To say ‘outstanding tax arrears’ is to entertain redundant verbiage!

Friday June 17 2022
Dental unit

This was captured by a reader and WhatsApped to us. So, what is DENTL UNITY? Our reader says he found it hard to fathom the message until he read just below the inscription the word MENO, which is Kiswahili for “teeth”. It means the arrows on the board and the inscriptions are meant to direct people to where issues to do with teeth are handled, namely the DENTAL UNIT. Trust signwriters! PHOTO | COURTESY

By Abdi Sultani

You become monotonous when you use a significant word more than once in a sentence, giving your audience the idea you’re a starved writer—vocabulary-wise.

Look at what’s in Para 2 of a story entitled ‘Pandemic: Tanzania is safe for travellers, says Health ministry’. This is in the Friday, June 10 edition of the tabloid associated with this columnist. The scribbler has written:

“In its latest rankings, the US Centre for Disease Control described (sic!) Tanzania and other COUNTRIES as COUNTRIES with unknown risk of Covid-19 infections.”

Also Read: Tanzania responds to 'unknown' Covid classification by CDC

Countries as countries with…? Boring isn’t it? Here’s a rewrite:

“In its latest rankings, the US Centre for Disease Control describes (not described, for this is from a fresh report) mentions Tanzania as ONE of the COUNTRIES with unknown risk of Covid-19 infections.”


On Page 2 of the Saturday, June 11 edition of the title I cite above, there’s a story entitled, ‘What next after Samia’s tax amnesty’. I cannot understand why there’s no question mark at the end of this headline which is interrogative! Headline writer’s poetic licence, maybe?

The summary for this story reads thus: “Touring Kagera Region, President Samia Suluhu Hassan directed TRA to stop troubling businesses by CORRECTING the outstanding Tax ARREARS except those from last year.”

Correcting taxes? I’ve little idea of how taxation matters are handled or explained, but I’ve nagging feeling the scribbler set out to write “…by COLLECTING the outstanding taxes…”

And why say, “outstanding tax arrears” in the summary and in the intro, while “outstanding” and “arrears” are words that mean the same thing? Check that out in your dictionary or Google.

And now a look at Bongo’s senior-most broadsheet of Saturday, June 11. In this edition, there’s a Page 2 story sent from the Clove Isles, headlined, ‘NCDs account for 60pc deaths in Zanzibar’. It is a story on the disturbing situation of non-communicable diseases in the Isles in which the scribbler reports on what the health deputy minister said in regard to the NCDs crisis:

“He said for instance 4,951 people—2,657 males and 2, 294 females—were diagnosed OF cancer while 16,192 others were diagnosed OF high blood pressure when they visited various health facilities between January and December 2021.”

We’ve a serious problem before us, because the wordbooks at my disposal show that the verb “diagnose” never goes with the preposition OF. So we’re in a dilemma, because we can’t tell whether the given figures represent people whom doctors discovered have cancer and high blood pressure (HBP). Or, whether they’re people doctors checked to see WHETHER or NOT they’ve cancer or HBP.

Our wordbooks teach us that we may say the following, for instance, One: A PERSON is diagnosed WITH cancer, meaning a check-up has shown the person has cancer and Two: The person’s DISEASE was diagnosed AS cancer, meaning it was discovered he has cancer.

Now, even as I shudder, I aver our colleague reporting from Zanzibar meant to inform readers that the minister told the House of Reps that “4,951 people were diagnosed WITH (not of) cancer while 16,192 others were diagnosed WITH (not of ) HBP! These people’s DISEASES, in effect, were diagnosed AS cancer (4,951) and HBP (16,192).

Page 5 of the same broadsheet is carrying a photo whose caption reads: “Dar es Salaam-based Hyatt Regency STAFF, Ms Lillian Kisasa leads OTHER colleagues to donate blood to support patients in need of the life saving liquid…”

Let me remind my scribbling colleagues for the millionth time here: one person, such Ms Kisasa, cannot be referred to as “staff”. She’s a MEMBER of staff. Why, the noun “staff” means ALL THE WORKERS EMPLOYED IN AN ORGANISATION CONSIDERED AS A GROUP.

Which is to say, simply, that Ms Kisasa is “a Hyatt Regency WORKER/EMPLOYEE (not staff) leading HER (not other) colleagues to donate blood….”

Ah, this treacherous language called English!

Disclaimer: The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Citizen.