I dislike rules. I dislike rules of any kind really, including those rules which regulate grammar, which is why I have been known to praise sentences like the following which I read in a student essay back in 2004:
“If Anne Frank was so innocent, tell me why were they hiding in an attic again for?” It's hard for me to conceal my amusement with a sentence like that.
Like many Americans, my lack of knowledge about Singapore is what characterizes my understanding of Singapore. I know that they don't allow gum or spitting and that they caned a teenager once for spray painting a wall with graffiti. Other than that I don't know much.
The gum thing is true. A cab driver yesterday paused in his lament over the People's Action Party (he called them the “Pay And Pay” party) to warn me that I faced a 500 dollar fine for the gum chewing. It is a myth though, he explained, that farting in public is illegal, which I thought was particularly charitable.
A casual stroll along the river toward an upscale neighborhood called “The Quay” revealed what looked to be a scale model of the Titanic atop three 57 story towers. Clearly all of the rule making had not encouraged the triumph of common sense regarding what was to be considered architecturally and aesthetically pleasing, but the “eyesore” nature of this building nonetheless encouraged closer inspection. We took the MRT system across town (note to Durian lovers-- eating this fragrant fruit in the metro is punishable by a fine of 500 dollars) and walked along a concrete path by the bay. The “esplanade” (this means “to try to explain something while drunk”) was lined with modern art stainless steel irrigating tubes which sprayed a fine mist over the tropical shimmer of the nearby water, making walking in the sun very nearly tolerable. This led to a mall, which wound through a casino, which led to another mall, which led to a series of security check-points requiring that we have shoes (have you seen how hot it is outside?) and passports. We vowed to return later.
When we finally got up to floor 57, which was only accessible to us if we were guests of the hotel or willing to pay 14 dollars for a beer, we were rewarded with a view of the most spit and gum free city I have ever laid eyes on from an expensive penthouse bar. Somehow though in our enjoyment of money, we three educators were noticeably aware of things which we desired—watches, furniture, coats made from the finest endangered species, or perhaps a live lion cub as underwear such as the one worn by actress Julianne Moore in the storefront window. We were cognizant of being watched and being identified as foreign invaders like “projections” in an “inception” dream, or viruses among helper T cells. That and the fact that we couldn't spit from the top made us retreat from the penthouse bar and into the safety of the Hard Rock Cafe, which was pretty much classy enough for me. As we were walking over there, my colleague stepped into a wad of gum which stretched away with comic elasticity from the sole of her shoe. Singapore would have been significantly less amusing without that one wad of gum.
Similarly, in my role as newspaper editor for the daily publication of The Hague International Model United Nations (THIMUN), the best sentences were the result of comical grammatical errors. The only way to ruin them would have been to improve them, which was (unfortunately) my lot in life. “Some of the topics the assembly wilt focus on in the committee included the crisis terror of Nepal and the lack of government, the implementation of resolution to-for-to concerning is real, Cote D'Ivoire, and the peace keeping of Cypress” becomes “some of the topics the assembly will focus on include the formation of a constitution in Nepal, implementation of Resolution 242 concerning Israel, facilitating the implementation of the 2003 peace agreement in Cote D'Ivoire, and the fate of the UN peace-keeping mission in Cyprus.” Sure it's shiny, polished, non-offensive and nondenominational, free of gum and spit, but it clearly lacks personality and that indescribable flair that can only come of free will. In that sense, a sentence like this one is right at home in Singapore.