Still on commonly misused words, phrases and constructions, in today’s English lesson we delve into one among the most abused words; burst, bust and busted (if there is anything like busted at all.) The English purists and masters however caution on the right use of the word to avoid confusing the reading publics. They insist on getting it right and no slangs should be tolerated in place of the Standard English.
The words ‘bust’ and ‘busted’ are regarded as slangs and errors in communicating the language and so should be avoided. These and many other commonly confused and misused words, phrases and constructions tend to expose the level of our understanding of the language, especially for those who English is a second language. It requires concerted effort to understand the language and keep track of developments there-in because English, like any other language, evolves with time and space.
American English though accepted in some cases has yet to be fully embraced by the English pragmatics, so we now have what we recognize as American English and British English. The British English is what is generally adopted by the Commonwealth countries-former colonies of Britain, which Nigeria belongs. Our media houses, for example, stick with British English as against American English. Never use ‘bust’ or ‘busted’ to mean ‘burst’ in the present or past tense. ‘Bust’ and ‘busted’ are regarded as slangs and un-English whether in the written or spoken form.
The purists and masters simply see them as informal English. Similarly, ‘bursted,’ as some people would write, wrongly though, expresses the past tense of ‘burst.’ Note that ‘burst’ is used both in the present and past tense. One can correctly construct the following sentence: ‘The pipe carrying fuel to the neighbourhood burst in the early hours of today forcing the authorities to seal up the area to avoid explosion.’ ‘The pipe carrying fuel to the neighbourhood burst yesterday forcing the authorities to seal up the area to avoid explosion.’ The use of dysfunctional English still dominates our airwaves and our newspapers pages.
Few days back the phrase ‘President Muhammadu Buhari-led government’ sounded loud and clear voiced by a national radio to my surprise. I thought we have dealt with this severally and cautioned that the phrase or construction has become stale and no longer excites the listener or reader. It is among the expressions classified as clichés that are no longer fashionable. Our journalists and reporters should watch out and take precaution never to recycle them. Engaging them at regular intervals shows how shallow the reporter or journalist is, and betrays lack of hunger to break new grounds. We can do without the prefix ‘led’ government, it renders the expression clumsy and time wasting. Straightforward reporting is preferable and sensible.
We can do better by dumping those unnecessary attachments which I see as extra baggage that adds nothing to the story. Rather than report ‘President Muhammadu Buhari-led government,’ straight-to-the point reporting requires one cuts away ‘led-‘ to read ‘President Muhammadu Buhari government.’ That way one can sound simple and easily understood. Another of such words often recycled is ‘presently’ which most English pragmatics regard as American coinage that tells of the past rather than the present. In place of the word ‘presently’ the British English favours the expressions ‘currently’ or ‘at present.’ Whichever way one looks at it our media and indeed, in official circles the British English is preferred to American English in Nigeria and other Anglophone countries. You can go for the e-Books, Reporting for Radio And Television: A practical Guide, English for Communicators: Pitfalls And Blind Spots, The General Overseer-god in the Holy Temple.