A Kiswahili daily whose name translates into the Citizen (March 28, p. 5), in an article titled: “Si kila Jack, Tom au Harry anaweza kuwa rais” meaning: “Not every Jack, Tom or Harry can be President”, thinks the MP is getting too ambitious, as he is too inexperienced to qualify for the top political position of the country. Our concern is with the phrase “Jack, Tom and/or Harry” since this is not how it is presented.
The phrase commonly occurs as “every Tom, Dick and Harry”, meaning “everyone”; or as, “any Tom, Dick or Harry” meaning “anyone”. So where did the writer get “Jack” instead of “Dick” from? May be he/she was thinking of another phrase: “A Jack of all trades”. But that is not all. The sequence of the words also matters. It is: “Tom, Dick and/or Harry”, not “Dick, Tom and/or Harry”.
Tom comes first and Harry last. In English usage, where words are given in a series, the shortest sounding-word normally comes first, and the longest-sounding comes last. Examples of this gradation include “tall dark and handsome”, “hook, line and sinker”, and “the Good, the Bad and the Ugly”. English language experts point out that sometimes the name “Harry” is replaced by the name of the person being addressed for the purpose of emphasizing a point.
For example, you could say: “Scholarships aren’t awarded to just any Tom, Dick or Ted”, “Ted” being the person spoken to. Could this apply in the case of the ambitious MP? No. First, the name that is substituted is “Harry” and not “Dick”. Secondly, we have it on record that the outspoken MP’s name is nowhere near “Jack”. He is called “Zitto Zuberi Kabwe!” The origin of the phrase “Tom, Dick and/or Harry” is not known, but is there is record that it was in use as far back as 1657.
Anyway, it is time to think about our future President. Gone are the days when it was sacrilege (in some countries) to think of a future President other than the one currently in office. While not every Tom Dick and Harry can be President, Hon Zitto may well be one for this country, one of these days.**** Let us visit Kampala, Uganda, where we are treated to some sad news. A columnist relates the story, under the title “Life is the greatest gift from God”, (Sunday Blog Star Magazine, 25 March, p. 6) starting as follows:
“Just recently, a beautiful lady one JN jumped ‘from ten floor’ of workers’ house in Kampala and fell to the ground ‘dyeing’ instantly”. Why take such a drastic action? “.... she had failed to get a job since graduating from Makerere University in 2007...”. The lady jumped “from ‘the tenth’ floor of ‘the’ workers’ building” (not “from ten floor of workers’ house”), hitting the ground and dying (not ‘dyeing’) immediately.
According to one Reverend consulted by the writer, “such people who ‘committee suicides’ are always possessed by bad spirits of death”. People who “committee suicides?” It may well be that the writer attends many committee meetings and this is stuck in his mind. But, for sure he was referring to “people who commit suicide”, that is people who kill themselves. The writer exhorts that whatever problems we face, suicide should not be contemplated: “We should understand that there is a lot we can achieve as long as we are alive.
But when we are dead we ‘seize’ being of use to ourselves and even to our dear ones”. To seize, means to grasp, lay hold of, capture. When used with reference to machines “to seize” means to stick tightly and stop moving eg through overheating or lack of lubricant. This is not what the writer had in mind, though. For “to seize” he meant “to cease”, meaning to stop, to bring or come to an end.
Thus, when we are dead, “we cease (not seize) being of use to ourselves and to our dear ones”. ***** Finally to sports. This weekly column in the Saturday Good Citizen going by the title: “Looking at Sports with a Bird’s Eye” needs to be looked into again with the view of exploring the possibility of changing its name, since the way it stands implies a clear tampering with the idiom: “A Bird’s Eye View”, meaning a view of something from high above it.
How about renaming the column: “A Bird’s Eye View of Sports”? In last week’s article (25th March, p. 38) titled: “What next after Yanga Players’ Incident?”, the writer bemoans a fracas where players beat up the referee, and thinks such a behaviour is a result of improper coaching skills from a tender age. Footballers start getting their coaching late in the day when they are in their 20s: “Even so, some of them ‘cheat their age’ to fit in youth teams”.
Moreover, club leaders are too lenient these days when actually: “they should be very strict when ‘an unsual indecent’ is noted among their players”. Do you cheat your age? I doubt. You may cheat ‘about’ your age, telling people you are 20 when you are actually 30. Club leaders should see to it that this does not happen and should be strict when “an unusual incident” especially if it is indecent, is noted among their players. Wishing you all a Happy Easter!