At a cross road? No; we say at ‘a crossroads’

Sunday December 16 2018


We’re coming to this year’s end. It means, there’re lots of pending issues to be sorted out ahead of Jan 6, 2019 when we’ll publish Our Kind of English (OKE) year opener. We’ll therefore skip our usual tutorial blah-blah and go straight into real issues, and so, here we go…

A reader drew our attention to an article in Bongo’s senior-most broadsheet of Sat Sept 10, entitled, ‘Culture: Say No to homosexuality!’ in which the scribbler says in Para 8: “Questions that LINGERS are…”, and in Para 10 he says: “…Instagram…and the likes have impacted negatively on the youth who spend much time viewing images which CORRUPTS …”

There’re an issue of basic grammar here—plural nouns explained by singular verbs: questions that LINGERS (wrong) instead of “Questions that LINGER” and “images which CORRUPTS” (wrong) instead of “images which CORRUPT”. Proofreaders, please wake up!

In Para 13 the scribbler writes: “Now that we have been caught at a CROSS ROAD, we must talk about it.” A-a! The idiom is “at a CROSSROADS.” It’s from the phrase “a cross roads”, meaning “where two roads meet and cross each other.” Figuratively, when something is at a crossroads, it means it has reached a crucial stage in its development where it could go one way or another. Njia panda, we say in Kiswahili.

On Paged 17 of the same edition, there’s this story: ‘Russian performers capture Dar with soothing melody’, and therein the scribbler says:

“…the way the AUDIENCES were very attentive it (sic) showed how they enjoyed the performance.”

The scribbler wants us to believe that if, e.g., there were 200 people watching the artistes on stage, then, the said show was attended by 200 audiences! No sir! The whole lot of the 200 people would comprise THE AUDIENCE…which our dictionary defines as ‘’the group of people who’ve gathered to watch or listen to something—a play, concert or somebody speaking, etc.

Come Sat, Dec 8, and Page 5 of the tabloid associated with this columnist had a story entitled, ‘JPM cancels party, pardons 4,000” Therein, the scribbler, purporting to report what His Excellency said ahead of the 57th anniversary of our Uhuru (Dec 9), writes:

“…the President clarified that those who will be granted his clemency will include ADULTS, pregnant women and disabled inmates.”

Who are these “adults” that our colleague is talking about? We too listened to JPM’s address and we heard him say he’s pardoning, among others, WAZEE aged 70 and above.

There’s an issue with diction here. People aged 70 aren’t simply adults and indeed, English for wazee is not “adults”; it’s the ELDERLY. In any case, says the Law in Bongo, at 18 (the furthest thing from a mzee), you’re an adult.


In last Sunday’s edition, this columnist proclaimed, very confidently, that MV this or that stands for Marine Vehicle this or that. Nope, our avid OKE reader, contributor and critic, Mr MH, communicated. The abbreviation stands for Motor Vessel. He’s most correct.

Ah, this treacherous language called English!

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