GhanaWeb TV



Is the wrong use of language a generational malaise?

Sat, 1 Sep 2007 Source: GNA

A GNA Feature by Boakye-Dankwa Boadi

Accra , Aug. 27, GNA - Our Elders say as long as we continue to have heads so long would we continue to wear hats. Indeed we have to continuously strive for perfection in every sphere of endeavour. It is, therefore, imperative for journalists not to relent in the effort to get it right always - both in content and the language. The recent criticism about language abuse in the Ghanaian media should be taken to be a call to perfection rather than an ignominious attack calculated to ridicule journalists.

This became more apparent after this Writer had taken a few minutes out of his rather tight schedule to check on language use by British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Reuters on their respective websites on Monday August 27 2007.

The findings reminded this Writer of the story of the adulterous woman in one of the villages, who allowed access to every man that proposed to her. The story is told that a man called Ewiase was one of her regular visitors and when he went on one of his usual visits there was a knock on the door by the man of the house. The woman quickly asked him to get under the bed, where he found the Chief of the village also hiding.

The story continues that the husband sat on the bed and started conversing with the wife. In the course of the conversation the man exclaimed "Ei Ewiase!" Ewiase, who was under the bed, thought that he had been found out and shouted back: "I am not here alone, the Chief is also here!"

And so it happened that when this Writer checked the websites he found the following on the bbc.co.uk website: "Star-struck policeman in trouble for hugging jailed Bollywood icon." One does not have to tell you that the word "Bollywood" should have been "Hollywood". This type of mistake, which is referred to as "typo" occurs very often because journalists always write under pressure.

Another one was: "France ready to apologise to Iraq. French Foreign Minister Bernard Koucher has offered to apologise to Iraq if he had meddled in its affairs. The statement comes a day after Iraqi Prime Minister Nuli Maliki demanded an official apology because Mr Koucher had suggested he resign." The correct usage should have been "resigned" or if the reporter wanted to use journalese, could have said "resigns" which is the third person singular.

There was also this one: "Mr Warner said the Senate would wait for next month's update on US troop surge, supposed give the Iraqi government extra time to make political progress before making any moves. Here the "to" after "supposed" was missing.

Again, there was this one: "Mr Nukaga, a former defence minister, takes on the role of finance minister, while Mr Komura, a former foreign minister, replace Yuri Koike as defence minister. The "replace" should have been "replaces".

Reuters also got one of its headlines wrong but the lead was correct. It wrote in the headline: "Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned from office, ending a controversial tenure as chief law enforcement office. It, however, got the word "officer" correct in the lead.

So it is not only the Ghanaian media that are awash with errors in the use of the English Language even the owners of the Language sometimes make mistakes.

This is not to say that one should allow such mistakes but the import here is that we should not be too terse when commenting on these mistakes. For instance when this Writer made a typo and wrote "lunched a vitriolic attack" in a previous article on language use instead of "launched a vitriolic attack" the comments made on the ghanaweb.com were in a rather bad taste though the error had been detected after the item was sent and a correction had been effected.

It was very strange that people whose standard of English was at the junior secondary school level also attempted to correct this Writer. One wrote: "At least one of your supposed corrections were wrong... It should have read: He bought some agriculturAL inputs(NOT agriculture inputs). A case of the blind leading the blind!" This is disaster. "one were wrong " a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

However, a good teacher as this Writer has been since 1971 when he taught at Kumasi High School, he had the time to teach him that there are adjectival nouns.

He explained that a noun can work after another noun as a modifier or an appositive.

A noun can work before another noun as a modifier.

A noun can work as a modifier of an adjective or verb.

The following sentences are correct :

1. John Mensah works at the Agriculture Ministry. Here we have a noun modifying another noun.

2. He attended the Agriculture College at Kwadaso.

3. They have established a new Agriculture Station in the Upper East

Region to carry out research into Savannah crops.

4. He bought a number of agriculture inputs.

5. The agriculture inputs included fertilizer and pesticides"

If you learnt something new after reading this piece, then the time spent was used profitably.

Columnist: GNA