as cutlery.




Singapore risks making a fool of itself by running stories about how it wants/intends to be the hub for: health services, education, biotech, arts, design, etc etc (can’t remember them all)



Okay, tell me which building in Singapore is NOT iconic? Then again maybe so many building are iconic that we need to coin a new phrase – super iconic? Word to be reserved for religious use, where it originated

…is set to….

Seeing too many “is set to” go up, come down, explode etc. What happened to good old “will”?

In addition to…

is banned since ALSO will do.

Industry players

Who they be?? Can we be more precise? Say contractors, retailers, shipbuilders and developers…

Irate consumers/Singaporeans/students etc.

Makes me wonder what happened to unhappy, upset, angry, frustrated. Seems like everybody is IRATE.



Kick off/kicking off.

To use only if the subject is a football match._



are really just a woman/women

Little did he know blah blah….

Of course, he doesn’t know he’s going to get hit by a car, get cancer, win an award….

Last thing on his mind blah blah....

Of course, it’s the last thing on his mind that he might get hit by a car, get cancer, win an award….


This word is over used. As in “He got cold feet – literally’. It’s usually so abundantly clear from the context that the sense is literal. So if his feet are cold, they’re cold.



No stranger to blah blah

This phrase is popping up far too often. It’s like everyone is no stranger to something…



I am of the opinion that you should just say said.

(One of) He is one of blah blah …

This is a result of reporters getting round He is not alone. Can we get more creative please.


Predictably, as expected, not new, not the first/no surprise.

I dunno why we keep killing our stories with such words. If it’s predicted, not new, why are we writing it? Even if it is the case, there must be other words to use if we want to say something went as scheduled? according to plan? a common ruse?

Pass away/deceased

Nobody passes away in Straits Times copy, they jes DIE. Likewise, there’s no The deceased, jes DEAD people, who also have names….

Pop the champagne

I can’t imagine any HDB heartlander popping champagne; more like bring out the Tiger



Raked in.

Whether it’s $20,000…..etc. You know what I mean. To be left in garden.

Raped AND molested.

If the victim has been raped then there’s a 99 per cent chance she has also been molested. Fine to mention it as part of charge, but not to keep repeating it, unless the distinction is important. eg, if the man is claiming he only molested her but the woman is claiming rape.

Raised eyebrows

Everybody seems to be raising eyebrows these days. I guess because it can mean anything from “Ooooh…what a nice surprise…” to “What sort of rubbish is this”? May your eyebrows be permanently stuck high on your forehead if you use it again.



People seem to be getting slapped pretty often. So, he was slapped with a fine, a jail term, a penalty. Unless he was slapped with a fine piece of paper, a book containing the penalties or just plained slapped…shouldn’t it be that he had a fine slapped ON him?


We seem to be attributing the gift of sight to anything, even inanimate stuff. So… Yesterday saw a crowd of 10,000 …; The company saw its profits for last year soar/sink; Singapore saw its birth-rate tanking….I don’t know about you but I don’t think yesterday saw anything…

But even the venerable Economist has been giving everthing the all-seeing eye…so who am I to say that see or saw cannot to be applied more widely? But really, something HAPPENED yesterday, to the company, to the country etc is really what we should be seeing no?

Speculation is rife.

It always is, isn’t it? I think I am on surer ground here. This phrase is over-used. And a newspaper really shouldn’t be in the business of speculating or rumour-mongering unless it is reporting someone doing the speculation…

So… XX claimed that the PAP would lose Hougang by 1 percentage point.  “I am not speculating,” he said. “I am just reporting a rumour. You sure you want to report this? “

That’s right. You sure?


Everything is a scheme these days, not a project or a plan. Even if it isn’t formally titled a scheme, the media just tends to stick the word on any sort of proposal/plan etc. When you scheme, it usually means you are planning something nefarious. Nobody wants to be known as a schemer either don’t you think? But Singapore is full of schemes….Such scheming people we are!




So he’s unfazed. Nothing fazes him. Means he’s an ice-cold statue? Do you mean it didn’t worry, trouble, rankle, irritate him?





  1. On the use of “a case in point”, isn’t retro hip these days?

  2. hi Bertha, would “bags” as in “bags” an award/a medal/a prize be something you’d like to put in the cemetery too?

  3. i’d add “authentic” to the list, especially when it comes to describing food.

  4. I have one to place under the letter E: Extravaganza used way too often.

  5. Thank you for the list. Please consider adding “iconic”. 🙂

  6. Oh god, I love this! What about “launched a probe”, when we’re talking about civil servants and sex scandals? Or is that like an ST inside joke?

  7. One more.


    Just say arrested, caught or brought in for questioning.

  8. Hi Bertha, I think the word “engage” belongs in the cemetery, though the guilty party is often the G. Just look at this article:

    On one hand, we have the G engaging the citizens. On the other hand, youths engaging in a game of soccer. Isn’t this confusing?

  9. I hate it when the papers write about a murderer “pumping” bullets into the victim. Unless the victim is a tire or balloon, they should use a better word.

  10. [Cemetery Case 1]: Moving Forward / Going Forward
    The SG establishment has an amusing habit of using the above phrase. To me, it suggests a Freudian slip — the speaker/ writer is stuck in the mud of his/ her mind, not realizing that others have not been standing still but instead quietly moved ahead long ago.

    I’m reminded of a former supervisor who instructed in email, “Moving forward, let’s start working on this idea […].” Except that I had already initiated & completed the project several months back.

    [Cemetery Case 2]: Quantum Leap
    Not only is the above term over-used, it is also a self-contradictory oxymoron.

    If a physicist announces that you have made a quantum leap, s/he is being sarcastic because you have made a mere quantum hop — ie. an extremely tiny or minimal change in state. (In fact, this change can be of either direction. One might have progressed by hopping forward, or regressed by hopping backwards.)

    A quantum is the smallest amount of matter involved in an interaction. For instance, a photon (light particle) is a single quantum of light. Within an atom, when an electron transits from a higher-energy to a lower-energy orbit (or vice versa), the energy difference is represented by the emission (or absorption) of a photon — ie. a quantum: the minimum energy packet.

    And we know how small an atom is. So beware of quantum leaps. Like the case described in [1], it sounds suspiciously like trying to move — but in reality, hardly moving at all.

    [Cemetery Case 3]: World-class
    Especially when used in conjunction with “hub” or “icon”.

  11. From the cemetery archive: “ICONIC — Okay, tell me which building in Singapore is NOT iconic? Then again maybe so many building are iconic that we need to coin a new phrase – super iconic?”

    Ah, you are an oracle … the ICONS are already coined ! If STB’s Merlion is an icon, perhaps SG should revisit the logo-cemeteries of the other stat boards, & super-iconize the “passed away” in plated multi-ply mint as well.

    New Coins to Feature Local Icons (ST – 22 Feb 2013)
    Excerpt: “Their appearance will be essentially Singaporean, featuring the Merlion, Port of Singapore, Changi Airport, public housing and the Esplanade.

    […] MAS managing director Ravi Menon said yesterday that coins reflect a nation’s significant events, people and symbols.”

  12. The most rampant gramatical error in Singapore is the incorrect usage of “would”, as in “The government would be announcing new policies for students”. “would” is conditional, meaning something will happen if something else is true. “I would go on vacation but I don’t have any money.” What is meant in 99% of the usage is “will”, the future tense.

  13. the word that gives me chills – “kudos”. like i mean, seriously?

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