"Please singe and return to me"

There was a letter I needed to send out today. After preparing the original copy, the office clerk needed my signature before issue. She placed it in a clear holder, on which was a sticker which said: "Please singe and return to me."

Depending on how you look at it, this spelling mistake is both a howler and a taboo. You can either take it in a light-hearted way and quip "You mean return the ashes?" or associate it with the Chinese custom that we burn paper offering to spiritual beings or the deceased and so consider asking people to singe something and return to her as something inauspicious to say.

Either way, however, it is another demonstration of the uncomfortable truth that in casting itself as a bilingual city, Hong Kong gives the game away rather too easily.

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