The Sunday Nationalist (February 19) devoted a whole four pages discussing this “crisis”. The paper’s headlines tell the story: “Male Edifice Crumbles as Women Rise” (p. 3); “Role of Man in Society Threatened as Women Knock over old Order” (p. 4-5); “Men Facing a Crisis of Confidence, say Experts” (p. 5); “Absent Men are to Blame for war at Home, says Expert” (p. 6). Going through these articles, a number of language gemstones were unearthed.
A Mr Simon Kiguta was last week the sign of the times for what the future has in wait for men. He was attacked by his wife and had to be hospitalised. We are told in emphasis: “12 Years, the ‘amount’ of time Mr Simon Kiguta, whose stitched up and swollen face was splashed on the front pages of the ‘newspaper’ last Saturday, was married to his wife, ‘whom’ he alleges slashed him with a panga” (p. 5).
I would have written the above emphasis piece slightly differently, thus: “12 Years, the length (not ‘the amount’) of time Mr SK, whose..... face..... was splashed on the front page (instead of ‘pages’) of newspapers (instead of ‘newspaper’) last Saturday, was married to his wife, who (instead of ‘whom’), he alleges, slashed him with a panga”.
A photograph on page 4 shows four school girls playing music. The caption reads as follows: “A few year back, the girl child was an endangered species and affirmative action had to be taken to empower her. Today however, ‘girls appears’ well placed in society while the boy waffles in uncertainty”. You will note that in the latter sentence in the caption, the writer moves from talking about “the girl child” to talking about: “girls”, and “girls appears” at that!
To be consistent the second sentence in the caption to the photograph should read: “Today the girl appears (not ‘girls appears’) well placed in society while the boy waffles in uncertainty”. Further focus on the girls is shown in an emphasis piece on page 5, reading as follows: “48.4 per cent, the ‘number’ of girls ‘per every hundred’ that sat the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examination last year.
Girls are closing in the boys who stand at 51.6 per cent”. Now, “per cent” means part of a hundred. Thus saying “per cent” and “every hundred” is repeating the same information twice. Likewise, having presented the figure 48.4 as a per cent (%) it was improper to refer to the same figure as “the number”.
There may be two ways out of this. If we dropped the “per cent” qualification we can say: “48.4, the number of girls per hundred pupils that sat the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education.....” On the other hand, if we decided to keep the “per cent” qualification, then our quotation would run something like: “48.4 per cent, the proportion of girls among the pupils who sat for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education.....”.
Some women think the reporting of husband battering is biased: “The general view, especially among women, is that even though women have always been the victims of battery, their suffering ‘in’ the hands of men rarely gets documented....”. It is “their suffering at (not ‘in’) the hands of men”. A campaigner for men’s rights concludes: “‘All’ sexes should go back to their defined roles in religion and in culture”. Now how many sexes do we have on this world? Two? Male and Female? Why then say “all sexes”?. “Both sexes” would be more appropriate.
Back to Dar where we came upon tit bits of language pleasantries. While waiting to participate in a meeting I was served with a document that read: “Agender for today’s meeting”. Did thinking too much about gender issues change today’s agenda into today’s agender? Then there is this form issued by a driving school telling you that you need to have a “leaner licence” before you start undertaking driving lesson. How thin will the licence be? Do not worry. What you need is a “Learner’s Driving Licence”. Licences are neither lean nor fat.
A quick visit to Dodoma the designated capital of Tanzania. A photograph in the Custodian (February 13, p. 5) shows a wounded young man lying on the ground surrounded by a crowd. This is how the caption under the photograph reads: “Dodoma traffic police officer and ‘pedestrian’ look at a suspected thief who was ‘bitten’ up by an angry mob in Dodoma on Friday allegedly for snatching a hand bag.”
“BITTEN?” We haven’t got there yet. We stone bag and phone snatchers. Sometimes we burn their bodies but we haven’t got to biting them. The hapless suspected thief was beaten not bitten. I hope he survived, repented and vowed not to steal again.