This time, the writer gives more examples of wrong usages and explanations to help you hone your skills communication in English language.
In Nigerian English, we equally say “I know fully well” instead of “I know full well”. “Full” is correctly used here as an obscure adverb, that is, an adverb that has the structure of an adjective. It is notional or grammatical over-generalisation to conclude that all words ending in “-ly” are adverbs; or that adverbs always take “-ly”. For example, as we have natural obscure adjectives like “Fatherly”, “Heavenly”, “Cowardly”, etc., that is, adjectives having the shape of adverbs, we also have natural adverbs called obscure adverbs (without “-ly”), e.g., “Low”, “High”, “Hard”, “Late”, “Wide”, etc., that have the shape of adjectives. It is their usage in an expression that usually marks the difference between adjectives and adverbs, e.g. “He came late” (adverb); “He usually arrive in late hours” (adjective); “He opened the door wide” (adverb); “There road is wide” (adjective); “He always work hard” (adverb); “The book has a hard cover” (adjective).
Most Nigerians also interpret the expression “No love lost” to mean that the love between two people is intact. This idiom actually means that two people involved hate each other, that the love does not exist in the first place not to talk of it getting lost. One of the ex-Super Eagles players was asked about his relationship with another ex-Super Eagles player on a radio sports programme two years ago, he replied that that their relationship was intact and also used the idiom “No love lost” to emphasise it. What a self-contradiction! In the same vein, the expression “Play the Devil’s advocate” is misinterpreted in Nigerian English. The dictionary meaning is: “to pretend to disagree with somebody in order to have good discussion about something”. But in Nigerian English, it is wrongly used to mean that somebody is defending an offender, like an advocate or lawyer.
Also, another area where the problem of over-generalisation of rules manifests in Nigerian English is in the area of conditional clauses. Most Nigerian speakers use the second type of conditional clauses called “Theoretical Possibility” in almost all situations because they think conditionals clauses are always in the past, e.g., “If we supplied the goods tomorrow, they would pay us”. Conditional clauses are basically divided to three types. The first type is called “Open Possibility”. This refers to possible actions, e.g., “If we have money tomorrow, we shall go there”.
The second type is called “Theoretical Possibility”. This is used for actions that are no longer possible, except in theory, e.g. “If I were you, I would buy the car”. This is in the past because it is no longer possible for the person to be another person. The third type is called “Denied Possibility”, e.g. “If I had been given a chance, I would have beaten the man”. There is a minor one which is a combination of one part of Type Two and one part of Type Three, e.g. “If the crisis had stopped, there would be peace everywhere now.”
Just imagine an organisation telling its numerous foreign customers “If we had goods tomorrow, we would call you”! This practically means it is impossible to call customers because it is impossible to have goods. The Open Possibility type should have been used, “If we have goods tomorrow, we shall call you”.
Inconsistency/overgeneralisation of rules of English
… Apart from blaming Nigerians for errors of over-generalisation of rules of English, Standard British English itself is also blamed for lack of consistency of rules here. For instance, “Formal” is the opposite of “Informal” but “Valuable” and “Invaluable” are not opposite words. “Flammable” and “Inflammable” are also not opposite words. While “Proprietress” is the opposite of “Proprietor”, “Governor” is not the opposite of “Governess”. While “Useless” is the opposite of “Useful”, “Priceless” is not a negative word with the meaning “Without a price”, but “Too valuable to be priced”. Also the Standard British English word “Offhand” means to say something from the memory. This series of inconsistency of rules makes most Nigerians wrongly use “Offhead” for “Offhand” because they believe hands are not involved. They also think “Invaluable” is the opposite of “Valuable”; or “Inflammable” is opposite of “Flammable”, etc.
While conceptually-plural noun phrases like “The Underdog”, “the youth”, “the faithful”, “the poor”, “the offspring”, “the folk”, “Three dozen”, “Two aircraft”, etc., are acceptably used without “S”, we surprisingly have structurally-plural but conceptually-singular nouns like “A species”, “A crossroads”, “a bellows”, “a means”, “a summons”, etc., starting with the indefinite article “A” and still ending in “S”. This inconsistency on the part of Standard British English misleads most speakers of Nigerian English into committing errors of overgeneralisation of rules by removing the final “S” to convey singular.
Also, the expression “How do you do?” is correctly replied with “How do you do?” But most speakers of Nigerian English wrongly reply “Fine”. The expressions “What’s more” and “I hope you are okay” do not take a question mark. But speakers of Nigerian English overgeneralise by even adding a question mark in writing. Though, Standard British English is also blamed for lack of consistency here. Also present-tense expressions used in the past-tense form tagged unreal-past such as “I would rather you went there tomorrow”, “It is high time we went home now”, “I wish I met my mother at home tomorrow”, etc., pose the problem of usage in Nigeria. This problem is also blamed on Standard British English for tense inconsistency of using past tense to convey present.
Other examples of Nigerian English errors
Most speakers of Nigerian English wrongly say “Thank you for your patronage” (American English) instead of “Thank you for your custom” (British English). They also wrongly say “It is tasking” instead of “It is taxing”; “It is a lost battle” instead of “It is a losing battle”; “Warm your way into somebody’s heart” instead of the correct Standard British English version “Worm your way into somebody’s heart”. They also wrongly say “He is a Godsent” instead of “It is a godsend”; “As at when due” instead of “As and when due”; “I will lay ambush for him” instead of “I will lie in ambush for him”.
Most speakers of Nigerian English wrongly say “The president has commissioned the new road” instead of “The president has inaugurated the new road”; “He always speaks big grammar” instead of “He always uses high-sounding vocabulary”; “I am a staff of this organisation” instead of “I am a member of staff of this organisation”. In Nigerian English, it is common to hear the wrong expression “You that is not serious” while referring to one person, instead of “You that are not serious”. Speakers of Nigerian English wrongly say “I that is not afraid” instead of “I that am not afraid”; “Night vigil” instead of “Vigil”; “Wake-keeping” or “Wake-keep” instead of the correct version “Wake”. It is also common to hear “Doctorate degree” instead of the correct version “Doctorate” or “Doctoral degree”; “Electioneering campaign” instead of “Electioneering”. Speakers of Nigerian English wrongly say “We boast of good staff” instead of the correct version “We boast good staff”; “The new manager will resume tomorrow” instead of “The new manager will assume duties tomorrow”.
Last set of examples
They also wrongly say “I have scaled through” instead of “I have sailed through”; “He is matured” instead of “He is mature”; “It seems as if” instead of “It seems that”; “That your friend” instead of “That friend of yours”; “It is pepperish” instead of “It is peppery”; “Grinded pepper” instead of “Ground pepper”; “Binded copy” instead of “Bound copy”. Most speakers of Nigerian English also wrongly say “White elephant projects” instead of “White elephants”; “In the company premises” instead of “On the company premises”; “In the bus” instead of “On the bus”. They wrongly say “Next week Tuesday” instead of “Tuesday Next week”; “Next year October” instead of “October Next year”.
General business implication
Just imagine the kind of response your organisation will get from investors or (prospective) business partners outside the country if you send a business proposal or correspondence containing these misused Nigerian English words! This linguistic incompetence becomes worrisome especially that English is necessary for competing in the global marketplace and is the most widely spoken language in the world today! Or better still, imagine how foreigners who visit your corporate website will feel about your corporate level of formal education after reading these misused words, especially that English Language has become an instrument of gauging one’s height on the socio-intellectual ladder! I will advise individuals and corporate organisations to avoid use of the so-called Nigerian English which can impede career or business prospects because it easily leads to communication breakdown.
GOKE ILESANMI, Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants of Nigeria and International Certified Management Consultant is Managing Consultant/CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, International Platinum Columnist, Professional Public Speaker/MC, Communication Specialist, Motivational Speaker and Career Management Coach. He is also a Book Reviewer, Biographer and Editorial Consultant.
“English itself is also blamed for lack of consistency of rules here. For instance, “Formal” is the opposite of “Informal” but “Valuable” and “Invaluable” are not opposite words. “Flammable” and “Inflammable” are also not opposite words. While “Proprietress” is the opposite of “Proprietor”, “Governor” is not the opposite of “Governess”. While “Useless” is the opposite of “Useful.”
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