What is the difference between “finish” and “complete”?

A very well-written piece, on the difference between “finish” and “complete” – the former ending by exhausting, the latter ending by fulfilling.

Answer by Shreeya Dwivedi:

In many contexts, the meanings are pretty much the same, but you might hear finished more often than completed in casual conversation. The word completed can convey some sense of accomplishment. In the context of a race, it might work when the race is a major achievement. You might see completed in more formal contexts, such as a paper on education, or a course syllabus.

From wordreference :

fin•ish /ˈfɪnɪʃ/ v.

to bring or come to an end or to completion

to use completely

to overcome completely; destroy or kill

to put a finish on (wood, metal, etc.)

And still from wordreference :

com•plete /kəmˈplit/ v.

to make whole, entire, or perfect

to bring to an end ;finish

Complete is to be wholly made up. Finish is to exhaust, or expended. So in their use in a sentence, they can be used from that opposite direction to convey the same meaning: as in a cup being half filled or half empty.

One can complete his shopping when one has filled the shopping bag with all items to be bought.

One can finish shopping when one has exhausted the items in the shopping list.

What is the difference between “finish” and “complete”?

When a Teacher’s Not a Teacher

This post was originally written during my years in China.

It is very interesting how culture comes into play when bridging two different sets of understanding of the same word. One of my Chinese friends was inquiring about teaching jobs in Singapore and she was puzzled when her Singaporean contact told her that a university lecturer is not a teacher.


“Isn’t a university professor a teacher too?”

I had to explain to her that, to those of us whose primary culture is English, a “teacher” refers to a job that requires a certain degree of pastoral care, because a teacher handles minors (high school and below). On the other hand, a “lecturer” simply lectures, and is not expected to give the same degree of pastoral care that a teacher is expected to give. To those of us who think in English, a teacher is not the same as a lecturer, even if the lecturer teaches as well.

I am reminded of another Chinese friend of mine, who was very puzzled because Singaporeans like to say 一百千 (a hundred thousand) instead of 十万 (ten wan – a wan being a unit of ten thousand in Chinese) when we speak in Chinese. She understood when I explained to her that we tend to think in English, and the next unit after thousand is the million – we have no wan in English. The Chinese has no million. Instead, their next unit of count is the 亿 yi, which is a hundred million. There is no bigger unit of count, as far as I know, when the numerals stretches into the billions and trillions.

It is great to be bilingual and bicultural!

The Turnip in China

When I first arrived in China, we had to adjust to how some food have different Chinese names from the ones we are accustomed to, or even how we have become so used to the English names that we struggle for the Chinese terms for the food item.

We found out that potatoes in Shanghai is not 马铃薯 but 土豆 (although the Shanghainese understood the former). It was also really hilarious when we wanted yam 芋头 (and we were sure we got the pronunciation right) but our domestic helper got for us fish-head 鱼头 instead.

And since quite a few Singaporean dishes have turnips in them, it was an interesting occasion when we could not find them in Shanghai. We tried describing it to our chefs in school, tried giving searching for pictures, all to no avail. They had no idea what it was called in Chinese too, even with the pictures.

It took one of my northern Chinese student Haylin to let me know what they call those things 萝卜. I went “huh?” at that. I knew 萝卜 as radishes, not turnips. It was then that I understood that, to the Chinese, turnips are simply a different type of root vegetables – all root vegetables in Chinese are 萝卜, whether carrots 红萝卜 (“red luobo”), radishes 白萝卜 (“white luobo”) or just the plain turnip.

Learning languages is a matter of learning the respective cultures as well. It is great to be bilingual!

What is meant by the phrase “objectification of women”?

Objectification can be of anyone, not just women, but it appears to be worse off for women.

Answer by A Quora admin:

I think the most useful way to explain this is to highlight the difference between the object and the subject.

Is the woman the subject of the sentences narrating her life (or just this particular interaction), or is she an object in the sentences? Do they do, or are they done to?

This doesn’t always work (for example, “That person works for me.”), but it’s a good gut check.

Disney princess movies are simple and good for contrasting examples.

In Sleeping Beauty, Aurora was born, and a witch was jealous of her and cursed her. Her parents and fairy godmothers hid her. The witch still managed to trick her and put a sleeping spell on her. A prince found her, kissed her, and rescued her, so she married him.

Aurora never really did anything. She never drove the plot; the plot happened to her.

Anyone else could have been switched in for her character and not changed the outcome. What makes her an individual didn’t matter.

In Mulan, Mulan was prepared by her family to meet the matchmaker, but the matchmaker was not satisfied with her. Mulan snuck into the army in order to save her father. She struggled initially in training but ultimately succeeded in saving the emperor from the Mongols. When Shang came to her home, she invited him to dinner.

Something happened to her, and then she reacted and did impressive things.

Mulan does not objectify the main character because the movie is so focused on what she does. She takes an active role in everything past the matchmaker (and even the disaster of that interaction was driven by her unique characteristics). Some other character with different values and emotions would have dramatically changed the story.

Being the subject of sentences is important because it generally means that your thoughts, wants, needs, and actions are considered.

“I’d hit that” is objectifying because the hittee’s subjectivity is not considered, and the dehumanizing tone of “that” discourages thinking of the hittee as someone with actions, thoughts, emotions, and preferences.

The sexual interest is not the problem. The lack of assumed agency is.

Wanting to do something to someone is objectifying. Wanting someone to do your bidding is objectifying. But it’s not objectifying to want someone if you care about their individual subjective characteristics, their wants, needs, and emotions. It’s a confirmation of someone’s internal subjectivity to want to make them happy.

The question details ask about complimenting someone on their looks.

Complimenting a person’s looks doesn’t generally draw attention to what they do. It praises their function as someone who is looked at.

When someone has done very impressive things, like Kamala Harris becoming California’s attorney general, calling her “the best looking attorney general in the country” highlights her importance as an object of critical visual evaluation.

However, when someone is going out and has spent an hour on hair and makeup, complimenting their appearance is also a compliment on their preparations, so an appearance-related compliment is more appropriate in a club than in the office, where most people hope that competence is their defining characteristic.

The question details also ask about objectification of people like bank tellers, who are treated as important only for what they can do for you.

Classism and the commodification of human interaction are issues. Treating someone as a robotic fulfiller of your needs and wants is objectifying.

But if you’re polite and approach the interaction with some empathy, then you’re treating them as a person with an internal emotional world that could be affected by rudeness, not as a robot.

Now I’ll address sexual objectification, which the OP also asks about.

I think it’s discussed a lot because it’s so inescapable in advertising and other media. People are constantly exposed to shameless, unapologetic, undeniable sexual objectification and have a lot of opportunities to form strong opinions about it.

The Society Pages published an excellent article, Sexual Objectification (Part 1): What is It?, and I’m going to go through the test questions they came up with and expand upon the subject/object distinction I discussed earlier.

Does the image only show part of a sexualized person’s body?

Will this backside do things, or will things be done to it?

Does the image present a sexualized person as a stand-in for an object?

Does a thing (like a table) want, feel, or do?

Does the image show a sexualized person as interchangeable?

If people are interchangeable, their individual wants, needs, and emotions are erased. Fully realized people have so many variances in preferences and actions that they cannot be interchanged.

Does the image affirm the idea of violating the bodily integrity of a sexualized person who can’t consent?

Clearly, things are being done to a person in something like this situation; she is not doing things.

Does the image suggest that sexual availability is the defining characteristic of the person?

The presentation of indiscriminate sexual receptivity eliminates the concept of the person’s preferences. Such a person does not chose but is chosen.

Does the image show a sexualized person as a commodity (something that can be bought and sold)?

Again, such a person does not chose but is chosen and will, presumably, robotically fulfill the wishes of the purchaser.

Does the image treat a sexualized person’s body as a canvas?

Canvases are written on and then looked at. They don’t actively do anything.

The reason that people make a big deal about it is that normalization of sexual objectifiction of women leads to rape culture, which has been discussed a lot recently because of the Steubenville High School rape case and other high-profile cases.

If those boys had been conditioned to always think of women as people who do things (including actively enjoying sex) and not people whom things are done to, it’s less likely that they would have taken advantage of an unconscious female. They would have thought more about her subjective experiences rather than what they could do to her body.

I believe that people act out on bad ideas they were taught and are not inherently bad. Problematic media themes plant the seeds for social problems. What happened to Daisy Coleman is a worst-case scenario that plays out if boys are taught by a perponderance of media messages that women are doees, not doers.

What is meant by the phrase “objectification of women”?

Cultural Differences

This article was originally written when Sensei Michael was still working in China. It is edited and republished here for the benefit of my readers.

Sijngapore is a multi-cultural, multi-racial nation, but within this vernier lies a “Singapore” culture of its own, defined by a shared nation-building process over more than 40 years. The “Singaporean” culture, however, has been eroded over the years as immigration forced a nation where citizens comprises only 62% of the total population (and we have not considered citizens that were not born and bred in Singapore).

In this post, I share with my readers what I have learnt in my 8 years in China, working not just with the Chinese but also with the expatriate community (my business serves the expatriate community).

Singapore has a very detailed-oriented, serious and strongly communal working culture. It is probably why we Singaporeans are normally in demand as managers of very strongly process-oriented vocations (factory managers, for example).

Singaporean teachers are well known for the details we pay to our marking of our pupils’ work. A single essay would have all the spelling, grammatical and structural errors all circled and marked out, and peppered with comments in the lines between, as well as at the end of the essay. I have seen how 2 of my former western colleagues mark their essays – it’s normally a single tick across the the entire essay, with some comments at the end of the essay. All the grammatical and spelling errors were not pointed out to the pupils, since the grade is given based on an impressionistic approach based on the content. Such differences created a lot of problems during the marking of essays during examinations.

Western teachers are always shocked to find that a child who has answered a question correctly (the idea is there) for a Comprehension question, but has structural and grammatical errors, would not get the full 2 marks for that question – a mark would be penalised for his non-comprehension-related errors. Over where they came from, as long as the idea was there, the pupils get full marks for that question. To them, the child would be crushed to see their essays riddled in red ink – it’s a mutilation of their work!

Our Chinese staff have their differences as well. I was always very puzzled, when I first began my work in my school, why it was that simple little things that anyone of us would have done without being told needed us to tell them, before it got done. It was not until Buddy’s encounter after one of our major performances that we began to get an idea.

The janitors were hanging around in the auditorium, chatting among themselves, although the chairs needed to be cleared after the performance. Buddy approached them, and asked if they could see the chairs needed clearing. They nodded – they understood. Then why were not they clearing the chairs?

“No, no, we cannot do anything without our supervisor telling us to do so. Otherwise she’d think that we’re trying to climb over her head or that we can go without her. Our lives will be very miserable in the future!”

So here is the crux of the matter. When a westerner or Singaporean takes the initiative and made a mess out of things, his superior recognises his leadership potential and will cover up for him. The westerner or Singaporean will make an apology, learn from his mistakes and become a better person in the organisation. When a Chinese does the same, his superior thinks of him as a threat and will thumb him down. The Chinese tries to make excuses to avoid getting into trouble as a result, instead of accepting his mistakes and learning from them.

And wait till the 3 cultures come together. The Chinese are shocked that we Singaporeans expect them to think on their feet and move with us at the same crazy pace that we used to race at. The westerners are shocked that we Singaporeans approach every little thing so seriously, every event, every publication, every exam paper, must be perfect – as if President Hu Jintao himself is coming to inspect (as a Canadian teacher remarked once over our preparations for the school open house).

And we Singaporeans get exasperated over having to deal with every little thing the Chinese do if we want it perfect. We get exasperated over how mistakes that we cannot accept could be accepted by our western colleagues. And unlike a Singaporean manager, the concept of giving face to a superior or to another probably holds little water, creating plenty of friction.

It sure is challenging being a leader at an international school!

Dependent vs Dependant

The Americans really have life easy. They can omit letters when they spell, can spell certain words differently, and in today’s lesson, we learn that they can even use the same spelling for two forms of the same word.

In American English, dependent can be used both as a noun and as an adjective. In British English (which Singaporeans use), the spelling is different.

Dependent is used as an adjective, to mean “reliant on something or someone, whether for aid or as a crutch”. One can find himself dependent on drugs to kill pain, or dependent on someone because of their lack of emotional strength.

Dependant is used as a noun, to mean “a person who is dependent on someone else”. This word is used very often by expatriates, as we bring along with us our wife and children as dependants, those who do not generate their own income but depends on us.

So here we are, another lesson from your friendly neighbourhood English teacher!

The Emergency Ward in China

This post was first written back when Sensei Michael was working in China.

I am very familiar with the Emergency Ward back in Singapore, having escorted countless numbers of pupils there. I have become very accustomed to washing blood off myself.

My superior recently described his experience at the Emergency Ward of a local hospital (he was there to accompany someone). It really reinforced my view of China – that lives here are cheap. So cheap that an abortion is only RMB100 (about USD15, and they do not call it abortion – it’s an “artificial miscarriage”).

At the 6th People’s Hospital, when the ambulance first brings in the patient, he is simply left untreated (even if he’s bleeding) until someone pays the admission fee. Only then will a doctor or nurse attend to him. Until then, the puddles of blood on the floor remains uncleaned.

The next thing that happens would shock anybody coming from a more civilised part of the world. Right out in the ward, without curtains to form individual examination wards (Singapore has them) the unconscious patient (male or female) would be stripped and examined. The ridiculously curious Chinese who were there with their relatives would begin to surround and gawk! I would be very, very angry if the same thing happened to my wife!

Not only that, but the ridiculous going-all-over-the-place-to-pay treatment exists in the Emergency Ward as well! Take a CAT scan? Go to another counter and pay first, before going for the scan. Need a blood test? Go to another counter and pay first, then have your test. Someone might die any moment and there you are giving the roundabout treatment? How cheap can lives get – that it has to be measured in cash and time? Lives are supposed to be priceless!

Life is seriously cheap in China.

Office Titles in China

The Oriental people (by Oriental I refer to the narrower definition – people of Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese ethnicity) tend to be more “title-conscious” than westerners. We live in highly regulated and patriachal societies, and respect is something very important to us. This “respect” also tends to be reflected in the “titles” and positions occupied in society.

When my Chinese acquaintances (those I do not know well) speak to me, for example, they always refer to me as 曾老师 (“Chan-Teacher”) or 曾总 (“Chan-General Manager”). It is a mark for respect for me as an educator and someone to learn from, or a senior company staff. Those who know me well calls me…Michael. Only laoda would call me by my Chinese name…and it sounds really weird. Not even my parents use my Chinese name!

I was chatting with Dr Pan once (on my favourite topic, of course – aspects of business in Shanghai…we also chatted on the viability of an English-medium boarding school here) when I asked her a question on something that has always intrigued me – how are the different titles in China related to each other?

Well, technically speaking, the various titles are here in order of increasing importance – 组长 (“Team Head” or Supervisor)、科长 (“Theme Head” or Department Head)、局长 (“Station Head”) and 处长 (Director)。The English translations are the best equivalents I could think of. Simple, right?

Unfortunately, the prestige factor is also modified by the size of the organisation the person is in! So a Department Head at the national government’s body is actually more “respectable” than a Station Head of a city administration!

So herein lies the trap that ensnares many foreigners, unaware of the correct protocol and treatment to be given to the various persons they encounter. Unless you know the reach of his organisation, you cannot simply dismiss him as unimportant just because he’s only a Department Head!