In English, the word ‘may’ is generally used in two quite distinct ways:
1) to give permission:
2) to express the possibility of something happening (generally when we use ‘may’ like this, we communicate the idea that something is not very likely to happen, or we are not very sure about it):
However, in Hong Kong English, some speakers mix up these two uses of ‘may’.
Today I want to talk about a common expression in Hong Kong official writing: “the captioned X” (where X is a noun like study, topic, application etc). Here is an example:
Resumption of Original Traffic Arrangements on Chi Fu Road
Here, “the captioned resumption” is intended to mean something like “the resumption previously mentioned in the heading of this document”. Similarly, in the next two examples, the words study and application have previously appeared in the headings of the two documents:
The problem with this usage is that it is completely different from the way the word caption is used in modern standard English. Its normal usage nowadays is to mean “a short piece of text placed under or beside a picture to provide information about it”. Thus what you see below is a picture with a caption, or a captioned picture:
Welcome to this very first blog post on the new Cygnet Communications Ltd website! My aim is for the Cygnet blog to be updated at least weekly. Each blog post will focus on a topic connected specifically with English usage in Hong Kong.I’m going to start by looking at some signs from around Hong Kong that prohibit certain things or actions in the form “NO + noun” – like the ones shown below. These Hong Kong signs are not the same as similar signs in standard English.
About this blog
This blog arises from keeping an eye on English in Hong Kong. I often use signs, notices and advertisements that I see as starting points to write about English issues that commonly challenge Hong Kong writers.