I was having a tete-a-tete with a friend recently when he veered off our conversation by asking; “Did you see that Subaru for Esther?” For a moment I could not comprehend what he was talking about, so I gave him the look that said “you-just-lost-me-there”.
It was only when he pointed at a vehicle ahead of us, but on a different lane, that I understood his question. My friend loves cars, and a pimped metallic blue Subaru Forester with a noisy exhaust was hightailing. With time, one gets used to, and hardly notices the antics of young Subaru drivers who know they have the power to overhaul most vehicles in sight and don’t hesitate to demonstrate it.
In the span of a few seconds, I had wondered who Esther was and where I was supposed to have seen her Subaru. That was dispelled by the name ‘Forester’; written as a single name, but one which my friend inadvertently split into two (for Ester). While the spelling between ‘Ester’ and ‘Esther’ differs, to most people, the pronunciation does not. There lies the power of enunciation.
Enunciation - the act of pronouncing words - is critical to making one clearly understood. Picture this: a woman suffers from a painful medical disorder that requires specialised treatment, but she is reluctant to visit a medic either because the procedure is excruciatingly painful or just because she has had bad experiences with doctors before.
If the woman finally agrees to go to hospital, would she be comfortable if, while lying there on the hospital bed, a dour faced nurse calmly announces: “There comes the rapist” instead of; “There comes the therapist?” Most probably not, because the first imprint on her mind is a negative one.
As an abstract thought, maybe the name ‘Forester’ is a dedication to a lady called Esther, something masked by the creation of a portmanteau. A portmanteau is a word that is created when two or more words are truncated and joined to form a completely new word; one we could call a conjoined word. The digital world in which we live gives us good examples of portmanteaus, and these include ‘blog’ (a combination of the words web and log), ‘camcorder’ (Camera and recorder), ‘podcasting’ (iPod and broadcasting) and ‘cyberzine’ (cyberspace and magazine). Elsewhere, we encounter words like ‘medicare’ which is coined from the combination of ‘medical’ and ‘care’.
Whenever military personnel do their thing before the presidential dais on a national holiday, reference is normally made to ‘paratroopers’, a combination of the words ‘parachute’ and ‘troops’. Along the Nairobi Nakuru Highway, there are a number of eateries known as ‘Motels’ where motorists pull in to have meals before continuing with their journeys. Motel is a portmanteau for ‘motor’ and ‘hotel’.
On television, we watch ‘sitcoms’ daily. This portmanteau is a derivative of the words ‘situational’ and ‘comedy’. Portmanteaus fit snugly into the dynamism of the English language that has, over the centuries, greatly evolved.
From the words ‘For Ester’, let us pick the preposition ‘for’ and examine its usage vis-à-vis the preposition ‘of’. Many are times that writers, but mostly speakers, use the two prepositions interchangeably. From the dictionary, we get the meaning of a preposition as; “a word governing, and usually preceding a noun or pronoun and expressing a relation to another word or element in the clause, as in ‘the man on the platform’, ‘she arrived after dinner’, ‘what did you do it for?’
Prepositions are a single word, two words or three. Two or three word prepositions are known as phrasal or complex prepositions. Most common examples include ‘on account of’, ‘instead of’, ‘on behalf of’, ‘in spite of’, et cetera.
The preposition ‘of’ is used to show relationship between a whole and part of that whole. For example, ‘three of his five cars bear the same colour’. It also ‘shows association between two entities, one of belonging in which the first is the head of the phrase and the second is associated with it’. For example; ‘The teenage daughter of the impeached legislator is a millionaire’.
‘For’ doubles up as a conjunction (connecting two phrases) and a preposition. In the first case, we could write; “The governor was finally shown the door, for County assembly members had wearied of his antics”. ‘For ’, as a preposition is used to talk about specific time frames. For instance; “For a long time, Ferdinand has been courting trouble” or “I will be available for the weekend should you need me”.
Mr Chagema is a correspondent for The [email protected]
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