Sundry Misusages XVII: No fewer than . . . plus more

Education

Other News / Education 15 Views comments

In this edition, we address the rest of Mr. Oyawale Bestmann’s randomly selected posers, which should interest many other users of the English language, if only for clarification. Let’s go: No fewer than: You use no fewer than when you find the number of something surprisingly high. Example: “No fewer than 50 professors attended his inaugural lecture.” Much/many:  Much means “abundant, ample, considerable, copious or plentiful,” and it is used to qualify uncountable nouns, as in: “The class governor commands much respect among his mates.” But many stands for “numerous, countless, several or a lot of,” and it is used to qualify countable nouns, as in: “Many Nigerians watched the match.” As and when due: The Standard English idiom is: as and when. But as and when due is correct usage, just like as and when needed or desired. However, avoid the common error as at when due, because it is pure syntactic bedlam to say at when. By definition and function, the word when embeds at. When means “at what time; at the time at which” (Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary). And the related idiom as and when (if and when in the US) means “at the time something happens” (ibid.). The dictionary illustrates thus: “We don’t own a car – we just rent one as and when we need it.”   In/on the African continent: In the continent and on the continent are correct expressions, depending on the context and the purport of the message. Thus, all of the following are correct usages: Governance in the African continent is not people-centred; Lake Victoria is roughly in the centre of the African continent; The DRC is one of the most richly-endowed countries in the African continent; The hottest spot on the African continent is likely to be in the Sahara Desert; Wole Soyinka is a most familiar face on the African continent; South Africa is on the southern tip of the African continent. It is similarly correct to say that Nigeria is on the West African coast. These usages show that in and on could have been used interchangeably in most of the expressions, though one may be more appropriate than the other in some. For example, it is clumsy to say Nigeria is in the West African coast. African heads of state/African heads of states: Correct usage is African heads of state. Note similar examples, viz: commanders-in-chief; secretaries-general; governors-general; heads of mission; postmasters-general; chiefs of staff; sergeants-at-arms; controllers-general and the like. Add the following: chief whips; senior boys; senior girls; head-girls; girl-children; head-teachers. Sometimes later, we will discuss the rules for pluralising these kinds of expressions. On the one hand . . . and on the other/on the other hand: On the one hand … and on the other hand is a Standard English expression “used when you are comparing two different facts or two opposite ways of thinking about a situation” (ibid.). Avoid the contraction … and the other. Magistrate’s court/magistrates’ court: Correct usage is magistrates’ court. This columnist’s barrister-daughter confirmed this, and that makes the matter an issue of correct professional register, not just a matter of grammar. Between . . . and/between . . . to/From . . . to: Correct usage is between one thing and another. It is not correct to write between something to something. Mistakes occur mostly when indicating dates, with expressions like between 7 – 18 August, instead of between 7 and 18 August. Perhaps many do not know that the sign – stands for to. And when you write from one date, link it with the other date by the preposition to, NOT the sign -. Here is what we mean: from 7 to 18 August, NOT from 7 – 18 August. Concerted efforts/concerted effort: The more conventional usage is concerted effort. Concerted implies singularity, a collapse of several actions into one for the same purpose. The dictionary says: concerted as an adjective means “planned or done together for a shared purpose” and that it “describes an effort or attempt that is determined and serious” (ibid.). Just as there can be a concerted effort, there can be a concerted campaign, a concerted exercise or a concerted gesture – all indicating a determined singular act for a shared aim.. Swearing/swearing-in ceremony: As a noun, swearing means imprecation, execration or cursing, and as a present continuous verb, it means imprecating, execrating or cursing. It should thus not be confused with swearing-in used to qualify ceremony here. Swearing-in, on its own, is a noun used to refer to the act of oath taking by someone, usually when assuming public office. And when swearing-in qualifies ceremony, it is functioning as an adjective describing the type of ceremony. So, while it is correct to say I attended his swearing-in ceremony, it is not correct to say I attended his swearing ceremony. Just like you can say his swearing-in is tomorrow, but NOT his swearing is tomorrow. Compliment/complement: These look-alikes and sound-alikes are different in me...

Comments