英文

英語Guide:Can hand sanitiser be self-serving? — self-serve vs self-served vs self-service

【明報專訊】◆Brainteasers

Question 1: Which of the signs (see images) is/are acceptable?

(a) Both are acceptable.

(b) Sign A only.

(c) Sign B only.

(d) Neither is acceptable.

◆Question 2: Put the following 12 words into two groups according to the meaning of self-.

self-adhesive, self-reflection, self-explosive, self-pity, self-righteous, self-marking, self-timer, self-control, self-rewind, self-esteem, self-loading, self-respect

If you wish to try the activity as an interactive task, go to:

https://wordwall.net/resource/9895558

◆Commentaries

(1) The prefix self- has two meanings:

Meaning A: your doing something to yourself or by yourself;

Meaning B: something, such as a device, doing something to itself or by itself.

(2) Self- in Meaning A refers to a person. English has quite a few long-established words with this meaning. Examples are (See Question 2 above):

self-reflection, self-pity, self-righteous, self-control, self-esteem, self-respect

(3) Self-reflection, thus, means a person reflecting on himself, or performing a reflection himself.

(4) The word self-serving is related to Meaning A. It means serving a person's own interests. To say someone is self-serving is definitely NOT a compliment. The sign in Question 1, self-serving hand sanitiser, doesn't make sense.

(5) When technology develops, some devices may be able to do something to itself or by itself. Examples are (See Question 2 above):

self-adhesive, self-explosive, self-marking (quiz), self-timer, self-rewind, self-loading

(6) Thus, self-adhesive, refers to something that sticks automatically. Self-explosive is explosive that can set off itself.

(7) Sometimes, whether the prefix self- refers to Meaning A or Meaning B may not be obvious. For instance, self-drive may mean a person doing the driving himself, as in a self-drive tour. It can also mean a vehicle which can drive itself, as in a self-drive car.

(8) To refer to self-service, people often use self-serve, or self-service (see Question 1). Thus:

Self-serve corner/café/laundry

Self-service corner/café/laundry

(9) A self-served corner could mean a counter where customers can serve themselves and thus become self-served. But because Meaning B, as pointed out above, could also apply, it would be clearer to say self-serve corner or self-service corner.

◆Before you go

Question 3: Which of the following two expressions is/are correct — A, B, or both?

A: a self-sufficient economy

B: a self-sufficient person

̷̷ By Dr Paul Sze •施敏文博士 ̷

作者簡介﹕a Chartered Linguist and a current honorary professional consultant of the CUHK Faculty of Education

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