The oracle has spoken. Mind you I didn’t invent it but the masters and purists of the language did. The frequently used word, ‘key,’ as a predicative adjective, meaning vital, essential, etc., they submit, no longer stand the test of the time. It has grown weary, weak and stale and should therefore be consigned to history. According to the English pragmatics, whoever continues to indulge in engaging the word ‘key’ in trying to tell us of a thing of central importance is doing so to the detriment of the listening and reading publics. Let us understand one thing here.
We are all familiar with the small piece of shaped metal, key (noun,) which is inserted into a lock and turned to open or close it. It could also be a thing providing access and understanding to solving a problem, just as the Oxford dictionary of current English would tell us, for example, key to success. We can also take it from the angle of music. A group of notes, the dictionary instructs, based on a particular note and making up a scale. However, what concerns us, and the central focus of our discussion is the over flogged adjective ‘key’ word, so often vocalized in our group meetings and even public presentations to either draw our attention to a thing too essential to be overlooked or glossed over without missing the point.
That is the reason people speak or write, ‘Mr. Benedict is a key figure in the ongoing negotiation to settle the matter.’ The word ‘key’ can also be used as a verb, keys, keying, keyed-to enter data using computer keyboard. One can keyed up, to be nervous, tense or excited over certain things or developments still unfolding. The monotony or overused of the word ‘key’ is of grave concern to the extent that the language experts insist is fast becoming a piece of illiteracy that should be jettisoned. Instead, one could correctly speak or write, ‘vital,’ ‘essential’ and more. As I often say, no language is cast in gold. It is flexible. Changes are bound to occur with time and space.
Old and overused words and phrases fade away with time while new ones take over from them. Be vigilant and explore. That is the secret to be relevant in the scheme of things. Can you still recollect our index of forbidden expressions which I have extensively talked about here? They stand out. There are recycled now and then as the news break around the world. Here are some of them with suggested alternative or synonyms to replace them and sound better. Enabling environment, face the wrath of the law, Nigerians in Diaspora, stakeholders, role model, NGO, giant of Africa, sensitize, people-oriented. The statement, ‘enabling environment’ can be substituted to read, for instance, ‘conducive environment,’ ‘investment-friendly environment,’ again, the context upon which the phrase is used also matter.
Note that, ‘enabling environment’ aside from being stale expression, sounds boring owing to overused. ‘Face the wrath of the law,’ another forbidden expression, is gradually giving way. Some media outfits are doing well by going after synonyms to replace ‘face the wrath of the law’ statement. ‘Nigerians in Diaspora’ or ‘Nigerians in the Diaspora’ is yet another forbidden phrase that has unfortunately gained currency over time. I would rather concentrate on this, just as I draw the curtain to continue again next week on forbidden phrases. I have said it the umpteenth time that Nigerians were not taken into exile like the Israelites of old, but voluntarily relocated abroad to seek for greener pasture or better life. We should talk more of Diaspora Nigerian or Nigerians living abroad or overseas.