OPINION: We don’t pick election nomination forms; we pick them UP

Friday July 3 2020


By Abdi Sultani

We have a couple of gems we unearthed from the June 20–26 edition of the leading regional weekly. Says the opinion scribbler in his intro paragraph: “For even US laymen, know that justice delayed is justice delayed.”

Sounds okay, but it isn’t. Using the pronoun “us” in this sentence is faulty because it cannot take the verb “know”. That is, you won’t get the nod if you said: “Us know that...” The right pronoun, therefore, should have been “we”: “For even WE laymen know that justice delayed is justice delayed.”

In the same good piece, the scribbler writes: “Some time ago, a CAR was ROBBED, then recovered and kept at a police station in the city….”

A car was robbed? Nope! We have noted in this column a zillion times before, that people don’t rob things. Rather, people are robbed of their things. It means, our colleague should have informed his readers that “a car was STOLEN.” Or, if he had to use the verb “rob”, come rain come shine, then he should have written: “A certain city resident WAS ROBBED OF his car…”

Then, the Friday, June 26 edition of the tabloid that is closely associated with this columnist had a story on Page 11 entitled, ‘Lord Eyes tries to clear his name’. Therein, the scribbler wrote: “Lord Eyes says it wasn’t his wish to let Ray C go because he truly loved her. However, Lord Eyes says Ray C was very a very JEALOUSY woman…”

Jealousy woman? No, siree! And the reason is, “jealousy” is a noun, just like “woman” is, and nouns cannot qualify each other. A noun can only be qualified by an adjective. Which is why the sentence in question should be rewritten to read: “However, Lord Eyes says Ray C was very a JEALOUS woman…”


Come Saturday, June 27, and Bongo’s senior-most broadsheet had a story on Page 1 running to Page 3, entitled, ‘School fees directives issued’. In this one, our scribbling colleague, while purporting to quote the education minister, wrote thus: “Schools should add two hours daily in their timetable (sic!) to compensate the time students spent at home so that they COULD BE ABLE to cover all the syllabi within time…”

Could be able? This is the past tense for “can be able”, right? Let us remind colleagues again, that “can” means exactly the same thing as “be able”. Now when we make the utterance “can able/could be able” we end up guilty of tautological illiteracy. Why, we give our audience the impression we don’t know the meaning of the words we are using!

Something else is worth noting on the same page, and that is from a caption thus written: “The minister for Minerals, Mr Doto Biteko, cuts A ribbon to signal the launch of the 9th and 10th Tanzania Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (TEITI) reports…”

Let us point out that the minister is not cutting a ribbon; he is cutting THE ribbon. Why, it is the only ribbon that would be cut in the context of launching the massive TEITI report. There is absolutely no likelihood of the minister moving on to another place to cut another ribbon to signify the launch of the same TEITI report.

It is in the same light we often tell our colleagues that when, say, the President is launching the start if a major structure, he lays THE (not A) foundation stone.

Page 4 of the same broadsheet has another story with the headline, ‘Tamwa hails three women for vying for presidency’. In his last-but-one paragraph, the scribbler, purporting to quote the senior-most Tamwa boss in the magical Clove Isles, writes the following: “As the exercise to collect nomination forms continues in Zanzibar, Tamwa-Zanzibar wishes to see more women from Chama Cha Mapinduzi PICKING nomination forms…”

Picking forms? Nope! The move by the 30-plus Zanzibar Ikulu aspirants, including women whose number had risen to five at the time we were filing this piece, should be referred to picking UP (not just picking) nomination forms. Why, to “pick” means selecting one thing from choices that are available. Pick up means to lift something/someone off from where it/he is lying or positioned.

Ah, this treacherous language called English!