Particularly for the journalist, reporter and even the writer, there are things we do or write about the language of mass communication, English, which still beats the imagination of the purists and masters. Severally for the users of the language to communicate their ideas and thoughts, whether in the written or spoken form, have violated and dropped the standard, and would rather opt for the market place English or what the pragmatists humorously call the home grown English. It’s unacceptable. The Standard English remains the language of the print or electronic media in Nigeria and the Commonwealth countries. We cannot do otherwise or compromise the standard especially for the serious newspaper, radio or television outfits that are seen as the standard bearers in this case. The question we must ask ourselves is, have we, as writers, journalists or reporters maintained the standard expected of us? The answer is ‘no,’ but for a few media organizations, particularly those I regard as the noble ones, many of our writers, editors and presenters who should know as the gatekeepers, have gone astray. They engage the language disregarding the changes that have taken place and will continue to evolve over the time. The language, even as the purists and masters warn us is dynamic aside from the fact that English is eccentric or odd. Just to remind us, going down memory lane, the Elizabethan English reigned supreme in the era of Queen Elizabeth 1 between 1558 and 1630.
That period was immediately eclipsed by the Victorian English during the reign of Queen Victoria from 1837 to 1901 and then the Shakespearean English relating to the English dramatists William Shakespeare or his works. In all these we would come to appreciate the changing times and how the language has developed with time. And now our modern era and the clock tick away. It has not stopped. And so is the language, changes would continue to occur. All that one needs to do is to keep in touch with new ideas to improve on the practice of journalism or mass communication. These days simplicity of expressions has taken over from long winding and complicated phrases that could alienate the reading or listening publics. Especially the use of vocabulary that are regarded as obsolete and dysfunctional; it adds nothing to what one intend to say or pass across to the audience. For example, phrases sometimes dressed in colourful idioms and anecdotes, such as ‘a bolt from the blues,’ ‘kill two birds with one stone,’ ‘golden opportunity,’ ‘add insult to injury,’ ‘turn a blind eye,’ and many others are now redundant and of no use. Similarly, some of these statements, often repeated and generously used by the majority of media organizations are now clichés that should be blacked-out or expunged from the style books. There are over tens and hundreds of options we can go with and still make sense.
Again, some of these expressions are not even found in standard reference materials such as the dictionaries and encyclopaedias. Take a look at these statements and appreciate what exactly I mean. One of the most hotly debated even when I take my students through their lessons, when I tell them is a Nigerian coinage or English made in Nigeria, is the ‘zero eight zero’ that has become over vocalized with the advent of the GSM phones, by as many people you come by in the streets. The accepted international standard phrase is ‘oh eight oh,’ and this applies to telephone numbers. Another unfortunate development that annoys the English pragmatists is the home grown expression, promoted mostly by the pastors in attempt to exaggerate the uncommon blessings to be received by persons who give generously for the upkeep of the pastor or growth of the Church, is ‘upliftment.’ One can correctly write or speak ‘uplift, uplifting.’ Never vocalized ‘rub minds’ but ‘meet minds,’ is the modern way to speak. ‘It will go a long way towards…’ is another roundly abused or misused expression that should concern the editor, or whoever is the gatekeeper in the newsroom. One will be wrong to write ‘it will go a long way in…’ So, take note of the correct usage, ‘it will go a long way towards addressing the nagging problem,’ not ‘it will go a long way in addressing the nagging problem,’ for instance.