Sunday, July 24, 2005

Peanuts, peanuts, everywhere.

Peanuts - the most explosive word in the English vocabulary in Singapore right now. SMS messages composed in English and Chinese are flying off everybody's fingers declaring the worth and value of Peanuts. For example, I received an SMS, in Chinese, that suggested that the next time we donate to Singapore's National Kidney Foundation (NKF), we should send peanuts since its not of inconsiderable value. I do not know the originator of this chain-sms. It is just being passed from one to the anyone who owns a handphone. Handphone ownership rates in Singapore is very high.

In the office, its a 'charged' word. You need to be careful when you use this word because it is linked to a comment made by the wife of a very senior political leader within the last month about how being paid $25K a month in salary is peanuts. The problem is, the person in question is running a charity, not a commercial corporation. People have very strong feelings about their hard earned money going, un-intendedly, into somebody else's pocket instead of directly to the cause for which it was intented. This word is now bandied about with much amusement for some, and with barb and ridicule by others.

The lesson to learn, especially when you are a public figure, or closely related to one, is to watch what you say. The most innocent of words you utter can boomerang on you in the most unexpected of ways, and possibly haunt you for some time to come. Look on the bright side - you could have created a new 'word' - or at least new meanings for an erstwhile commonplace word. History, and Philologists, will remember you for it.

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