Government is set to ‘build’ swept away bridges, ‘repair’ destroyed roads

Homebuilders are increasingly going for aluminium panels as they are conveniently lighter than steel or wood. Aluminium building material is what Wahenga Tuff Glass, located in Segerea, Dar es Salaam, will supply you with. And the aluminium, says the signwriter, can be used to make doors and BALICONY.  It’s hard to tell why the signwriter inserted “I” between “L” and “C” because the correct word is BALCONY. Trust signwriters! PHOTO | HM

Mathematics can be a very treacherous area to a majority of scribblers. Back in the 1990s, I recall, a publisher for a media house I worked for banned us from converting monetary figures from, say, dollars or pounds, to Tanzanian shillings.

Reason? Many of us would often mess up the calculations and make it appear like our shilling was much stronger than the US dollar! Or that the Ugandan shilling had suddenly appreciated against its Tanzanian counterpart!

At one time, Mwananchi Communications Ltd (MCL) saw the need to employ a statistician whose duties, among others, was to help us numerical minions to sort out “tricky” conversions. I was one of his most needy clients. Rest in peace, our amiable and invaluable newsroom friend, statistician Hassan Mghenyi (died August, 2011).

I was triggered into the above recollections after coming across a Page 8 story of the Friday, May 17 edition of the tabloid closely associated with this columnist. It was entitled: ‘Songwe aims to NEARLY quadruple coffee production.’

The verb “quadruple”, according to the dictionary at our disposal, means to “increase four times/multiply a number by FOUR.”

Let’s be fussy: why use the adjective “nearly”, while this is simply a headline where such details or qualifications are, basically, quite unnecessary?

And, by dropping the qualifier, there’d be enough space to use a simpler expression that means “quadruple”– an expression that wouldn’t force a hapless reader to reach for a dictionary! Like saying: ‘Songwe aims to increase coffee production four-fold’.

However, despite what the headline says, the story’s intro reads: “Songwe Region is setting an ambitious goal to increase coffee production by 187.2 per cent by 2025.”  Now is this increment quadrupling the amount of coffee presently produced?

Then in Para 4, our scribbling colleague tells his readers the following: “The target is to raise production from 11,355 tonnes to 32,617 tonnes within the next three years.” Our question here is, if quadrupling means increasing a sum four times, how come our calculator shows that 11,355 x 4 adds up to 45,420 as opposed to 32, 617?

Please send back your feedback if you note the scribblers’ analysis is correct and this columnist is the one who getting things wrong thanks to his innumeracy.

And now, we look at matters that have nothing to do with our nemesis, that is, numbers, by proceeding to share what we gathered from Bongo’s senior-most broadsheet of Saturday, May 18. Page 2 of this one has a story that carries this headline, ‘Government to restore flood-ravaged infrastructure.’

In Para 1, the scribbler reports on a deputy minister who purportedly told the Parliament that the government has already received a list of “roads that have been DESTROYED by heavy rains and floods across the country and that RENOVATIONS are set to start soon.”

Hello! Once something is destroyed, that’s over! Why, the verb “destroy” means damaging something so badly it ceases to exist!  You don’t renovate such a thing; for this word basically means the same thing as “repair.”

In Para 3, the scribbler reports the same deputy minister as responding to an MP “who wanted to know when the Government will REPAIR all roads that have been DESTROYED by the ongoing rains in his constituency.” The critique in the preceding paragraph applies: destroyed things are replaced, not  repaired, for how do you repair that which has been rendered non-existent!

The scribbler reports further from the august House in Dodoma: “The MP wanted to know when the Government will BUILD permanent and modern bridges THAT HAVE BEEN swept away by the floods.” This certainly a tall order: building something that has been swept away! We aver our colleague meant to say: “…the MP wanted to know when the Government would build permanent and modern bridges TO REPLACE THE ONES THAT HAVE BEEN swept away by the floods.”

Ah, this treacherous language called English!