‘Life & Property’: Fixed Entry


With Ebere Wabara

THISDAY Front Page of March 7 welcomes us today after a long break with these three incongruences: “He explained that the visit of the security chiefs to the scene was to enable them deploy additional security men to (in) the school and the community to forestall future attack.” You cannot forestall past or present attack! So, once you employ ‘forestall’ in whatever context, it means an attack yet to take place. In other words, ‘forestall future attack’ is a phrasal incongruence.

“…safeguarding lives and properties of people in the state….” Truth and reason: life and property in the state. This is a stock phrase not subject to pluralism. Would it have been property of whom else, if not people? Maybe cows! The phrase, ‘life’ and ‘property’, is a fixed/stock expression. In a few other exceptional or classical contexts (particularly ‘property’), both words admit pluralism. If it were a case of safeguarding of lives and prevention of arson, we could talk of ‘lives and properties’—not just property which would be uncountable in the contrary circumstance.

This is no more news because phrasal verbs abhor hyphenation: “CJN swears-in (swears in) Justice…”
Wrong: eye service
Right: lip-service
“Minimum wage: NLC gives Bauchi Govt (Govt.) 21 days (days’) ultimatum to resume negotiations”
“EFCC to issue criminal summon (summons) against (on) Diezani” (News around the city, March 11) Please note that ‘summons’ is singular and summonses (plural). Most times, some people think that ‘summon’ is the right context as excerpted here, just as they believe that ‘summons’ is the plural. And this: you issue a summons on, not against, somebody.

“2023: Buhari will handover (hand over) to Igbo—NUF” (South East News, March 11)
Let us welcome ‘Lookout’ to this column. Its March 11 edition fumbled: “…not one of these dreams have (has) been achieved after close to six decades.”

“Martins: SWAN condoles (condoles with) family, berates LMC’ (DAILY SUN SPORTS, March 11) Simple alternative: SWAN consoles family—instead of sophisticated ignorance!
“In the eyes and reckoning of every Imo citizens, there has only been two administrations in the state.” Every Imo citizen or all Imo citizens…and this: there have (not has) only been two administrations in the state.

“NPA commends FG over (for) port reforms” (THISDAY Headline, January 27)
“Nigeria’s aviation industry has witnessed some changes since the administration of late Musa Umar Yar’dua….” (THISDAY Aviation, January 27) The administration of the late….
“After four years of solid performance on the saddle…”’ Let God’s will be done: in the saddle.

“Some states have seized the opportunity to make waves….” It is only in America and Nigeria that opportunities are seized. In New (Formal/Standard) English environments, you either use or take opportunities. ‘Seize’ inseparably involves the use of some measure of force or deployment of violence.

“Gowon, Jang, others pay last respect to…” No news: last respects.
Yet another headline goof from the above edition: “Tantalizers fete (fetes) kids on Valentine’s Day” Tantalizers is just a company.
“Post election panel is illegal and diversionary” Get it right: Post-election panel illegal, diversionary

“It is perhaps in this light that the series of consultative meeting….” Folk (popular) etymology: the series of consultative meetings.
“In this regard, one must doff one’s hat for Dr. Mike Adenuga Jr. ….” This way: doff (also take off) one’s hat to (not for).

“In the last elections, voters had to choose between three parties essentially….” ‘Between three parties’ is simply acidulous. Formal expression: among three parties….
“The security-men who arrested Chima were eight in number (what would ‘eight’ have been?) and arrived at about 10 a .m. in the morning.” Towards Standard English for readers: at 11.a.m or about 11a.m, if there is an element of uncertainty. To employ the two in one breath is irksome. How does this sound: ’10 a.m. in the morning’? This is simply embarrassing!

“Of course film-makers should also watch them so that the public can be told the videos are not some Hollywood make-belief.” My comment: make-believe.
“Pondering over the nation is the spectra of economic corruption and a descent into (to) chaos and anarchy.” Singular: spectrum and plural (spectra).

“It is therefore most expedient for ex-Generals like Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida to re-examine its (their) role in government and take a honourable bow from politics.” A time to quit: an honourable bow.

“Even now, no talk of regional or sub-regional integration is complete in this continent without an echo from Nigeria.” Diplomacy: on the continent.
“…am convinced that what held the audience spell-bounded (spell-bound) and excited was the fact of an Anglophone being able to tell him in their own language.”
“Instead, people compete and fall over one another for the crumbs and fallouts from the ‘high table’ (platform/dais/rostrum) and even defend the indefensible.” ‘Fallout’ is uncountable.

“…we swept them under the carpet pretending that all was well when in actual (what for?) fact we were heading towards apocalypse.”
“…others point out the moral ground for such action (an action), given Labour’s antecedents in the past.” ‘Antecedents in the past’? This is unacceptable for obvious reasons. One of these days, somebody would write ‘future antecedents’! Delete ‘in the past’.

“As at 1985 there are (were) over 36,000 dams in the world with about 18,000 in China alone.”
“Are you therefore surprise (sic) to find mediocres promoted beyond their highest level of competency.” The noun form of ‘mediocre’ (an adjective) is ‘mediocrity’ or ‘mediocrist’.
“Statistics of African debt profile shows (show) that Nigeria owes about 15 per cent of the continent’s debt.”

“But none of these leaders coming with large (a large) retinue of people (would it have been of dogs?) will agree that it is important to back-up (back up) their good wishes with concrete policy (a concrete policy) in the area of debt management for sustainable growth.”
“Within the 15 years of the four military regimes under review, Nigeria moved twice from one extreme end of the scale to the other in her (its) relation with other nations.” Either extreme or end—both cannot co-function.

“General Babangida’s emergence on the scene brought an initial soothing balm in Nigeria’s foreign relations because of his early release of a transition programme.” ‘Soothing balm’ is offensive to good scholarship. What else, apart from soothing, would balm do?
“While the Chinese were still protesting the bombing of their embassy in Belgrade, NATO had gone ahead to bomb the Swiss embassy, causing damages (damage) to the Angolan embassy and hit (hitting) a hospital, among others.”

“What is laying a siege on (to) public wealth and traumatizing all those who dared to point accusing fingers.” Delete ‘accusing’ because of its contextual redundancy. And this: point the finger (stock expression).
“How does the separation of powers that are (is) discernible in Government textbooks operate in real life.”

“Just as the banning of books and newspapers give (gives) rise to an illicit trade in them….”
“Perhaps it may interest you to note that the average take home (a hyphen) pay of a fresh university graduate a month, in any of the Federal ministry (ministries), was slightly above N3,000.”