Your ‘cum’ is rubbish

Posted on Tue 15 May 2012 @ 4.03am UTC

‘FAIL’ on several levels:—

(Victoria Park, Hong Kong, 10 May 2012)

This is exactly the kind of antics that call into question one’s reputation, capability and mental stability.


You’re not writing a bleedin’ essay, so stop using cum.

It’s also liable to be made fun of because of its pornographic connotations, jizzhead.

If you have to use cum, please please please don’t forget to use the flamin’ HYPHENS, dickwad.

You shouldn’t have to be told that the word cum is banned for public use in most countries, numbskull.

A good yardstick on public signage is to look at how the British handle their signage, which (as my architect dad said in his living years):—

“[Signage in the UK] … not only anticipates your difficulties but ensures accordance with generally accepted expectations of public decency.”


Use the readily understandable Rubbish instead of Litter.

Litter is not what you think it means in this context, Mr Non-English Speaker.

It is permissible to use Trash as well, seeing that most non-American English speakers know what trash means generally.

In fact, the word trash is not entirely an americanism (AmE: Americanism). You would have known that, had you paid attention in your English-language class in the first place.


Just write Rubbish/Recyclables Bins instead, for pete’s sakes.

Yes, it is grammatically correct and stylistically permissible to use the stroke (AmE: slash) (/).


Unnecessary to use Collection.

The very fact (and sight) of the receptacles is more than enough of an indicator of their use. Learn the principle of “Fresh Fish Sold Here.”


Know your numbers agreement and use Bins (plural).

Not to put too fine a point on things, when we have multiple bins, we very sadly have a tendency to pluralise the nouns, my dear Mr Singularly Inept Signage Writer.


Be consistent. You forgot to put English-language text on the bin flaps.

Something simple, clear and direct like Push in and drop item clear of flap will do just fine.

The words don’t have to be as gigantic as the Chinese characters that even the congenitally blind could see. The person will have been fairly close up to the bins already to be able to read the words.

Why clear of flap? Self-explanatory. A simple imperative for the rest of us to put the damn thing in properly. A piece of crap dangling midway in the mouth of the bin does not make for a pretty sight. Yes, some people do have to be told this.


Learn proper signage writing, or starve.

The proper signage phraseology in English are:


For Waste Papers Only

For Plastics Only

For Metals Only

Rubbish doesn’t need For, but you need For for the rest, okay?

For is needed for the other three receptacles because For is a contextual ‘staging’ indicator that those bins are collection points for recyclables whereas Rubbish (without the For) is a general indicator that it’s a dustbin.

Having said that, it is also permissible to dispense with For in this case, though it would be all round better to put in For.

* * *


What you municipal hygiene public servants-cum-specialists should have done is to make the rubbish bin separate from the recycling bins. You shouldn’t have to separate them a mile (1.609 km) apart from one another. Just a foot (30 cm) apart would do just fine, madam, just fine.

Indeed, the far better way is to simply label the recycling bins as For recycling only, followed by the relevant labels Paper, Plastics and Metals.

And we could follow that up with the words No organic or perishable items on the recycling bins just to be on the safe side. Yes, some of us do have to be told this, strange as it may seem.

* * *


Do you yourselves know HOW to spend money? Or just the WAYS to spend it?

There’s a fine line of difference between knowing HOW and knowing THE WAYS, my furry little friend.

You yourselves must have spent more than (a conservatively estimated) HK$4,000 (US$515 or £320) ordering and installing every single one of these stainless-steel contraptions in a public place for the use of the general public (Hong Kong citizen or otherwise).

Multiply that conservative pricetag by the numbers of the same contraption dotted throughout the park, and we may safely generalise that you yourselves must have spent close to HK$1 million (US$129,000 or £80,000) on this public-hygiene effort.

It behoves you to get the wording (Chinese and English alike) right for the signage (to say nothing about the capital outlay).

* * *


My question is, is it particularly hard or inconvenient or disruptive to your normal, daily cheese-and-crackers routine in your air-conditioned offices to ask someone — anyone — with a smattering of English-language skills to write down-to-earth, cleanliness-next-to-godliness signage text?

  • Is it really that difficult for your highly qualified, highly experienced public-hygiene engineers or refuse-disposal advisers (who are mostly trained and certified in the UK) to even recall how signage is generally written in the UK or any other country (including China)?
  • Is it too much to ask or expect that a government agency or department responsible for installing this and other similar contraptions for public use to have some semblance of reasonably well-written signage text in keeping with generally accepted principles of public signage textualisation rather than some artificially invented grammar-oriented rules more suited to essay-writing?
  • Can’t you yourselves be simply left on your own to carry out the work without having to force the rest of us into almost an effort of due diligence to check over every little piece of your work?
  • If you yourselves should (ever) call your projects an ‘undertaking,’ should we go as far as to expect you yourselves to treat your own work befitting of an undertaking? Do you yourselves even know the difference?

Just how far are you yourselves willing to embarrass the rest of us?

We have enough trouble on the world stage living up to (or down, depending on how you see things) our self-proclaimed reputation as “Asia’s World City” — a cognomen like that almost literally screams out that we have to get our English language right at the get-go.

Are we paying you our precious tax dollars to get the work done, or for your entertainment and diversions?

Pray tell, your worship, pray tell.

© Learn English or Starve, 2012. Image by me.

Posted in: Colour Section