Conspectus of Errors



By Ebere Wabara

THIS particular conspectus of errors is just to whet your appetite ahead of syntactic surgeries (a la Prof. Adidi Uyo of Unilag) next month! Most of the mistakes in the print and electronic media are the manifestations of carelessness, loose thinking and ignorance. We must be consistent in the use of either British or American English—mixing up both variants in any lexical environment shows slipshoddiness.       

Also note that most media audiences are sticklers for purism. For those in this finicky and fastidious class, any egregious slip counts. Unfortunately, most people who commit these facile and schoolboy blunders are persons who should know but because incorrigibility has affected them they have become ignoramuses! Why, for instance, should some journalists describe themselves as ‘media practitioners’ instead of ‘media professionals’? Doctors and lawyers practise medicine and law, respectively, clearly unlike the fourth estate.

I am not a linguistic diagnostician, but I can perform lexical and structural surgeries and make efficacious pharmacological/therapeutic recommendations based on knowledgeable familiarity with infelicities (and some of their typologies) that border on grammar, logic and rhetoric, which I had referred to elsewhere in this column as the pillars of the English language—get them right and you are on course.

Finally, I am more concerned here with the practical aspect of the English language than its critical theoretical underpinnings which are available in all standard textbooks and easily accessible. This work is a stop-gap exercise for quick resolutions of daily grammatical challenges. From my own personal experiences and encounters with people, most exonormative language users prefer easy-to-read-and-follow summaries to usually massive, boring and complex theoretical prescriptions! This is hoping that I am not inadvertently encouraging intellectual slothfulness by this remedial quick-fix intervention!

Let me reiterate that the focus of this column is formal (modern) British Standard English usage—not traditional or regionalized English, which is usually dialectical with a dozen of applicative circumscription!

“Invitee” is a piece of Americanism that has invaded Nigeria by way of language imperialism. Persistent abuse of a word or phrase does not confer acceptability or correctness on it. Sticklers must cleanse themselves of the juvenile indoctrination that everything in the dictionary is correct. This columnist, without being immodest, has developed the capacity and competency to justifiably question literary status quo and conventions.

This columnist is not interested in colloquial and informal (non-standard) entries, which may exist in ‘Abrahamic’ (ancient) registers, dictionaries and thesauruses! Personally, language currency is the sustainable path to toe—not faddishness, lexical conservatism, conventional wisdom and normative reliance. I have dictionaries, thesauri, English language textbooks and other general interest books which contain grammatical and factual blunders! For me, these publications are guides which are not inviolable. Even the Bible, thesaurus and Shakespearean materials, as authoritative as they are, still contain lexical, structural and informational contradictions, if not fallacies. The edition of references is also critical because what is right today may be wrong tomorrow, depending on human strides, dynamism and universal language development.

Our familiarization with dated words or expressions in vogue in our locales should not mislead us into believing that they are sacrosanct and immutable. I welcome more constructive reactions to this and other issues raised here. My position on “invitee” still stands. According to D. W. Williams, past experience (sic) should be a guide post, not a hitching post.

Back to our usual business: “The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is currently in a dilemma over the inability of five of the eight banks that failed the stress test in the industry in…..” (NIGERIAN Tribune, March 2) By every shred, “is” indicates currency. So, I do not understand this ubiquity in Nigerian newspapers: “is currently”. A rewrite: The CBN is in a dilemma….  

“My most embarrasing day” (SUNDAY PUNCH Beauty Corner Headline, March 31) Spell-check: embarrassing, but harassing

“Exploitation of the underaged” (Sunday Tribune, March 31) Get it right: underage.

“First Bank Nigeria PLC’s result for the period is an attestation of the trend” (Source: as above) Money: attestation to (not of) the trend.

“…there is no doubt that she will be able to steer the ship of the bank without any doubt….” (THISDAY SUNDAY BUSINESS PEOPLE, March 3) Why the overkill of ‘doubt’?

“Let sleeping dog lie!” (Vanguard Headline, April 2) Sweet and Sour: Let sleeping dogs lie.

“More grease to your elbow.” (DAILY SUN, April 2) This way: More power (not grease) to your elbow. What future for the English language?

“I believe that our politicians ought to have become more mature, and that the maturity would manifest in their conducts (conduct).”

“My mission was to present a review of the book at the occasion.” (THE GUARDIAN, March 4) Return to the source: on the occasion.

The next three blunders are from the Nigerian Tribune of March 4: “They are taken through a two-week orientation seminar on American culture and press at the onset (outset) of the fellowship programme in June.”

“It is sad, very sad that the Nigerian police has never been known to use rubber bullets.” Checking the excesses of security operatives: Nigerian police have (not has).

“The assistance of government is urgently needed in this matter as lack of co-operation by many residents is hampering the activities of vigilante (vigilance) bodies.”

“Similarly, at the advent of any coup in Nigeria, we discover that power in all ramification (ramifications) is taken over by the military.”

“An average number of the Southerners are readily willing even at short notice (a comma) to stab their own brother on (in) the back, if only to have a piece of the national cake.”

“Furthermore, the South seem (seems) to have taken the north for granted for too long.”

THE GUARDIAN of March 3 powered two mistakes: “We must entrench into (in) the statute books provisions for the recovery of stolen loot from outgoing governors, ministers and their proximate beneficiaries….” Is there any loot that is not stolen?