OUR KIND OF ENGLISH: Jubilation as nation marks ‘29th independence’

Sunday April 14 2019

Mitumba GREAD One? That cannot be! The advert,

Mitumba GREAD One? That cannot be! The advert, we’re sure, is about “mitumba” GRADE One. And then, when you receive an invite to an important event, you’re usually advised to turn up in either CASUAL or FORMAL (not official) outfit. How about BRAUZI? No way; it’s BLAUZI (Kiswahili for blouse). Trust signwriters! PHOTO|AMS 

By Abdi Sultani

The Saturday Magazine of March 23 edition of the huge tabloid from Nairobi with a sizeable readership in Bongo, had an article entitled, ‘Loving your spouse in sickness and health’. Therein a woman narrates to a scribbler the story of her struggle with a husband diagnosed with schizophrenia, mental health condition.

The woman, instead of falling prey to witchdoctors or crooked pastors (some call themselves prophets!) for noisy prayers ostensibly to chase away “demons”, she had the good sense to take her husband to hospital for expert attention. The man is now doing fine. Kudos, Esther Wanjiru!

Hey, we’re digressing from our primary role of sharing linguistic gems! In the article, our Nairobi colleague, purporting to record what Wanjiru said about her husband after his condition worsened so much that he became virtually uncontrollable, she writes: “…At this point, he had deteriorated and would go to the streets BORROWING money.”

Borrow money? This is a perfect case of how direct translation ends up misinforming instead of informing! We’re somewhat familiar with a local language in Central Kenya in which the word “kuhoia” is used to mean “borrow” or “beg”, depending on the context.

Obviously, a man in the state of Wanjiru’s husband wouldn’t go about borrowing (in the real English sense) on the street. The fact is, we aver, is that the man “would be in the streets BEGGING FOR (not borrowing) money.” And now, back to Dar. On Mar 31, Bongo’s senior-most broadsheet has a piece on Page 9 headlined, “Namibia celebrates ‘29th independence’ with new inclusivity philosophy”. Something is peculiar here—29th independence—for it means the country has had numerous “independences” and this latest one was 29th. Now way! The word “ANNIVESARY” that should come after “independence” is certainly missing! And then, in his intro, the columnist says: “After more than 50 years now Africa has BECOME of AN AGE and indeed has had great experiences…” Has become of an age? Nope; we say, “…has COME OF AGE”, meaning, has grown up, matured. Africa had come of age.

Come Wed, Apr 3, and Page 2 of Bongo’s huge, colourful broadsheet, had a story entitled, ‘New twist in Parliament, CAG dispute’, in which the scribbler says:

“Contributing to the debate, Special Seat MP Catherine Magige said it is (sic) high time national leaders KNOW what to say and where to say it.”

A-a! We say: “It was HIGH TIME national leaders KNEW…”Like we say: “It’s high time we WENT” and not “It’s high time we GO.” This probably doesn’t make sense to us, but that’s how the indigenous speakers of this treacherous language say it—and we’ve to follow suit! On Page 3 of the same edition, there’s this story, ‘State repossesses 14 privatised industries…’, and therein, purporting to quote a deputy minister, the scribbler writes: “As AT now all 14 industries repossessed by the government are ready for take over…” As at now? No; we say, “as OF now…”

Ah, this treacherous language called English!

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