Does El Nino come with reign, rein or rain?

WE have been waiting for El Niño and views are mixed. There are those who are afraid, since El Niño can be destructive.

For others, given the fact that we are going through a rather prolonged dry season, El Niño is welcome. One of these latter, went as far as posting an exclamation on his page: “I love ‘reign’!” Fine.

We want that water dropping from the skies, from the clouds. Should we call it ‘reign’? Certainly not. ‘Reign’” is the period of rule of a monarch. In England, we can now refer to King Charles III’s reign. Previously there was Queen Elizabeth II’s reign. How about ‘rein’?

Another, no, since ‘rein’” means “a long, narrow strap attached at one end to a horse’s bit, typically used in pairs to guide or check a horse in riding or driving.” El Niño comes with rain (not reign, or rein). “Rain” means “water falling in drops condensed from vapour in the atmosphere.” Words that sound the same, although they may have different spellings and meanings, are known as homophones.

There are many of these. Examples include: “cite, sight, site”; “peek, peak”; “stationary, stationery; “whole, hole”; “tail, tale”; “waist, waste”; and, of course, our “rain, rein, reign”. Many times, the spelling of such words is mixed up in writing; so there is always a need to exercise caution.

The Good Citizen of October 21 carried a news item on its page 2, titled: “Report pokes holes in gig economy”, with the opening sentence reading as follows: “A new report has identified holes in the gig economy, which is increasingly employing tens of thousands of workers in Tanzania”. Before reading the highlights of the report, I first had to educate myself on the meaning of “the gig economy”.

I got to know that a gig economy: “is an economy that operates flexibly, involving the exchange of labour and resources through digital platforms that actively facilitate buyer and seller matching. In the gig economy, organisations hire independent contractors and freelancers instead of full-time employees.” So, your Bolt and Uber, are part of the gig economy; and going by the findings of the study, carried out and published by the national think-tank, REPOA, all is not well in that sector.

According to the writer of the story: “The report indicates that ‘nearly’ three quarters (77 per cent) of the gig workers are the sole breadwinners for their families.” This reads harmless, or, is it? It is not harmless.

Three quarters means seventy five per cent (75%). The figure quoted by the writer is seventy seven per cent (77%). The writer was not supposed to refer to 77% as “nearly three quarters”. Seventy seven percent (77%) is MORE than three quarters. In order to reflect this, the writer should have said: “Over three quarters”, or, “slightly more than three quarters”, not, “nearly three quarters.” The sentence should thus be changed to read: “The report indicates that ‘more than’ three quarters (77 per cent) of the gig workers are the sole breadwinners for their families.” The general finding of this study is that workers in gig economy are having a difficult time, which leads some of them to take unethical actions, as is pointed out in the Report: “We have received complaints from the public about some of the drivers’ ‘temper’ with the system and raising fares different from the actual trip”. “Drivers’ temper” with the system? Certainly not.

There is a difference between “to temper” and “to tamper.” “To temper means to improve the hardness and elasticity of (steel or other metal) by reheating and then cooling it.” Clearly, this is not the meaning we are looking for. “To tamper”, on the other hand, means: “to interfere with (something) in order to cause damage or make unauthorised alterations.” This is what the drivers are accused of doing.

We can therefore re-write the sentence to read as follows: “We have received complaints from the public about some drivers’ ‘tampering’ with the system and raising the fare above the appropriate one for the trip.” Avoid tampering with systems. It can be dangerous!

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