Tag Archive | "michael loh"

Who on Earth is Dudley Au?

Who on Earth is Dudley Au?

Tags: , , , , ,

He is an ardent Straits Times forum contributor and has even appeared on TV in 2003 to air his views.

Dudley Au, the one with the arrow over his head, appeared on now-defunct Channel i's i On The News programme back in Nov. 13, 2003. He is one of the Straits Times forum contributors on the show which saw them agreeing that the law against oral sex should be scrapped.

For those of you who need context, here’s some: Last week, New Nation got wind of a little-known debate that was occurring online between a hardcore-standard-English-speaker-cum-self-appointed-bearer-of-grammatical-English and the Speak Good Singlish Movement (which is a parody of the Speak Good English Movement).

Basically, what happened was that The Catholic News, a local publication that features all things Catholic, published a letter by this hardcore speaker of standard English, who is somebody named Dudley Au, and whose name somehow seemed rather familiar and rang a bell.

But the letter in question was subsequently removed from The Catholic News online site because of readers’ complaints, although it can still be found in Google’s cache. (And the points in the letter was subsequently torn apart by a self-professed linguist/ blogger. And if you’re wondering what’s the fuss about Dudley Au’s letter, all you should be wary of is that it is written in pretentious pseudo-academic language meant to wow your socks off. You can read our previous article for more background.)

Now, as usual, New Nation has a penchant for snooping around.

And here’s what we found – some of the more interesting findings we made regarding Dudley Au:

– Like we said, if his name sounds remotely familiar, that’s because he is a long-time contributor to The Straits Times forum page. Using an online database of archived articles, we managed to find his letters that date back to 1996. (It could, in all probability, go back even further in time, just that the archives don’t go back as far. So we’ll never know when he began writing to the press.)

– Lo and behold, Dudley Au even appeared on the now-defunct Channel i’s discussion programme, i On The News, which was shown on November 13, 2003. On the show was another long-time ST forum contributor, Michael Loh, a musician and lawyer. Loh has the dubious honour of having set a Guinness World Record for having 212 letters to the editor published in one year, between 2002 and 2003. (He has probably given up trying so hard now, considering that there is Facebook these days.)

– It is stated in the ST article that Dudley Au is a “businessman”.

– It is not the first time Dudley Au has written to the press regarding Standard English and how Singapore’s survival depends on it. Below is a letter to ST published online dated March 8, 2008:

Our survival depends on Standard English

I REFER to the online letter, ‘Why are some of us killing the English language?” on Thursday. This has been a phenomenon which, like the phoenix rises, time and time again, to haunt us with its polemic. Wolfram and Fasold (1974) said Standard American English was the yardstick used to judge the correctness of language behaviour and it was the spoken language of the educated middle class.

Non-standard English included variations uniformly rejected (stigmatised) by educated speakers. They asserted that language ‘dialects” vary in three ways – grammar, sounds and vocabulary. Variations in all three are primary sources of stigma. Deviation from the rules of linguistic etiquette earned a label of ‘misfit”. This, in turn, made non-standard language variations inferior to the standard language of a culture. What was at work was prescriptive rules of standard English which asserted status, not communicative efficiency. Grammar is a description of the structure of a language as it is actually used. Prescriptive rules are not derived from any inherent language qualities.

Black Americans understand the phrase ‘I ain’t got no beer’ or ‘I ain’t got no money’. Prescriptive meanings that ignore how words are used invest meaning in the words themselves and not in the people using the words. It does not follow the algebraic formula of two negatives making a positive. Today, admonitions against splitting infinitives or ending a sentence with a preposition are not regarded, as they have attained social acceptability. For the variation of ‘I ain’t got no money’, the phrase ‘no money’ becomes a compound word ‘nomoney’ meaning lack of money; just like the compound word ‘airplane’ or ‘breakfast’.

The Black English dialect was for a long time considered a deficient, impoverished version of Standard American English. Why it survived was due to the fact that a Black American speaking impeccable Standard American English in the company of non-standard Black English speakers was seen as an outsider despite the similarity of pigmentation and appearance. Ms Condoleezza Rice will lose the votes of non-standard Black English speakers if she is unable to shift styles according to purpose, occasion, and audience.

Does this mean we should adopt a permissive attitude to non-standard English; be it Black English, Appalachian English or any other non-standard dialect? The contextual factor in Singapore is different. We cannot abandon Standard English as it is spoken or written in general in other parts of the English-speaking world. Our survival depends on this because Standard English is utilised also by America, England and other parts of the world for communication. Singlish is understood only here and surrounding areas. In a way we are faced with the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis.

Some see the inference of sub-standard of a subordinate group’s language as ethnocentrism. The inferiority, it is claimed, does not reside in the language dialect (reification). It resides in the minds of those who perceive non-standard as deficient. It is not a question of etymology but of prescriptive tendentiousness. But above all, for us, it means communication with the English-speaking world.

Dudley Au

– Last but not least, back in 2004, Dudley Au also had something to say about “accents” on radio. Here is an article from Aug. 13, 2004:

Showing off with an accent

I REFER to ‘What phoney accent?’ by Jill Alphonso (LifeStyle, Aug 8). The issue was the affectation, relating to phonemics, concerning some radio DJs.

Power 98FM DJ Chew Soo Wei says: ‘As a DJ, I’m taught to enunciate my words and to speak clearly.’

To enunciate correctly is not the same as affectation. Ms Chew has made the mistake of synonymy.

The examples given in the article of ‘dance’ pronounced ‘dayh-nce’ and ‘can’t’ pronounced ‘cayh-n’t’ are not enunciations with British pronunciation but affectations of American speech.

Does this signify, according to the reasoning of Ms Chew, the British are enunciating wrongly? Or, is it the Americans?

Ms Suzanne Walker of WKRZ 91.3FM holds the belief that Singlish is lame. Of course it is, being fractured English, and then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong had to intervene in the usage of it in the TV sitcom Phua Chu Kang.

What was astounding was her logic that people who take issue with accent show a small-town mentality that points to insecurities of how they themselves sound.

She adds: ‘Just because I don’t sound like you doesn’t mean that I’m showing off. It just means I speak differently.’

Let me remind Ms Walker that imitation can be easily spotted because of lapses in the flow of delivery.

If an American DJ was doing her job, her American accent would be flawless, and if she decided to interject a bit of Singapore accent (flavour) into the flow for local interest, that would be immediately spotted.

In antithesis, a local DJ interjecting American affectation would also be easily spotted and commented upon. This does not indicate a small-town mentality but a trenchant observation.

By what categorical, disjunctive or hypothetical syllogism did she arrive at this puzzling conclusion of insecurity ‘of how they themselves sound’?

There is no nexus. No one contended that to speak differently is wrong. The dialectic polemic is not on the word ‘different'; it is on the word ‘affectation’.

The respondents in the article spotted the flaws in the affectation and this put them off. I am certain that the linguistic delivery of a native British or American would not have had the same effect.

When anyone indulges in affectation, the aim is to place himself on what is believed to be a higher level, never a lower level.

The American and British twang is seen as above the Singapore accent, which is far removed from Singlish.

Accent, to reiterate, has nothing to do with grammar or enunciation. It is a showing off, a psychosomatic situation where the fallacious mental fiction (of being better) creates the physical disorder of affectation.

May I remind the DJs concerned that Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew speaks fluent English. His delivery is devoid of affectation, incorrect enunciation or grammatical errors.

Maybe the words of La Rochefoucauld are appropriate here: We are never so ridiculous from the habits we have as from those we affect to have.


And to sum up how powerful Dudley Au really is, go google “Dudley Au Yawning Bread“. I believe he is not a kin of Alex Au, but you get my point about how often Dudley Au contributes to the forum pages to the extent Alex Au even quotes him…