Morris Mtisi Education Correspondent
OF course you will remember that understanding the error and mastering the correction is not a guarantee you will be permanently out of the error habit.
Language scientists say, I have said this over and over again, you must repeat the use of the correction 21 times before it becomes a correct habit. This means unconscious use of the correction 21 times that are far and between in free speech or writing not a one-off recitation of the correct word or expression.
This week we start off with four words that can cause real havoc in your language if you are not careful. These words are treasure and treasurer — then lecture and lecturer. All of them are nouns hence the common confusion. But if you want to remember their correct use forever, here is the trick: The one with —rer at the end is the person.
1. He is our treasurer in the club.
2. She was voted to become the church treasurer. This is correct use of the word “treasurer”.
How many times have you heard people say: 1. He is our treasure? 2. She was voted to become the church treasure? Of course this is wrong. Get that straight!
The other pair of words is “lecture” and “lecturer”. As with treasurer, the one with — er refers to the person.
1. Dr Muzi is a lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe.
2. He is a lecturer at MSU, not a driver.
Notice that “treasure” and “lecture” refer to what the people — the experts — those mandated to deliver or take care of or give as a service, give. A lecturer delivers/gives a lecture. A treasurer works in the treasury where treasure (money) is kept, accounted for and dispatched for use.
You then ask, “Why doesn’t a person who teaches become a teacherer? Instead he or she is called a teacher. Or why a person who drives — a driver, is not called a driverer? That is the fun of the English language. It is not always logical. You just have to know what is correct even if it does not make logical sense.
English language, I am sure like any language, is made up of set grammatical rules and regulations, and most of these are not logical patterns.
Let me remind you, English language students, not to refer to toothpaste as Colgate. It is toothpaste — not Colgate. Colgate is the company that manufactures the common toothpaste.
This reminds me of words like Monarch, Durawall and Keyser. These are not names of manufactured products, but of companies. Mornach manufactures travel bags. Durawall were maiden manufacturers of slabs used to put up pre-cast walls — yes PRE-CAST WALL. That is what it is called, not durawall.
Keyser manufactured or tailored pull-up socks.
Our advantage in the Zimsec Examinations is that all markers are Zimbabweans and most of them are not themselves, with all due respect, aware of these terrible errors and misconceptions.
Be very careful however, if you are sitting Cambridge examinations which maybe very particular about what I call “nonsense words and expressions”.
I said, “sitting Cambridge examinations” did you notice? “Sitting for an examination” is incorrect. We sit examinations; we do not sit for them. Quite simple to grasp, is it not?
Did you also notice I said, Monarch manufactured travel bags? These are called travel bags, not travelling bags. Come to think of it or listen to yourself carefully. You seem to be saying these bags are travelling if you call them “travelling bags”.
OOPS! The English people do not talk about “a blood sister or brother.” A brother is a brother and a sister is a sister — full stop! Where did we get ours that is a blood one? And what does it mean? In English (What I call English-English), your aunt’s daughter is a cousin. Her son is a cousin too. That is the differentiation. It simply is not English to call the one you come before or after in your family, a blood sister or brother.
Another interesting one is the use of “sent” and “send”. Many people, including fairly educated or learned ones, use sent as both present tense and past tense:
“Please sent me your App message now,” several radio Djs are fond of saying. And they are not the only ones! They want to say, (in the Present Tense) ‘Please send me your App message now.”
Some will argue this is radio journalese (radio language). Nonsense! Radio and television are not platforms for making errors and defending them. “If you sent me the money now I will buy groceries (of course, not grocery),” is incorrect. You want to say (in the present), “If you send me the money now, I will buy groceries.” “Send” is present and “Sent” is past tense.
This is important for students to know. You will be marked wrong in your examinations and pay heavily for it. Adults who are big-headed and argumentative can go on the way they have been saying for all their lifetime — who marks their everyday English language?
If you are an old dog reluctant to learn new tricks, fine but this is dangerous for teachers even teachers my age and beyond, because you are making a wrong grammatical imprint on the mind of your pupils.
Finally, for today, let me give you another common error. This is one error you make and you have no idea is incorrect.
It is therefore, not a mistake. A mistake is one that you make because you are absent minded and therefore not paying attention to what you are saying. You can quickly realise you have made a mistake and you can correct it. You see???? I hope that is simple enough to understand.
The last common error for the day is the use of “a must.” I have heard many people, some of them very respectable, say, “This is a must. That is a must. You cannot overlook it; it is a must.” Hakuna chinhu chinonzi “a must” muChirungu. Ukazvifungawo shuwa chingave chii chinonzi a must? We say, “This book is a must-read.” Kureva kuti you must read it not you can, you may, you should or might read it.
We could also say, “a must-ride” referring to a new model car on the market “a must-go” referring to an item on sale you are determined to sell and to be in demand. Maybe it is one of your old cars and you want it to go (you want to sell it). You can say, “This is a must-go.”
As I said at the beginning it may be logical that you create “a must” with every verb or action. Nooooo! It does not work like that! You cannot say, “a must-kick” “a must-drink” “a must eat” “a must chesechese” Nooooo, please!
Take these common errors seriously, I always remind you. You will never regret you did. It is not foolish to keep a small note book where you keep them while they slowly sink in your brain memory card.
Common errors are infectious. Let us not help to spread the disease.
Until next week, remember “Do not wait for leaders” Mother Teresa said, ‘“. . .do it alone, person to person.” I love what I do. Share the joy!