“Gloom and doom”? the order matters: “Doom and gloom”

KENYAN papers are addictive. For economic reasons, I can afford just the Saturday and Sunday papers from one publisher, but those two papers can take a whole week to go through. The Kenyan Saturday paper has 48 pages, carrying news item, expert analyses, and columns on literature, culture and the arts, business, and agriculture (8 pages).

You have Book Reviews, articles on entertainment, sports (8 pages), Health, Beauty, Eating and Outing, Personal Stories, Personal Finance, Travel and Leisure, foreign news, and articles from various columnists who can seriously impact on the minds of readers.

The 48 pages do not include a 24-page Saturday Magazine pull-out. In total therefore you have 72 pages of serious material to go through. Its Tanzanian counterpart has just 28 pages with some of the columns taken from Kenyan and Ugandan papers.

Many items are presented in the Kenyan papers as a must-read. Like this one titled: “The rise and rise of the Kenyatta business empire”, epitomized into: “From milk processing to news publishing, the Kenyatta family is amassing wealth both in and outside Kenya, thanks to significant political connections”. Would you skip reading such an article?

So, today, our mind your language column is entirely from Kenya. On page 15 of the Saturday Nation (February 16) is an article titled: “Celebrate youth who stick to the straight, narrow”, in which the writer lauds those of the youth who do not go the “sex, alcohol, reckless, and what-have you” way.

Writes the columnist: “If we are to be honest, spaces for the straight-and-narrow youth are very few. Instead, prominence has been given to the young, wild, reckless and free youth”. In this sentence, the word “young” is used as an adjective qualifying the uncountable noun: “youth”. The latter means: “young people in general”. So, you have the wild youth, the reckless youth, the free youth. But can you write of “the young youth”, as the columnist does? The adjective “young” could have been safely left out and have the sentence read: “Instead, prominence has been given to the wild, reckless and free youth”.

On page 17 of the Saturday Magazine pull-out is a Personal Finance page which I never miss reading. The article titled “Saccos are viable saving and investment channels” is inviting, and this is how it is introduced: “Saccos are increasingly being seen as risky savings and investment channels. This perception is compounded by the collapse of dubious entities that are tagged as Saccos, and the loss of billions of shillings in savings and investments. But Saccos are not all ‘gloom and doom’.

“Gloom and doom”? I have always known this phrase as being “doom and gloom” not the other way round. My Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Readers supports me. When you talk of “doom and gloom” you are referring to a feeling that a situation is very bad and without hope: But, as we are told in the article: “Saccos are not all ‘doom and gloom’”.

On the Travel and Leisure page, a seasoned traveler relishes a trip to Kakamega Rain Forest, home to rare and fascinating bird species” There are snakes as well, as the forest guide tells the traveler: “Snakes,….. we have 18 species. Like the Gold’s cobra and the endemic Kamiosi blind snake”.

The traveler tells us: “I make a mental note to look keenly up the trees for Gold’s cobra. It is one of the two cobra types that ‘snakes’ its way up the trees. It’s very rare, very venomous …… just look at it and go away”.

The word “snake” is used here as a noun, but also as a verb (to snake, which means: to move in, or have a series of long curves). The writer (traveler) notes that there are two cobra types that go up the trees. The verb “snake” had to reflect this and be presented in the plural not in the singular form. “To snake” as used here is not referring just to the Gold’s cobra, but to two types of cobra. My version of the two sentences would be as follows: “It is one of the two cobra types that ‘snake’ their way up the trees. It’s very rare, very venomous …… just look at it and go away”.

A plea to our newspapers. Please treat us to lots and lots of interesting, informative and challenging materials to read!

Have a lovely weekend!

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