GRAMMAR AND JOURNALISTS: Let’s begin with prepositions for the unsung heroes

By Amara Christa

So I woke up on the Easter Monday of 2020 to the chat of my very good journalist friend, who was wondering if his colleagues and he do not deserve my accolades for being next to health practitioners, in the face of the rampaging global pandemic.

Like health officers, he said, “We are frontline workers who are not affected by the lockdown, and we risk our lives every day to bring you information. So, you should remember to acknowledge us, too, when next you write; even if you will end up correcting our English”.

There is no gainsaying that journalists across the world have been tremendous, especially in the face of the present global pandemic, and they unarguably deserve commendation. However, there are so many wrongs to right in the language of journalism, especially in Nigeria and, maybe in an ascending order, it might be enlightening to consider the deployment of prepositions in reporting, alongside the relevance of journalists.

Time is of the essence in journalistic activities, and that explains why journalists will often say/write “As AT the time of filing this report,” which should be correctly expressed thus: “As OF the time of filing this report”. Journalists are wonderful people who do all they can to understand the INS and OUTS of every situation, with a view to ensuring that the citizens are reliably and consistently informed. Although that may be reported as IN and OUT, in what we read.

On top of that, they serve as the people’s watchdog, when politicians have bitten OFF more than they can chew during electioneering. I hope you don’t say “bite more than you can chew”. The preposition OFF is sacrosanct, inasmuch as idioms are fixed expressions. It is also worthy of mention that journalists magnanimously bring to our notice things that happen ON the outskirts of remote villages. However, it might be reported as having happened AT the outskirts.

When a soldier was recently charged with allegedly raping a 300-level student AT Adekunle Ajasin University, the public would not have known of this awful incident, but for the vibrancy of the Nigerian journalists. Notwithstanding, the news was reported as “A soldier was charged with allegedly raping a 300-level student OF Adekunle Ajasin University”.

To say that someone is a student OF a school connotes that the student is studying the school. On account of the foregoing, the standard expression is to describe someone as a student AT an educational institution.

Remarkably, journalists do so much in clamouring FOR justice in Nigeria, but they should also be told that justice is DEMANDED (a verb) and not DEMANDED FOR. One can, nevertheless, make a DEMAND (a noun) FOR justice. Along the same lines, they also voice the opinions of the citizenry to the government, even if what we read is the erroneous verb phrase “voice out”.

Now, let me round OFF this first article, in what may be a series (I hope you know that to bring an activity to a close is to round OFF and not round UP), by expressing my hope that the world will soon felicitate Nigeria on overcoming the global pandemic. Mark you, we FELICITATE people, institutions, countries, economies, democracies, agencies and the like (not, felicitate with); errors are like a virus.

In conclusion, I hope the body of Nigerian journalists will not get me sued; “Na joke I dey o.” Anyway, if I must be sued, kindly note that the letter should be dropped ON my doorstep; not AT my doorstep.

2020 Ganiu Abisoye Bamgbose (Dr GAB), a lecturer, MC and comedian, wrote in from Lagos.

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