I never imagined I would bring what was meant to entertain those who would understand what, in most cases, were peculiar to Nigeria – to the larger world!
Much as I love “terminological inexactitudes”, the expression is not my coinage as it came to me via Peter [Pan] Enahoro’s ‘How to be a Nigerian’, a little book I must have purchased over a dozen times. I’ve given out copies and have bought many for myself each time I want to enjoy Peter Pan’s take of the Nigerian Character.
For younger Nigerians and for the benefit of my many non-Nigerian readers, Enahoro used to write a column for the Nigerian Daily Times which he edited decades ago under his pen name, Peter Pan.
Now, with “listen up”, “with regards to …” and other inexactitudes cropping up on “the world’s news leader”, CNN and other cable channels by journalists, the time may be near when we can have some fun on ‘terminological inexactitudes’ – world variety. First, though, I must introduce readers to the type I served newspaper readers for several years as it may take me several months to “listen up” to enough news on international cable channels to gather enough ‘inexactitudes’ for enough material for an essay.
While the English have perhaps moved on from “Queen’s English” and languages in our fast-moving world are v. dynamic, I believe correct grammar is pleasing to more readers than a well-dressed mannequin that can read the teleprompter correctly.
Today, I present one that I picked out for its lucidity. TOLA, August 2, 2012
“On his kneels” and other terminological inexactitudes:
Generally, I do not write about minor errors of spellings, etcetera which can often elude the eyes of even the most careful writers. The following, though, are in a class of their own.
If you want my opinion, the time of many in politics has passed but a Mr. X in the land of Mr. Uba, holder of fake bachelor’s, masters and doctoral degrees, announced that reports that a Mr. Y “has past his prime” was false. You walk past a landmark; the elections of 2007 may be in the past but Nigeria has not really passed the much-ballyhooed civilian-to-civilian transition, thank you very much. Mr. Y could be [is] past his prime; the participle ‘has’ is not needed
When I read a news report of a bank raid at U.I. by armed robbers, the thought that many onlookers “held their heads in their hands” may be scary but equally baffling is “soaked in his own blood” OR “in a pool of his own blood”. In whose blood, my dear friends, can an attacked be soaked?
Poor Mrs. Hardcastle of Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer must approve from a mythical grave where she must lay because she could not have held a candle to Nigerian businesswoman who claims she has always been successful in all she lays her hands on, a fact that has led her to announce with pride that I have not taken a decision that fired back! Oh, what delicious malapropism for ‘I have not [never] taken a decision that backfired’ although ‘backfired’ is not really the appropriate word that the woman of timber and caliber needs.
Nigeria’s legislative houses have been ‘strongholds’ of not only half-educated men and women – many with burdens of fraudulent pasts – but it is also true that the country remains under the stranglehold of retired General Obasanjo’s even while the Person In charge of Nigeria, Alhaji Yar Adua, pretends to be in charge. Nigeria’s Senate, House of Representatives, etcetera each represents “a place where a group having certain views, attitudes, etc. is concentrated” – a stronghold’ – while Obasanjo’s stranglehold – “any force or action that restricts or suppresses freedom” on every aspect of Nigerian life – was despotism at its worst.
The continued use of malapropisms by many in the pen trade borders on inability to change old habits – writing without reading over, abandonment of a key tool of the trade, the dictionary and, pardon me, laziness. It does bother me, though, that such journalists do not seem to care about the impressions they create when they use words without checking meanings and usages.
As regards and its sister or cousin, with regard to are not exactly interchangeable but one would hardly realize this from newspaper reports. If you decide on ‘as regards’, the ‘s’ is in, but ‘with regard to’ our continuing insistence that a government of national unity is much more than allocating “two juicy ministerial slots” to AC or ANPP, we must skip the ‘s’.
“Then began Y’s descend from false grace” the way a guy described a lady who went into one of the oldest professions – prostitution – a description that has two “k-legs”. The noun, ‘descent’ is what we need because Y supposedly descended into a thing – always a noun and NOT a verb. As for ‘false grace’, I’m not schooled enough in the Holy Book to know whether there is ‘false’ grace. Y’s ‘descent’ from ‘grace’ after what must have been a very decent life could have stemmed from poverty, bad company or living in a society where rulers steal and lead lives of conspicuous consumption which she would like to have.
I once asked a musicologist why we tend to sing a lot of grace notes that are not scored with the music in Hymns and he explained it this way: “Yoruba have a tendency to do it because it’s in our tonality.” Okay, Dare [that’s the musicologist’s name], please explain why men of pen from east to west and north to south like to spell the word ‘estranged’ as ‘enstranged’. Where is that extra ‘n’ from?
“On his KNEELS – ouch!” That’s right from my notebook but not from me. I think the writer should be made to go on his knees for prayers to his muse who apparently has deserted him, and while he kneels in prayers, he should ask for the strength to always pick a dictionary when in doubt. Then, again, he might have been confused by the Yoruba – kunle (kneel, verb) vs. ikunle (act of kneeling, a sort of gerund, i.e. in English, a verb acting as a noun) vs. ekun (knee). Yoruba often use Mo wa l’ori ikunle – ‘I’m on my knees.’ Thinking in a language before writing in another never works. Long-time readers of this column remember my young relation who came up with Nigerians like ki nwon ma ran eru for “Nigerians like to send luggages.” Her fast-flowing expression in English would, of course, make eru a person who is sent by Nigerians to do perhaps something!
I am sure there are a few senators who can stand toe to toe with their counterparts from the world over but we all know what a writer meant with “but the senate’s decision is a signal of worst things to come in the next dispensation” even though we also know that he needs the comparative worse and not the superlative worst which is often heard everywhere as in o ti e ti worst f’omo na – the girl has gotten worst!
I came across the following two sentences in newspapers the same day: “Does his silence means acceptance?” – as grating to the ear as: “But does your not being a member of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) makes you less an engineer?” In both sentences, the verbs must be the plural forms – ‘mean’ and ‘make’. Unfortunately, I do not know the rule for these because as I must have confessed here a million and one times, my university degree is in Business Administration. I do know by osmosis, so to say that I cannot say that ‘it does rains’.
When I read of “assembly members [wanting] to utilize the short days they had left”, I knew we had not just a grammatical error but also a geographical fallacy because unlike the situation in temperate zones, Nigeria never experiences winter-type short days; the ‘short period/time they had left’ is the needed phrase. Ditto the geographical blunder in saying “Public funds on beautification in Osogbo … may go down the drain owing to … climatic change.” Dry to wet is seasonal, not a climatic change, and the people in charge of beautification in the Southwest – unlike in the North – seem always only interested in contract awards but not in how planted shrubs and flowers can survive.
I love reading ‘letters to editor’ columns everywhere I go and caught the following in a recent PUNCH edition:
“During the inauguration of the National Assembly, I observed that virtually all the senators that introduced themselves committed serious grammatical blunders. When asked to introduce themselves, most of them said, “My name are…”. It was only Senator Gbemisola Rukayat Saraki-Fowora that got it right and said, “My name is…” Dear senators, no matter the number of names you bear, when you want to introduce yourself, you must say, “My name is…”.
Thanks, Mr. Sunday Adeoye of Agege, Lagos for this fitting end to this essay.
The Nation on Sunday, July 22, 2007.