I am quoting directly from an English purist and master of that which I have chosen to entitle, ‘Index of forbidden expressions’, to announce the death sentence passed on these words, and of course, have since been executed and buried. In short, stay clear of them, have nothing to do with or romance them so far as the language is concerned. If at all you are still in doubt then try them and ‘face the wrath of the law,’ speaking figuratively, (step down literarily), from the inventors of the spoken and written word. There goes the cliché, and the outlawed phrase, ‘face the wrath of the law’. Sample these words and see for yourself why they should be tossed to the waste bin and consigned to history. According to the experts, these commonly recycled, abused and over flogged expressions are spent forces begging to be substituted, and introduce synonyms to spice up your writeups, and arguments.
The out of favour expressions are annoyingly still making the headlines on the airwaves and occupying spaces on the newspapers, at gatherings and town hall meetings across board. Without taking too much of your time, let’s quickly name them. They include but not limited to these, and overlaboured sentences, ‘enabling environment’, ‘face the wrath of the law,’ mentioned earlier, ‘Nigerians in the diaspora,’ ‘stakeholders,’ ‘role model,’ ‘NGO,’ ‘giant of Africa,’ ‘sensitise,’ and ‘people-oriented.’ There are more but let’s stick to these ones we use regularly to remind us how useless and blunt the expressions have become that it no longer make sense to the average English speaking person. It bores, to say the least. The phrase, ‘enabling environment,’ for instance, can be dropped, and avoided, replacing same with impactful and functional English such as ‘investment-friendly,’ ‘conducive’ or ‘peaceful environment’ for business to thrive.
There are plenty of synonyms one can fall back on or pick from to avoid sounding repetitive. The problem with Nigeria is that we stop reading after leaving college. If we read at all, maybe we read to pass examination. Nigeria read! Goes a popular refrain from one English purist, who, out of frustration blames the majority of Nigerians for not reading enough, insisting that our poor reading culture account for the static nature of the language, whether spoken or written. We just mimic along, the language of mass communication, and we are comfortable with it to the discomfort of the masters. Similarly, to ‘face the wrath of the law’ is now regarded as a tired expression owing to overuse, time without number. However, the smarter writers, the journalists and reporters, not sparing the editors, are now feasting on the phrase, ‘full weight of the law,’ or ‘to be brought to book,’ the guilty, for a change, maybe.
It’s not bad but again, be mindful of monotony. Strife for excellence, refuse to follow the crowd, and be that change agent, when possible. Others would follow you. Don’t stop there. Read! Read! Explore and cover more grounds and it would surprise you that at last you’ve mastered the language through continuous learning and reading. ‘Nigerians in the diaspora,’ is yet another faulty and spurious expression that has gained so much currency over time that it has become the normal. Rather than speak or write ‘Nigerians in the diaspora,’ the purists and masters of the language insist that instead, it should be the other way round. It is safe to write or speak ‘diaspora Nigerians’ because the country’s citizens who voluntarily relocated to abroad, were not forcefully taken away to other lands, like the Israelites of old who were taken into exile in Babylon owing to their disobedience.
Most Nigerians took it upon themselves to travel overseas in search of the proverbial greener pastures, (greener pastures, yet another statement steadily spinning into a cliché owing to overuse). The ‘stakeholders’ statement appears too attractive to many writers that it has stuck but still the synonyms, ‘concerned citizens,’ and ‘interest groups’ are barely mentioned. Fresher angles to these overused phrases would prove that the person involved could probably be listening to the silent lamentation of the English experts, asking Nigerians to read to stay above errors.
To be continued.