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:
(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:
(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