The word ‘staff’ poses a problem for many users of English in Hong Kong. What exactly does it refer to? Is it singular or plural? Is it a countable noun or an uncountable noun?
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:
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.