I have deliberately picked the title of this week’s English lesson ‘modern journalistic and current usage of the language’ to speak directly to the journalists and the reporters, the majority of who (new) whom (old) are yet to shake off the old English and embrace the modern use of the language, particularly in the choice of words in the daily routine of covering events as they break around the world and even on the local scene. Where are the editors or the gatekeepers who should address this recurring issue of not being able to identify hackneyed phrases that still adorn our newspaper pages and fill the airwaves? By their training they possess all it takes to yank-off dull, uninspiring and over used expressions, rewrite them and fill the gaps where necessary.
Let us again remind ourselves that while the language remains dynamic it’s up to the writer, journalist and the reporter to keep abreast (cliché) with the changing time. However, some of the media organizations are doing well in keeping with the dynamism of the language often times described as odd because no one is certain what shape it may take in the years to come. For example, the words ‘input,’ infrastructure,’ ‘equipment,’ and ‘evidence’ are generally held by the English purists and masters to abhor the plural form with the letter ‘s.’ But today, some of the reference materials including a few of the standard English dictionaries appears to have compromised on that long held view and now somewhat tolerate the letter ‘s.’ For the pragmatists, they insist on maintaining the originality of the construction without the plural noun. And so the noun, ‘input,’ ‘infrastructure,’ equipment’ and ‘evidence’ cannot and should not be written in the plural form.
This takes us to some of the words and phrases that have taken on a new form or undergone some slight changes in conformity with modern usage. There are several of them, but for now I would just highlight those commonly used by the journalist or reporter. For instance, let’s take a look at these expressions and see how we can turn it around to reflect the modern journalistic construction; ‘due to Jane’s ill-health she could not make it to the party,’ ‘the dearth of infrastructures has significantly contributed to the low level of development in Africa,’ ‘the likes of Prof. James are hard to come by,’ ‘she has a skeleton in her cupboard, she is afraid to speak out,’ ‘Ambrose paid through his nose to secure the goods,’ ‘beehive of activities,’ ‘the media has, the police has’ should be dropped for ‘the media have, the police have.’ These two sentences (media, police) normally take on the plural form when writing or speaking.
And now the current usage which should be internalized henceforth; ‘owing to Jane’s ill-health she could not make it to the party.’ As I said before now, the adjective ‘due’ means expecting something or somebody at a certain time or that you needed to be paid for doing some job or task. Right, ‘The dearth of infrastructure has significantly contributed to the low level of development in Africa.’ Again, ‘infrastructure’ is an uncountable noun. You would be wrong to speak or write ‘infrastructures.’ ‘The likes of Prof. James are hard to come by,’ so many of our journalists and reporters would write or speak. The masters and purists would rather put it this way; ‘the like of Prof. James are hard to come by’ without the letter‘s’ attached to the ‘like.’ Similarly, the expression, ‘she has a skeleton in her cupboard, she is afraid to speak out,’ is wrong. The correct and current usage; ‘she has a skeleton in the cupboard, she is afraid to speak out.’ ‘Ambrose paid through his nose to secure the goods,’ some would also write or speak. Correctly write, ‘Ambrose paid through the nose to secure the goods.’ The expression ‘beehive of activities’ should be ignored, rather prefers ‘beehive of activity,’ to state the obvious that the event witnessed a large turnout and people were busy doing one thing or another