Another dot in the blogosphere?

Grammar nazi vs loan shark

Posted on: February 12, 2015

This blog entry might look like a departure from what I usually reflect about. But I will find some way to link it to educational technology.

Like most Singaporeans, I received SG50 stickers in the mail. I thought that the sticker for loan sharks expressing themselves “artistically” in the heartlands was missing.

Earlier this week, I also received a threatening letter in my snail mail box. I should point out that I am not in financial trouble, I have not borrowed money from anyone, and I do not owe anyone money.

Here is a digital scan of the letter. On the left is something some Chinese people burn as currency for the dead. On the right is the latest in a string of varied but infrequent harassments.

A quick read will let you know that 1) my neighbour is the one in trouble, 2) the loan shark is using me to get to him, and 3) the latter has terrible grammar.

Here is some background information first.

There are four apartments on my floor. Three have been hit with paint, mine included. I have received one anonymous phone call. All this has happened in the space of about a year and a half. All three of us have CCTVs now so our floor looks like Big Brother central.

We have reported all the harassments to the police. This latest version includes a Malaysian phone number and a local bank account number. I am guessing that the phone number will be linked to a prepaid account. But I hope that the police can use the bank account to track the criminal.

The investigation is underway and I put security measures in place a while ago. So what else is there to do? I thought I might correct the loan shark’s grammar. Here is my attempt:

To the occupant, [Notice that I am not using ALL CAPS.]

Your neighbour [You spelt this big word correctly, kudos!] (insert name and personal information) owes me money. [No need to try to be bombastic with “outstanding debt”.] Tell him to call me to settle the debt within three days. [You should date your letter otherwise we may not share the same timeframe.]

[Start a new paragraph as you are now turning your attention to me.] If I do not get a call, I will lock your gate [Not door because I doubt you have the keys and I can unlock it from the inside] and throw paint on your door. [Be specific about the door because throwing paint upward might leave you with a red face.]

Don’t get into trouble [Is there necessary trouble? If not, there is no need to say unnecessary trouble]. Call me by (insert date and time) [Not NOW. I have to call the police first. How about if I text you to see if the timing is convenient?]

Pay me now! (provide bank account number). [Wait, do you want me to pay my neighbour’s debt or do you want my neighbour to pay you? If you are using a template, remember to edit the content. How about you pay me for this lesson on grammar and logic? If you can’t afford it, you know who to borrow money from.]

Sign off [Always sign off whether or not you want to wish someone something. You can be proper without being polite.]

[Here is a freebie on your design: Do you think that it is wise to extend your circle of intimidation, but in the process bring more police attention to your activities?]

Lest I be accused of not taking this seriously, know that I am. I have done what I can within legal limits.

What is the edtech lesson here?

Loan sharks are resourceful. They go out of their way to get their message across. For example, they use old media like paint, experiential learning like chains, and phone calls before the Personal Data Protection Act kicked in. They might have also used spell check in Word to get spelling right (but they need to pay attention to the squiggly lines that highlight bad grammar and sentence structure).

Now they use mobile technology for communication and e-banking for money transfers. Given time, there might be social media intrusions, augmented reality messages, and virtual reality projections.

Loan sharks move quickly with the times. How about teachers?

I have shared this slide and quote before. I use it at some talks I give. As juicy a sound bite as it is, I have also mentioned before that I wish I did not have to use it to make a point. But as long as teachers refuse to burst their classroom bubbles, I will keep saying it.

Perhaps teachers have a lesson to learn from loan sharks about moving with the times. I hope that it does not take threatening letters, chained gates, and vandalized doors to feel left behind.

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