I’ll never tire of telling my colleagues that we in the media have a duty to show leadership in the area of language use. Language is the stock-in-trade of a journalist. Which is why the late East African media icon Philip Ochieng used to admonish us incessantly: “If you lack in language competence, you’ve no business being in a newsroom.”
It’s most disappointing when a self-respecting journalist fails even in basic things like adhering to the fact that, proper nouns MUST begin with a capital letter. Indeed, I dare say, any persons who went to school up to, at least, Class 7, should know that names of people, rivers, places, etc, have to begin with a capital. It’s such a basic orthographic requirement.
Enough lecturing. I’ll now move to share linguistic gems collected over the past week or so. Here we go…
Before me is a copy of Nairobi’s leading Sunday tabloid (May 8 edition), Page 5 of which has a story entitled, ‘Wiper cancels rally in Mombasa after failing to secure permit’. In this one, the scribbler purports to quote Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka:
“My candidate has a constitutional right to contest in any part of the country, more so he IS born here and lived in Mombasa.”
He “is” born here? I bet our colleague, who filed his story in Mombasa, meant to quote the Hon Musyoka—a seasoned politician whose good command of English is well known—as saying that his candidate for the Mombasa governor’s seat, Mike Sonko“…WAS born here and...”
Back to Bongo. In an article entitled, ‘Didas Katona: The talent behind magari mabovu design’, appearing on Page 13 of the Friday, May 6 edition of the tabloid closely associated with this columnist, the scribbler purports to quote the subject of his story thus:
“One of the challenges is that, normally people don’t like and appreciate designs which are HOMAGE…”
Designs that are homage? This doesn’t make sense at all if we consider what the noun “homage” means. Paying homage, for instance, means giving respect. We suspect the scribbler meant to say: “…people don’t like and appreciate designs which are HOMEMADE.” Or, maybe, “…designs which are LOCALLY made.”
He further writes about his subject, fashion designer Didas Katona: “He lends a HELPING hand as he spends days HELPING the Maunga Children Centre making sure his support is well received TO those in need.”
We could do with just one “helping” to eradicate monotony. And then, the help you give is received BY (not to) those in need. Here is my rewrite: “He spends days HELPING the Maunga Children Centre making sure his support is well received BY those in need.”
Still with the tabloid cited above, where there’s another story entitled, ‘Joy to the family as court acquits Sabaya’.
Accompanying the story is a photo whose caption is thus written: “Some family members RELATED to Lengai Ole Sabaya share a light moment.” The expression “family members” renders irrelevant the use of the verb “related”, for that would be as lousy as saying, “family MEMBERS who are RELATIVES of Lengai Ole Sabaya! How about, “Relatives of Lengai Ole Sabaya share…”? Or, …Sabaya’s family members share…
Somewhere in the story, the scribbler writes: “The judge told THE COURT that in the evidence, it was stated that the accused made away with a cell phone…”
The judge told “the court”? No sir! Why, the judge is the embodiment of the court itself. He’s the court! Simply, our colleague should have written, “The judge said…”
The Saturday, May 7 edition of Bongo’s huge and colourful broadsheet had a story in which a deputy minister is said to have commended supervisors of the Kigoma-based Tuungane Project “for strengthening patrols by supporting security groups IN the shores of Lake Tanganyika.”
“In” the shores of Lake Tanganyika? No, we say ON the shores of Lake Tanganyika.
Ah, this treacherous language called English!