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Lexical Insights

Posted: May 2, 2015 at 3:40 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Ebere Wabara


I must make it clear that the first part of the compendium entitled “Media Gaffes & Essays”, plus other interventions, is not a comprehensive textbook on the English language. In other words, the reader will not be exposed to the principles of the language or other didactic technicalities. The essence of the language section of this book is to point out blatant errors that stalk and leap at you in the day-to-day usage of this medium of communication by the mass media. Familiarity with the practical methodology adopted in addressing the flaws will, undoubtedly, foreclose the reader’s probability of committing common, everyday, blunders.

Compiling this conspectus of saucy howlers over the years has evoked salient questions in me: why are these egregious flaws committed? Is it a function of ignorance, carelessness or sheer mistakes? Could it be tactlessness or just inexperience arising from slothfulness? Should it all be attributed to the evolution of what has come to be known (and locally accepted?) as ‘Nigerian English’. Staggered answers to these posers are contained in this book. I have the conviction that the enterprising contents of this book will enrich your knowledge. If they do, my career has been made. Otherwise, my calling would have been a fiasco!

From my practical experiences, it is not the deep-structured mechanics of any language that matter most, but the cultivation of critical self-consciousness which profoundly provokes you to identify or interrogate an impercetible flaw immediately you come across one without recourse to any literary basics—the nudge becomes internalized and spontaneous the moment you encounter any faux pas. This may have marginal limitations, but it does not confer any edge on the theorist. At the risk of immodesty, you will learn more from this book than all the English language textbooks put together because of its unprecedented and compelling practicality that distinguishes it from all other books.

For many reasons, it is good to know the fundamentals of any language. However, I have equally found out that most of the schoolboy howlers extracted and corrected in this book are a function of my intuition—not necessarily a case of English language mastery. And, interestingly, it has scarcely failed me in the past 32 years! You, too, can develop that innate competency to grasp such linguistic mysteries. We must not rule out human frailty, proclivity and predilection for committing mistakes. This notwithstanding, always strive after perfection and you will not be far from usage excellence. If you are able to attain this lofty height, this intervention would have been worth the effort. In a nutshell, knowledge and carefulness are the two main antidotes to committing infractions in speaking or writing.

Do not ever forget that one of the few illuminating things that will enhance your respectability in the society and profile ascent is a mastery of the English language and a cornucopia of misapprehensions by any way you can—one of which is this book! What we learn outside the classroom is deeper and more enduring than the teaching-and-learning process that has systemically been vanishing since the 1980s! It is so bad nowadays that most graduates—including English language products!—cannot write or speak confidently for fear of being publicly embarrassed. Do you totally blame them when most textbooks, including those on English language, are replete with solecisms, some imperceptible.

Overall, all the scholastic methodologies, intellectualization of language and individuals’ abilities to codify inaccuracies do not guarantee usage quintessence. The summit of it all is voracious reading with emphasis on the three pillars of the English language namely grammar, logic and rhetoric and a conspectus of self-development irrespective of your academic background or professional pedigree.

Part one of this book is a summation of lapses exclusively gathered by this author in the past 31 years from the mass media, largely, other books, public speakers and nondescript publications/sources. Part two is a selection of a few of my published essays, while part three is a series of tributes to some distinguished Nigerians that I have come to respect and esteem, as they say, for reasons best known to me! Part four rounds off the segmentation with detailed accounts of my abduction and the global umbrage the barbarity drew to the country and the police particularly.

I welcome constructive criticisms of all the sections of this book for my personal edification and futuristic utility, hopefully, by way of correctional elucidation in subsequent editions if need be. Of course, I take full responsibility for any misprint or informational lacunae not just because of my tangential editorship of the interventions but on grounds of my authorship of virtually all the entries.

Over the years, I had been critical of American English, insisting on the British version only. Having reflected on the hotchpotch miasma and collectivization of languages and events that culminated in the evolution of what is today known as British English, I henceforth accept the American variant, equally, which I expect Britons to be proud that their ‘mother-tongue’, so to speak, has been massively and widely adapted, modified and accepted by other countries. After all, should it not be a source of pride to Britain, as I mentioned earlier, that Americans borrowed their language and retooled it to supranational reckoning?

I hope I have whetted your appetite enough as the main thing and other allied matters would be served in the weeks ahead. Next week: Feedback from BAYO OGUNTUNASE and KOLA DANISA.

Email: ewabara@yahoo.com

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