If there is one thing that bugs fussy readers such as this columnist, that thing is reading a sentence in which the writer doesn’t care about punctuation. But hang on! Is it that we don’t care, or could it be that there are numerous scribblers among our ranks, including subeditors and proofreaders, who lack the knowledge on how to punctuate a sentence?
A keen survey of our print media products gives the impression that there are many among us in the industry who have no idea of what comprises a sentence.
We torture our readers when we subject them to ten-mile long, unpunctuated constructions. Indeed, long, winding sentences, even when carefully punctuated, are best avoided. There are all these scribblers, including opinion writers and even columnists, who seem to have problems knowing where their particular sentence ends, and where the next begins.
And this malady is common in both our English and the Kiswahili newspapers. Someone writes a sentence, and after it comes to an end, he puts a comma (,) then starts another!
If you ask us, we would say short sentences make reading more interesting and much easier. Check out the style of Freddy Macha in his columns, ‘Kutoka London’ in Mwananchi Jumapili and the ‘A Chat from London’ (The Citizen, Friday). Short, crisp sentences. Or, Dk Levy in his ‘Ndani ya Boksi’ column with his lengthy, yet very readable articles published in Mwananchi Jumamosi.
Enough of lecturing. Let us now move to deliver what this column is essentially all about: linguistic gems from the Bongo English press that we picked up in the recent past. So, here we go…
In Bongo’s huge and colourful broadsheet of Saturday, July 04, there is a story on Page 4 entitled, ‘Two foreign clerics facing charges over illegal entry’. In this one, the scribbler writes: “Magistrate Thomas Simba ALLEGED that upon completion of jail terms, the DRC nationals should be deported BACK to their country.”
Magistrate alleged? Oh, no! A magistrate personifies the court, he is the dispenser of justice. Which is to say, a magistrate/judge does not utter an allegation, the synonym of which is “claim”—madai/tuhuma in Kiswahili. He says, he orders, he penalises/sentences the guilty!
It is everybody else who stands before him (either as an accuser or a defendant) who alleges. And it is after the allegations are proven beyond reasonable doubt that the magistrate/judge gives his verdict. His judgement can only be annulled by a higher court—in a very carefully worded criticism.
Still on the same sentence. It is our contention that saying “deported BACK” is to entertain superfluity. The word “back” is unnecessary. Saying the DRC nationals should be “deported to their country” is enough!
Another gem from the same broadsheet is on Page 1, thanks to a story entitled, ‘Five die, two injured in lorry-van (sic!) collision’. Therein, the scribbler reports what happened and more, saying: “The driver of the lorry…escaped after the crash and the police are following his tracks to arraign him IN COURT.”
Arraign in court? No, siree! You just arraign, because the verb “arraign” incorporates the notion of being taken to court to face the judge/magistrate.
Finally, we have before us a copy of the Friday, July 3 edition of the tabloid whose boss endorses this columnist’s paycheque. On Page 4 of this one, there is a photo taken at the Saba Saba grounds in Dar, featuring a minister tasting grape wine, a product of a Dodoma-based industry. This was part of the minister’s tour of pavilions in which entrepreneurs exhibited their merchandise. Now the headline for the picture is thus written, ‘Up-coming enterprises showcase products at Saba Saba grounds’.
Up-coming enterprises? Nope! Two things are noteworthy here. First, the hyphen (-) is unnecessary—we just need to write “upcoming”. Second, the enterprises are already in place, so they cannot be upcoming. We aver the headline had in mind enterprises that are endeavouring to grow—they are still young. Now these are UP-AND-COMING (not upcoming) enterprises.
Upcoming refers to an event that is—as they say in sports—on the cards. That which will take place soon. Today, for instance, soccer lovers in Bongo are feverishly talking about the UPCOMING titanic encounter slated for Sunday, pitting Young Africans SC against Simba SC!
Ah, this treacherous language called English!
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