Sunday, February 11, 2018

OUR KIND OF ENGLISH: Do we write the 1990’s or 1990s; MP’s or MPs?


By Abdi Sultani

On Page 9 of Bongo’s eldest Saturday broadsheet (Jan 27), a columnist writes: “… I remember, while still living in Hamburg, Germany, in the 90’s, I used to boast MYSELF by showing that VHS-video to each and every GERMANY friend...”

What is the 1990’s? The use of the apostrophe in this context is a common mistake sadly endorsed by quality controllers in our newsrooms. The scribbler in the cited article is talking about the YEARS that fall between 1990 and 1999. Now these are referred to as the 90s or the 1990s). The suffix “s” here signifies plural.

However, if you put the apostrophe after the zero (1990’s), you’d be talking about something belonging to the YEAR 1990!

The reader must have come across scribblers writing MP’s to abbreviate Members of Parliament. Wrong! MP’s is an abbreviation that shows you’re talking about something/things belonging to an MP. Now if you’re referring to many lawmakers, you should write MPs.

And when you’re proud of something, do we say you’re boasting yourself? Nope. You simply boast. It means our colleague should have written: “…I used to BOAST by showing VHS-video to every GERMAN (not GERMANY) friend…” Germany is the country presently headed by this tough lady called Angela Merkel. German is a qualifier of everything associated or belonging to this country, like: German people (or simply, Germans); German culture and German beer.

In Para 4, the scribbler writes: “Waziri, one of the MAN behind the success of Wana Njenje is a truly genuine and TRUSTWORTH person…” The sentence has two clear grammatical goofs. Take note of our capitalised words in the following rewrite: “=Waziri, one of the MEN behind the success of Wana Njenje, is a truly genuine and TRUSTWORTHY person…”

Come Sunday, February 4 and, on Page 21 of the tabloid closely associated with this columnist, there’s a piece entitled ‘The age of e-life is here…’ in which the scribbler says: “The moment you enter INTO a foreign country, all your biometric details are collected...” Enter into a country? Nope; you simply enter a country, the same way we ENTER (not enter into) a HOUSE. The verb “enter” is also used to mean joining an institution or a profession, like: enter college/university; enter politics/parliament or enter the church (become a priest).

In formal set ups—and this is figurative— we enter INTO agreements/contracts with some company to, say, build a new bridge. You can also talk of entering INTO DETAILS

as talks reach a certain stage.

Ah, this treacherous language called English!