We are not just wherever is our little corner but in the world which is now a global village fast shrinking into a neighbourhood, at least, info-wise. So we speak and write thus.
1. Bribe and Extortion:
Many people here and there and elsewhere seem to have heard so much about “bribe money” that they have nicely forgotten about inducement and enticements of the receiver by the giver of bribe for which it is correctly said that the giver bribes, induces and entices the receiver. But where and when the would-be takers are asking, demanding and insisting on what they want, we make a mistake if we report what is therefore given and taken as a bribe.
Are we annulling the effects of such really significant and practically meaningful, even legal words or terms as “extort” and “extortion”? As it seems now, we here are used to reading and hearing of high and low officials-on the field and at headquarters-“demanding bribes”. Are we too afraid or too confused to call them “extortionists” and what they do “extortion”? If we had long been calling these offences and offenders by their correct names, many abusers of authority would have since desisted from them; having learnt that any act of “extortion” which means “getting things by coercion or intimidation” may border on, and may be called, “robbery”, if the extortionist is armed or applies physical force anyhow. Let’s not get carried away with this, though, lest we get entangled with legalese.
But then, we are bothered about the accuracy or correctness of language; and this borders on integrity and good intent, so we still earnestly plead:
Godly lawyers, please, help take it up from here.
2. Deny and Denial for Refute and Refutal:
The misuse of these pairs of words is perhaps the most nagging assault on global collective public intelligence by politicians, or rather, by reporters on behalf of politicians. Just fancy that: Someone, usually a high public official, merely denies some claims, reports or statements and the mere denial gets widely reported as a refutal. No, please, Sirs and Madams, you cannot and you do not refute claims, reports or statements by merely denying them. You refute them by showing some good proofs or evidences contrary to the claims, reports, statements or whatever. Please let our reporters diligently separate these terms so that issues will be much less muddled-and our reporters’ diligence will thus enhance public understanding of many issues.
3. Nip it in the bud:
Have you noticed?-keep reading and listening for it-in the news media, even now, that some people still keep advising the government, concerning “Boko Haram”, to “nip it in the bud”? And when we are through with it, or rid of it, such will still say, “Yes, the government has nipped it in the bud.” Attention, please! Note that “bud” really means a small knob on a plant stem containing immature leaves and/or flowers. If a bud is spared, it will soon blossom, fully growing into branches, leaf-clusters and/or flowers.
As a figure of speech, “nip it in the bud” means “to destroy something at an early stage of development” -just like destroying the immature leaves and flowers while still in the bud, that is, before the bud opens and blossoms.
If we freely use “nip it in the bud” for such a deadly matter that has already blossomed and grown into leaves/ branches/ flowers and have been cut, propagated and transplanted elsewhere, as it were, guess how embarrassing and upsetting it sounds to those ladies and gentlemen who may be strangers to such common errors amounting to lying that so many others take ever so lightly. And what is the effect of such widely accepted free lying on our sensitivity? Your guess is as good as mine-or rather, just as bad.
On a more serious note, though, I personally believe that good language precision is an aspect of our personal and group integrity. As it is written, “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’, and your ‘no’ be ‘no’.” Away with all vagueness, ambiguity, haziness, elusiveness, mix-up and double-talk-all are synonyms tending to confusion. Please let’s endeavour to use words deliberately and accurately.
4. Amnesty is official pardon, generally to a group or person:
This is one of the most recently invented aspects of deadly vagueness by Nigerian Government officials. Of course, it needs no explanation that genuine pardon is an option only when those being pardoned are firmly in the grip of the Government pardoning them. The Government would then be rightly said to be exercising mercy. Like it or not, those Boko Haram insurgents and other militants were not at the Government’s mercy when mercy was presumptuously offered. We now easily remember so many “cautious” people warning us then that the insurgents would merely take the occasion to slight the Federal Government. I considered and understood as some likened the scenario to a case of two guys (usually, friends or business partners) still contending about wrongs done to each other and one says to the other, “I forgive you”. What do you think? The other will reject such “forgiveness”. The point is that you must humble them, having them “at your mercy” before you can magnanimously grant them mercy/pardon/amnesty. The “amnesty” we persuade the intended beneficiaries to accept may be good and very desirable as the settlement we pray for; but it is not aptly so called. I plead with all Government and other leaders everywhere to please see that political situations call for more accuracy and less of ambiguity.
5. PERSISTENT WRONG USE OF THE WORD, “POLITICISE”
This is equally fostered by many politicians and their followers everywhere. Here and there and elsewhere, we keep hearing and reading of them as they freely accuse whoever does not agree with them or their positions of politicizing issues and events that are naturally inevitably political, anyway. Let’s think of it as it really is: To politicise (Br.)/politicize (Am.) is to “give a political character to” some issue or event that is otherwise without a political character. So many political people are confused and confusing the public and furthering the heightening of tensions everywhere. We should all beware of them.
6. Themselves/Ourselves/Yourselves Vs Each other/ One another:
The pervasive mix-up of these words that I like to describe as “strict and specific beneficiary-indicating terms” has far more than grammatical and lexical implications. Confusing these terms is fraught with deadly practical relationship dangers arising from our wittingly or unwittingly recommending and rendering services meant for others to self or selves.
Think of an otherwise well-meaning well-wisher advising some newly inaugurated team members (a newly wedded couple, for example), to “learn to love, know, understand, help, respect, trust, serve and listen to yourselves” (that is, “themselves”), when the well-wisher really means “each other” or “one another” as the case may be. Mark it well, couples and teams cannot be successful as such if members keep hearing that they should be doing to themselves what should be done to each other and/or one another. Of course, it may be fairly or reasonably assumed that the parties concerned do get the intended meanings. However, let’s be mindful to accurately drive home this point, mending our collective image before those still unused to such common mix-ups. Yes, please, speak well if you mean well for the team.
We all know (some don’t?) that many otherwise simple matters of facts (even figures!) and meanings easily and freely get confused in our contemporary culture. So we must be apt to contend for facts and meanings with apt replies to the spurious claims and counter-claims fast creeping into our culture, corrupting values. Our very collective culture is degenerating before us; and so many react to this only by romanticizing our history and antiquities, mistaking such for our culture. We will dwell on this matter of culture in due course. Meanwhile, please think about it.