Poor Reading Habit


By Ebere Wabara

LET me whet (not ‘wet’) your appetite: what will you do if approximately N600 million is credited to your bank account ‘in error’?

“President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and the National Assembly should seize (take) the auspicious moment….” In American English, you ‘seize’ opportunities/auspicious moments, but on British authority, you ‘take’ such momentums. ‘Seize’ has a subdued element of ‘force’!

“The fresh affront on (to) Nigeria was infuriating and unprovoked.”

“It could well have been avoided, (needless punctuation that breaks the flow of thought) had the Southern African nation acted with finesse in its constantly disturbing diplomatic relations with Nigeria if it actually has (had) a sense of history at all.” Still on the faulty comma, a subject and its predicate cannot be separated. There is sequence in collocation.

THE PUNCH August 24 carried two solecisms that bordered on sloppiness: “The clamour for SIM card registration by the NCC is an unnecessary detraction (sic) and should be stopped.” No distraction, please.

“Among other factors, the poor reading habit of the citizen account (accounts) for the thieving attitude which pervades public life today.”

It will make sense if newspapers begin to civilize their processes by correcting grammatical blunders in advert copies instead of running them sheepishly: “Strenghtening Stakeholders’ Capacity to use Alternative Dispute Resolution….” You do not need a study visit to USA: strengthening, but straightening.

“…he could write in such simple term (a simple term or simple terms) that a man on the street would understand him.” (THE NATION ON SUNDAY, August 23) My comment: ‘the man in the street’ is a fixed idiomatic expression. No writer has the poetic liberty to restructure such stock entries, except in colloquial environments.

Let us welcome, for the first time, soar-away SATURDAY TRIBUNE to this column. Its edition of August 22 undermined the English language on just four occasions: “At the scene, police detectives recovered live and expended ammunitions including explosives yet to be detonated.” Robbers on rampage in Lagos: ‘ammunition’ is uncountable. I would have preferred ‘live ammunition and pellets.’

”MTN: Police probes missing money” National news: Police probe missing money.

“Yet, the embattled boxer did not let go as he pointed accusing fingers to some….” Sport: he pointed the finger at some….

“Edo 2023: INEC preparations in fits and start” Any critical mind should know, at the drop of a hat, that something is wrong with the editorial headline: fits and starts.

Yet another bold headline indiscretion: “Buhari, governors asked to reduce costs of government” In the interest of our democracy: cost of governance.

“I am directed (cliché) to convey the following directives from the meeting of the Board of the National Universities Commission of…with regards to the Lead City University, Ibadan.” (Source: NUC Full-page Advertisement from the Office of the Deputy Executive Secretary for Chairman, NUC) Closure of illegal academic programmes: with regard to or as regards!

And this: “A peerless gentleman, business leader, industrialist and philantropist” Always spell-check: philanthropist.

“Man nabbed in hotel with under-aged girls” Get it right: under-age girls.

SATURDAY PUNCH of August 22 also committed the preceding disgusting blunder: “There is nothing heroic about a grown man hiding behind his wife’s back to sleep with an under-aged domestic.” No medals for goofs! An aside: is there any man that is not ‘grown’?

Interestingly, the ‘under-age’ bug also bit one of the headlines on this platform last week: “Osun police investigate under aged (sic) voters”

Apart from the foregoing headline affliction, the same edition had other lexical and structural issues: “The South East Zonal Caucus of the party passed a vote of no confidence on Nwodo.” Politics: vote of no confidence in Nwodo.

“These class of people had simply got bored about staging local parties and so….” Collocation glamour: either this class of people or these classes of people, depending on the configuration or grouping or contextualization.

“…the board awarded contracts in local currency worth N5.127 billion and dollars worth $1.863 million between January to June 2010.” Business grammar: between January and June or from January to June.

Let us return from this medium to the DAILY INDEPENDENT of August 20 under review: “However (sic) this time around he emerged as a consequence of regional vengefulness….” Buhari’s massive triumph: at the risk of repetitiveness, as long as particular errors in language usage keep occurring, we shall from this side continue to expose them as hard as possible. The good thing is, unlike advertisements, persistent dysfunctional communication cannot confer acceptability on jaundiced expressions. This way: this time round, for the umpteenth time! Columnists must read for subject depth and language currency. Both are the basic elements of public mass education, entertainment, information dissemination, holistic exchange of ideas and social engineering. Otherwise, we lose the entire essence of writing and sterility will beckon! Please note that ‘this time around’ is acceptable in American, unlike British, environments and applications.

“…they went berserk in patronage of media war to discredit the emerging administration followed by feasting legal bravado that resulted into conflicting suits.” No extinction: resulted in.

“A few days ago, members of the party in the State House of Assembly called it quit to join the winning ambience of the PDP.” The ‘legislative looters’ called it quits (not quit) to join PDP as if there is any ideological difference between the APC and PDP

Wrong: “…last week Thursday” Reflections: either last Thursday or Thursday, last week. The excerpt is unacceptable.
“Then this politician in flowing robes during the recent Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) convention approached him with that singular authority which money endows mediocre with….” (DAILY TRUST, August 13) A summary: either mediocrity or mediocrist (noun). ‘Mediocre’ is an adjective. Thus: mediocre politicians, governors, ministers, commissioners, chief press secretaries….

From here a fortnight ago comes this parting entry: “The ruling party deserves congratulations for (on/upon) the orderly and dignified manner its governorship primary in Edo State was conducted.”