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We can never have enough lessons on language use

By Collins Odhiambo | June 25th 2016


In his articles in The Standard on Saturday, Dr Pharaoh Ochichi has tackled a variety of points of grammar thus far. Most recently, he cautioned against misuse of the verb ‘to avail’. He indicated that how some users apply this verb could one day gain formal acceptance but that until then such use remains incorrect.

Earlier on, he had urged accurate reference to grammatical elements. In particular, he was concerned that an article carried by a local daily, had charactierised a phrasal verb particle simply as an adverb and gone on to discuss that word as such.

Then there was the case of ‘heavy’ subject and ‘light’ predicate. This, he pointed out, brought about awkwardness in the sentence. He recommended a shift of weight to the predicate. He also highlighted the clumsy complex sentence construction, in which the positioning of the subject is constantly elusive. True to this concern, articles bear ‘interesting’ sentence construction.

Speaking of accepted and non-unaccepted usage, consider this from Saturday Nation, June 18, Page33: Two of the keyboard abilities I acquired at junior high school, as you can see, are standing me in good stead, even as academics become less and less important in my life.

Could this be an instance of advocacy, through constant use in spite of prescription and proscription, for eventual acceptance of the word ‘academics’ in the sense of ‘studies’ or ‘academic matters’? Ochichi, being an academic concerned with such, should make the position clear. Otherwise, let there be more sharing on language use. There is a lot to learn. We can never know enough. Keep up the spirit, Ochichi.

- The writer is author of The Bell Ringer and Miss Pheromone

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