Register In English — Every field of life or area of specialisation deploys certain technical words to explain its accompanying technicalities. These words are often esoteric in nature; that is, they are regarded as unintelligible by laymen or professionals in other fields of endeavour, or they may even be interpreted in other senses.
In addition, these technical words that are deployed in different spheres of influence are called a register. A register is the totality of vocabulary, grammar and other linguistic choices which are applied in a professional context.
Besides, the technical words that are peculiar to a particular field are also called jargon. Given this, the readership should note that jargon does not mean nonsensical words, as erroneously considered by numerous individuals. For appropriateness’ sake, jargon encapsulates the technical words of any field of life. Again, the word is a non-count noun that should neither admit the indefinite articles a/an as a precursor nor attract the plural marker, ‘s’. Thus, we discuss engineering jargon and accounting jargon; not ‘engineering jargons’ and ‘an accounting jargon’. Moving on, this treatise will expatiate upon some jargon in different fields, especially concerning the common errors associated with such words.
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To begin with the legal field, it is pertinent to state that the compensation or reward (particularly in monetary terms) paid to a person who has suffered some damage is damages, while whatever degree of injury or harm inflicted on someone should be referred to as damage. The following sentences will further clarify the differentiation:
Many people experienced damages during the crisis (non-standard).
Many people experienced damage during the crisis (standard).
He sued his sister, and she paid damages for burning down his car (standard).
It should likewise be noted that an unwritten defamatory statement is a slander, while a written one that is stored in a permanent form is a libel. Again, while murder is the deliberate killing of another person, manslaughter is the unintentional killing of someone else. Other forms of killing are patricide (the killing of one’s father), matricide (the murder of one’s mother), parricide (the killing of one’s parent or a close relative) and infanticide (the murder of a baby). Moreover, uxoricide, sororicide and fratricide mean the killing of one’s wife, sister and brother, respectively.
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What is more, it behoves you to keep in mind that a court where magistrates adjudicate on minor criminal cases is designated as a ‘magistrates’ court’ (not, ‘magistrate court’ or ‘magistrate’s court’). To round off this section, an individual, who is not a lawyer but who acts as a judge in the lowest court, is called a Justice of the Peace (not, Justice of Peace).
Moving on, engineering is another vast field that is rich in vocabulary. For instance, in civil engineering, many Nigerians know POP and even have it in their residences, but only a few people know that this is an abbreviation for ‘plaster of Paris’. In mechanical engineering, a part of a machine that supports another part which turns around is a bearing, not boris. By the way, the device in an internal combustion engine for mixing air with a fine spray of liquid fuel is a carburettor; not caprator. By extension, these are obtainable:
The carburettor has overfloated (non-standard).
The carburettor is flooded (standard).
Again, you should bear in mind that the ‘g’ in gear is pronounced like the ‘g’ in a girl.
In religion, it should be noted that the act of washing parts of the body before prayers is called ablutions (and not ablution); and an event that is usually done at a fixed time and in the same way, as part of a religious ceremony, is called rituals (not, ritual). Other religious expressions with the obligatory ‘s’ are: speak in TONGUES and DEVOTIONS (which comprise prayers and other religious undertakings). Contrariwise, ‘the faithful’ is a collective noun for adherents of a particular faith and should not attract ‘s’. By implication, we have ‘the Christian faithful’ (not, ‘faithfuls’). It should be observed, on the one hand, that a pagan is a religious person, but s/he belongs to a religion aside from the renowned Abrahamic religions. On the other hand, a person who does not have a religion and does not believe in the existence of God or gods is an atheist. Lastly, on the register of religion, the word ‘covenant’ does not have an ‘n’ after the letter ‘o’. God is omnipotent and omnipresent (not ‘ominipotent’ and ‘ominipresent’).
The last register to discuss in this treatise is political jargon. Chiefly, the act of moving from one political party to another is defection; not cross-carpeting or decamping. Additionally, the general voters in an election are called the electorate (not, electorates); hence, we have ‘the Nigerian electorate’. Note, too, that ‘electioneering’ (not, ‘electioneering campaigns’) precedes elections.
Not only that, President Buhari is a standard-bearer (a leader in a political group) of the All Progressives Congress; he is not a flagbearer of the APC! A flagbearer, as adduced by the Oxford English Dictionary, is someone who is tasked with carrying the flag of his/her country at events of great consequence.
A wide vocabulary and knowledge of the technical words used in different fields are essential features of effective communication. Learners of English, especially for formal purposes, should endeavour to widen their vocabulary by acquainting themselves with the register of as many fields as possible, with the utmost consideration for standard forms.
© 2021 Ganiu Abisoye Bamgbose (Dr GAB)
Department of English,
Lagos State University