Here is one word that should stay away from pages

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - OPINION -

To my mind, the wealth and power of English con­sist, among many other prop­er­ties, in that prac­ti­cally each of a great many key English words has sev­eral mean­ings. Be­cause — in the words of an ex­tra­or­di­nary English­man called Wil­liam Shake­speare — econo-po­lit­i­cal Eng­land has re­cently be­strid­den the nar­row world like a colos­sus, Eng­land’s lan­guage has, in turn, bor­rowed very many such ideas and words from other lan­guages and cul­tures the whole world over.

That is among the prop­er­ties that make English the most pow­er­ful lan­guage that hu­mankind has ever cre­ated in its short but re­mark­able his­tory. Through English and other such world lan­guages, hu­man be­ings have com­bined their other na­ture­given forces to in­crease their pro­duc­tive pow­ers a mil­lion times in ev­ery sit­u­a­tion.

Yet that, pre­cisely, is why English poses so many in­su­per­a­ble prob­lems for the so­ci­eties which have re­cently adopted that Euro-ger­manic lan­guage as their tool of com­mu­ni­ca­tion in ad­min­is­tra­tion, in com­merce, in in­dus­try and in in­tel­lec­tual train­ing and up­bring­ing. For that rea­son, many such English words fre­quently con­tra­dict one an­other in mean­ing, of­ten di­rectly and some­times even jar­ringly.

How­ever, in coun­tries like Kenya, Tan­za­nia and Uganda, where his­tory has im­posed that An­glo-ger­manic tongue as the means of ed­u­ca­tion, com­merce, in­dus­try and gover­nance — but where English is the mother tongue of prac­ti­cally none of our lead­ers — that Euro-ger­manic lan­guage fre­quently causes Kenyans and other East Africans many more prob­lems than it solves.

For that rea­son alone, it is des­per­ately im­por­tant for ev­ery East African — es­pe­cially among the pub­lic of­fi­cials — to strive hard to use ev­ery English word as ac­cu­rately as pos­si­ble (se­man­ti­cally speak­ing). Take the very sim­ple word “move”. Kenya’s English-lan­guage news­pa­per­men and women ha­bit­u­ally use that word as a noun to re­fer to any ac­tion, in­clud­ing ver­bal, es­pe­cially where the ac­tion is taken by a high-pow­ered politi­cian, civil ser­vant or pri­vate com­pany of­fi­cial.

Ac­cord­ing to our news­pa­pers, prac­ti­cally ev­ery ut­ter­ance and ac­tion by ev­ery gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial is a

“move”. A mis­use of the word “move” as a sub­stan­tive — namely, as a noun — took place in a head­line in the Daily Na­tion of Thurs­day, Novem­ber 9. Broadly speak­ing, what had hap­pened had, in­deed, been a “move”. The only prob­lem is that a news­pa­per page is like a restau­rant menu.

A page must seek to whet the reader’s men­tal ap­petite and to glue him or her to ev­ery one of the sto­ries that ev­ery one of its pages con­tains. That, how­ever, is pos­si­ble only if each of those pages has dif­fer­ent and equally ap­petis­ing in­tel­lec­tual food items, all ad­ver­tised — as it were — by head­lines that will equally ar­rest the at­ten­tion of ev­ery po­ten­tial con­sumer, namely, ev­ery po­ten­tial reader.

Though, in many con­texts, bans never ac­tu­ally serve any use­ful so­cial pur­poses, it might be so­cially use­ful all round if some­body — like the edi­tor-in-chief — took the courage to ac­tu­ally slap a ban on the verb

“move” from head­lines in all the pages of all our daily news­pa­pers in Dar es Salaam, Kampala and Nairobi un­til the sub-ed­i­tors have learned to use it prop­erly.

PHILIP OCHIENG ...English poses so many in­su­per­a­ble prob­lems for the so­ci­eties which have re­cently adopted that Euro-ger­manic lan­guage as their tool of com­mu­ni­ca­tion in ad­min­is­tra­tion, in com­merce, in in­dus­try and in in­tel­lec­tual train­ing and up­bring­ing”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kenya

© PressReader. All rights reserved.