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Grammar And Domestic Issues – Dr Ganiu Abisoye Bamgbose




Prepositions Dictionary Grammar GAB Ganiu Abisoye Gbamgbose

Since language is not only a means of communication but also a purveyor of worldviews and grammar, the rules of language use can be dexterously effected while intervening in societal happenings.

A good exposition to this piece borders on admonishing parents that “housemaids” or “home helps” — whom they erroneously refer to as “house helps” — are not to be completely entrusted with the welfare of their children. We should not raise children who are only aware that the low table on which we put cups, newspapers, etc. is a “coffee table,” and not a “centre table.” In furtherance of this, we shouldn’t nurture offspring or wards who habitually correct the home helps that the spelling and pronunciation of “napkin” have both the “k” letter and the /k/ sound respectively, but who cannot dust the coffee table with a napkin by themselves.

If the truth be known, the home help that was unreservedly castigated for calling a seat without a back or arm a “stood,” instead of a “stool,” is being better prepared for matrimony by you (the boss) than your progeny who knows that the “ea” in breakfast should be pronounced like the “e” in egg, and not like the “ea” in break; yet, they wait to be served by the same home help on the bed. Now, re-peruse the paragraph to ascertain that you have not missed out on the intertwined language lesson and the domestic issues. Afterwards, come along to the next phase of the inter-textual essay.

Your home help, in whose hands you have entrusted your domestic activities, can also be accorded the privilege of an “extramural” class; that specially arranged class often erroneously referred to as “extra moral” class. In a similar fashion, your gatekeeper whom you label as “baba gate man” should not be treated like trash and referred to, at every opportunity, as “local.” The rationale of this is that “local” is simply used to indicate the place that one is discussing or the place that one is currently domiciled in. Matter-of-factly, every human being is “local” in his/her own right. On the strength of this, the gatekeeper should be aptly regarded as “unrefined” or “unsophisticated”; and not ‘local” as you both are most likely “locals”.

Be that as it may, members of every household should have it well engraved on their hearts that slices of bread that are made brown after being heated in a toaster are called “toast;” not “toast bread.” In view of this, the inclusion of bread in that designation is pleonastic. Furthermore, there are no such items like “cutleries” “jewelleries” and “furnitures” in every abode, with the reason being that “cutlery,” “jewellery” and “furniture” are uncount nouns. Nonetheless, the latter pair can be quantified by virtue of using partitives (phrases of measurement) like “a piece of” or “an item of.” By deduction, therefore, “Mr. Johnson purchased ‘a piece of furniture’ only last week.”

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Subsequently, such partitives can be pluralised to give you: “Mr. Johnson purchased ‘three items of jewellery’ only last week.” As far as cutlery is concerned, every individual should be reliably informed that there is a marked difference between the use of “cut something in” and “cut something into.” While you are expected to “cut,” for instance, bread, fruit, etc. “in two” or “in half,” the onus is on you to “cut” the same items “into pieces, crumbs or slices.” Due to this: “GAB ‘cut’ the orange ‘in’ half/two” or “GAB ‘cut’ the bread ‘into’ seven pieces.” Another noteworthy development is people’s inclination to spuriously deploy the preposition “at” and the noun “doorstep” as collocates. In this regard, it is pertinent to note that “on” and “doorstep” are word partners, thus: “I can see five friends ‘on’ my ‘doorstep.’” For juxtaposition’s sake, you shouldn’t say: “I can see five friends ‘at’ my ‘doorstep.’”

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By extension of the aforementioned standpoints, when you say, “Children, let’s go for lunch (although people “go to,” and not “go for” lunch),” be kind enough to get your housemaid and your gatekeeper something as well. In addition, take cognisance of the fact that the articles you send your maid to purchase, which you often generalise, are “stuff;” not “stuffs.” This, though, doesn’t discredit the fact that groceries can be correctly branded as “foodstuffs,” with the plural marker “s.” Again, your children should not only know that the standard expression for what Nigerians often call “drying rope” or “wire” is actually a “clothesline” or a “washing line”. They should be essentially taught how to do the laundry and dry such clothes on the “washing line” by themselves.

Truthfully, too, your wards should not be described as “unattentive,” “indisciplined” “mannerless” and “insultive”. These words should be succinctly portrayed as “inattentive,” “undisciplined,” “ill-mannered/ill-bred” and “insulting”, respectively. Last but not least, remember to train your children in the way they should go, so that they will not depart from it and bring dishonour “on” your family (not, bring dishonour “to” your family).

And do you think these supposed errors are best described as features of Nigerian English? Well, we may have to wait until policymakers make Nigerian English the standard variety for pedagogical purposes in Nigeria before accepting them as our standard.

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