“ANAMBRA: We’re rapidly restoring security in (to) troubled LGAs—Govt”
“Kwankwaso disowns Tinubu: I never endorse (endorsed) APC candidate, he says” Apart from the verbal error, there was obviously no need for ‘he says’ as it is clearly implied. Newspaper readers are largely not toddlers!
“…while one personnel (official) of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and four inmates were killed.” ‘Personnel’ is a collective word that cannot be individualized.
“The attack occurred barely two weeks after the Senate alerted the Nigerian Army of (to) the existence of terrorists’ enclaves in communities within three local government areas of Kwara and Niger states, respectively.”
An anonymous respondent sent a telephonic message to me in which he declared that ‘belongings of one person are property’ while ‘belongings of two persons admit properties’. He cautioned me to take note of the information! This was in respect of last week’s edition of this column where I made an authoritative comment on the count and uncountable nature of ‘property’. I have never seen this kind of blissful ignorance and shallow audacity before. If you don’t understand the etymological nuances of a language, you ask questions. What I do here is not a mechanistic, an emotive or a whimsical self-assignation. This is a research-based, borderless and multi-disciplinary market-place (column) for exchange of verifiable ideas with input from knowledgeable language activists and latest reference online (especially Grammarly.com) and offline materials. Lest I am misconstrued, I have not foreclosed marginal fallibility on the part of this columnist or contributors to this language clinic. Even Shakespeare and Churchill were not infallible!
Ordinarily, I ignore silly contributions from faceless and cowardly readers who, unsure of themselves, pigeon-hole their combative and usually moronic identities! Even if you are critical of views canvassed here, do not be afraid to put your name as it confers responsibility on the feedback. For readers who may not know, let’s take the full meaning of that word (property) and some examples from Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary: ‘Noun (plural: properties) 1. Uncountable: a thing or things that are owned by somebody; a possession or possessions. Examples: The building is government property. Be careful not to damage other people’s property. 2. Uncountable: land and buildings. Example: The price of property has risen enormously. 3. Countable: a building or buildings and the surrounding land. Example: There are a lot of empty properties in the area. 4. Countable and usually plural (formal): a quality or characteristic that something has. Example: Compare the physical properties of the two substances. My own example: Any plant with medicinal properties should be therapeutic. The choice is yours in the usage of ‘property’/‘properties’, but be informed in your decision.
This columnist usually runs away from the preceding didactic form of column writing because this space could be turned into a virtual classroom! Apart from consuming scarce space and precious time, it could be boring and lead to misconceptions and unwarranted hypercriticisms.
For Mr. Seith Akintoye, a distinguished member of our pen fraternity and an advocate of language purity: I have undertaken the research you suggested on ‘sack’ (sacking). Its application conveying ‘dismissal from work/company’ is quite all right in both verbal and gerundial contexts.
The singular form of a count noun should be preceded by a determiner, but a cross-section of the media deliberately omits determiners without any justification—or maybe out of sheer ignorance. In grammar, there is no room for mass appeal or convention. Our intuitive abilities or fundamentalism cannot supplant the dynamism of the English language. The distinction—and this is where some journalists have problems most—between count (countable) and non-count (uncountable) nouns should not be interpreted literally. It does not refer to the possibility of the object designated by the noun being physically countable. This is where the confusion arises. Rather, it refers to the grammatical characteristics of the noun. A noun is count if it makes a morphological distinction between singular and plural. Of course, it is non-count if such a distinction is not made. Some words, interestingly, have dual manifestation. In dealing with such words, extreme care should be exercised.
In another environment, it is wrong to use reflexive pronouns in place of reciprocal pronouns. The former indicate actions which take place mutually or severally. For example: the two girls have not been talking to themselves since they quarrelled. Here, ‘each other’ ought to have been used instead of ‘themselves’.
According to J. E. Metcalfe, “poor English is with us everywhere, on the radio and television, in newspapers and books, our speech and correspondence. Of course, we cannot all have the same magnificent command of our language as Shakespeare or Churchill, but we all need a thorough grounding in the basic elements of English.”
The objective of this column is to identify, as hard as possible, the errors committed by journalists and contributors in their use of the English language. To avoid the boredom that often characterizes conventional (textual) grammar series, a bit of intelligent humour accompanies the racy critique. I expect exchange of ideas on all aspects of the English language, including its literature. Let me emphasize here that I am not a grammar pedagogue. This three-decade-old concept has to do with professional interest and being a public platform, therefore, reactions by way of observations, corrections, suggestions, contributions, condemnations, commendations or general comments are welcome. You are free to responsibly and meaningfully disagree with me. I usually take it all in my stride and with equanimity. I frown at baseless contributions via SMS or any other channel for that matter.