‘Enquiry’ or ‘Inquiry’?


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By Ebere Wabara

THE first set of errors is from DAILY SUN and NEW TELEGRAPH of November 28: “Ikeja Electric invests N11bn on (in) infrastructure upgrade” “NB takes Don’t Drink and Drive campaign (sic) to Abuja” Motoring: Don’t Drink-and-Drive Campaign “The PDP-led administration in the state still owe (owes) civil servants five months (months’) salary arrears….” “…yesterday slumped and died at (on) the National Assembly premises.” “…to give insight into the incidence (incident) was not successful (was unsuccessful),” “But in the welter of these realignment of forces…” Re-thinking development: this realignment of forces. “The fear along the room and corridor (corridors) of power of a sovereign national conference.…” “It is not in doubt that most of the commuters in the luxurious (luxury) buses that ply.…” “…Aba traders constitute a large proportion of the passengers on commercial aircrafts (aircraft) that fly….” “Major reorganization of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), which may lead to mass retirement and sack of its men and officers, now looms.” Get it right: a major reorganization or major reorganizations, as context demands. “One of the most outrageous abuses occured.…” Spelling in the lurch: occur, occurrence, occurred. “I do not buy the argument that the advent of electronic mails and network computers have rendered postal services obsolete.” Not yet time for structural proximity: the advent of electronic mails and network computers has (not have). “In doing this, however, he must be faithful to the mandate of the ECOWAS Heads of Government under whose platform he operates.” Agenda: on (not under) whose platform he operates “As Nigerian editors converge in (on) Port Harcourt for their 11th Annual Meeting.…” “A government white paper on the demonstration….” Sheer abuse of words! ‘White paper’ is a report issued by Government to give information. Let’s respect words. After all, reporting is all about telegraphic brevity.

“UNN students union honour vice chancellor” What is happening? Sub-editors of these days show traces of illiteracy! This way: UNN students’ union honours VC “The fact that some people eat food that does nothing for their physical well-being put them in the class of the poor.” The fact…puts. “The richer nations who (sic) have more than enough should in this moment of great need and expectation by the poor masses (the masses are basically poor) be their brothers’ keepers.” Standard sociolinguistics: ‘brother’s keeper’—whether one or more. “Any further discourse on it, some might say, amounts to nothing but over-flogging a dead horse.” You flog, not over-flog, a dead horse, talking idiomatically. “Like few (a few in this context) years ago, a life cow was allegedly buried….” ‘Life cow’ in place of ‘live cow’ portrays sub-literacy. “Opponents of private universities claim that they will aggravate the unemployment problem in the country.” ‘Unemployment’ is certainly a problem—so why compound it by adding another ‘problem’? “Denmark has just played an historic role in….” ‘An historic role’ is the type of expression Ndaeyo Uko calls Elizabethan English! Current syntactic trend: ‘a historic…’ “One of the enduring concerns at the workshop concerned the role and orientation of the military with regards to our democratic aspirations.” Received English: ‘as regards’ or ‘with regard to’ “…the two ethnic rivals are now creating the impression that they are about to re-open (no hyphen) their old wounds and embark on another round of strive (strife).” “To blackmail has so much become the past-time.” Standard entry: ‘pastime’. “They have in most cases remained willing collaborators in the de-politicization of the political system by acquiescing to virtually all the issues….” Get it right: acquiescing in (not to). “And the neglect of such costs lead to political and economic imbalance that create disequilibria in the larger society.” The two verbs in this sentence (‘lead’ and ‘create’) demand singular usage to agree with ‘neglect’ and ‘imbalance.’ “The criteria for the choice of candidates was based on partisan political loyalties and ethnic considerations.” The plural of ‘criterion’ is ‘criteria’. “NSE parleys foreign stock exchange” ‘Parley’ takes ‘with’, if it must be used in this sense at all. By the way, is it not amazing that some Nigerian sub-editors do not know what the ‘N’ in ‘NUJ’ represents? It is Nigeria (not Nigerian) Union of Journalists. One keeps coming across the unpardonable error in reputable newspapers and magazines. “Rangers’ boss picks holes on 3SC” I also pick my won holes in (not on) this headline. “We express these fears, knowing fully well the nature of….” This amounts to ill-treatment of the English language. Right: knowing full well.


I am pained to cite a piece entitled “JED installs smart metres in Jos”, page 6, The Nation On Sunday, November 27, 2016, as a poorly edited nine-paragraph, short piece. One, “metre” measures height or length, while “meter” is a measurement device. So, the writer meant meter. In paragraph 3, “has began” should read “has begun”, while “esteem customers” in the same paragraph ought to be “esteemed”. In the fourth paragraph, “arrived” should have taken “in” or “at” Jos since “arrive” is not a transitive verb. One can “arrive home” though. Also, “over 5 to 10 years” ought to read “more than 5 to 10 years”. “Over” refers to height or distance while “more than” is suitable for quantity. “To installed” is bad grammar. In paragraph 8 is another error, “mounted on polls.” Did he mean “poles”? “Interphase” should read “interface”. Besides, there’s no need to repeat “in Jos, the Plateau State capital” in paragraph 5. (Contributed by KOLA DANISA/07068074257) LEST we forget, CELEBRATER or Celebrator is reserved for someone having a good time while “celebrant” is reserved for someone who conducts a religious rite. If “celebrator” becomes overworked/overused or becomes obsolete, then “celebrater”, the original word, will take over (Look it up in The New International Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary of The English Language, page 214 and The Associated Press STYLEBOOK, page 36).

“Inquire” is the preferred spelling, NOT “enquire” and “inquiry” is preferred to “enquiry” (DICTIONARY OF USAGE, page 91). Besides, in American English, the general preference is to use “inquiry” (GOOD WORD GUIDE, page 99). The debate continues. Well done, brother! (Bayo Oguntunase, Language activist, Adoro62@yahoo.co.uk) MR. Wabara, I have always enjoyed your every Sunday tonic—Wordsworth. Keep it up. I wish to draw your attention to our discussion on the word ‘about’ in one of last month’s editions. You inadvertently repeated what was required to be corrected as the correction. Secondly, one of your contributors to that edition should have said, ‘about 1,720 or 1,700’…rounded to the nearest 10 or 100 (sic) would have read rounded up or down to the nearest 10 or 100. And this: 1,729 or 1,700 (to the nearest 10 and 100 respectively). For instance, 1,755 can be rounded up to 1,800 (not 100). Thank you. (Surveyor J. O. Amayo, Benin City, 08051646227) DR. Stanley Nduagu (08062925996) sent in the next faulty extract from Aba: “The Nigerian nurses as endangered specie (species)” (Nigerian nurses and midwives’ advertorial) ‘Species’ is both singular and plural. The word ‘specie’ has no place in English language.