Today's blog post is about the very common misuse of just one verb in Hong Kong -- 'bring'.
You will see variations on the sign in the picture all around Hong Kong. For many Hong Kong English users, there is nothing wrong here. The verb 'bring' means to carry or transport something, doesn't it? We want people to carry or transport their litter back to their homes, and not leave it in our Country Parks, right? So what's wrong with the sign?
'Bring' is one of an interesting group of words in English whose meanings change depending on who is speaking. In other words, these verbs don't just have a fixed, objective dictionary meaning. The way we use them also depends on the context we are in, who is speaking and who is listening, and the physical relation between the speaker and the listener.
Besides giving us fixed objective information about carrying or transporting something, the verb 'bring' also tells us something important about the person using it. We use 'bring' to indicate that we want the listener or reader to carry something towards where we are, or where we imagine we will be in the future.
In other words, in English we generally only use the verb 'bring' when we are talking about transporting something to a location where we (the speaker) are or will be. Here are some examples to show what I mean:
When we want to ask someone to carry or transport something away from where we are, we don't use 'bring' but instead 'take':
Understanding these usages will make it clear why the AFCD sign is incorrect. Here, the sign is effectively the 'speaker'. The sign/speaker is asking the reader to carry his or her litter away from the sign to another place ('home'). So the verb 'bring' is incorrect here: the sign should read 'Please Take Your Litter Home'.
(And the good news is that the AFCD got it right more recently, when it launched a campaign in 2015 to discourage people from leaving their litter in the countryside --- )
However, the misuse of 'bring' continues to be quite widespread in Hong Kong. The most recent high profile example I've noticed is from the name of a new souvenir series launched by the LCSD:
Both the logo and the final sentence here are Hong Kong English. Why? To get these souvenirs to our homes, we have to carry them away from the museums where we buy them (and where these signs are displayed). The action described does not involve us moving towards the sign, but away from it. So the correct expression is 'Take Me Home' -- as can be seen at work in this logo for a US charity, Pet Rescue:
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.