7 January 2013

Ghana: Dear Africanus, Do We Say 'Between You and I'?

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My dear Africanus Owusu Ansah, Friend (indeed, more a younger brother than a friend, but not a junior brother), Vandal Mate, Vandalism Scholar, Vandal Choirmaster, Administrator, Lawyer, Teacher and 'Professor' of English, I greet you in the name of God.

Prof. (let me take away the single quotation marks), you will recall that, like you, I used to write on what I considered to be good usage in English.

You will also recall that I decided to abandon that exercise for two main reasons. One was that one day I wrote that one could not say, "You can't eat your cake and have it," and that the correct expression was, "You can't have your cake and eat it."

In a rejoinder, a lady promptly pulled me up short, saying that both expressions were (and still are) correct, and that she had even taken the trouble to find that out from an English-speaking embassy in the country.

That was a chastening experience. Moreover, I thought (and still think) that you were (and still are) doing a very good job with your series on correct usage in the newspapers.

Against my better judgment, I have decided to take another plunge because of serious concerns which I have, concerning certain expressions I consider wrong.

One such expression is "between you and I", which is quite common in Nigeria films. You often hear the actor tell the actress, "It is over between you and I." Sometimes, it is the actress who tells the actor so.

Prof., many years ago in elementary school at the Adansi Brofoyedru Methodist School, I learnt that when a preposition 'governs' a personal pronoun, it is the objective form of that personal pronoun that is used. Thus, one says, "it is over between you and me", and NOT, "It is over between you and I", so common in Nigerian films.

Thus, we say, "Africanus and I are very good friends. He knows me (not 'I') very well, and I know him (not 'he') very well." You know something Prof.? These same Nigerians say very correctly, "it is over between us", not "it is over between we."

I have given this example from Nigerian films because, whether anyone likes it or not, the Nigerian film industry has had, and continues to have, great influence on our film industry, especially in such areas as costume, body decoration and the supernatural.

Back home in our own country, our use of English leaves a lot to be desired. Again and again, one hears such aberrations as "much more better", "much more easier", "most often than not", etc.

Prof., here is a tough one. When you have to leave office, do you prepare "hand over notes" or "handing-over notes"? Section 6 of the Presidential (Transition) Act, 2012 (Act 845) is headed "HANDING-OVER NOTES AND ASSETS".

The opening sentence of Section 6 (1) reads as follows: "The Office of the President shall prepare a set of comprehensive handing-over Notes covering the term of office of the President as the executive authority under Article 58 of the Constitution."

Used as a noun, the ADVANCED LEARNER'S DICTIONARY defines 'hand-over' as " a period during which power or responsibility is transferred from one person or group to another."

The expression example the Dictionary gives is as follows: "the smooth hand-over of power from the military to civilian government."

The CONCISE OXFORD DICTIONARY has 'handover as a noun, "especially British, the act or instance of handing over." Prof., please go through all the dictionaries you have and let me know whether or not I stand on firm ground when I say, you say, "hand-over" notes, and NOT "handing-over" notes. I do not want a re-visit of the cake matter. Perhaps American English may have "handing-over" notes.

Prof., here is another one which might even prove tougher than the one about hand-over or handing over. The 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana begins with the invocation, IN THE NAME OF THE ALMIGHTY GOD.

You know, and I know that the Definite Article "the" is normally used as a determiner to 'point' out nouns or noun groups. Our concept of God as a Spiritual Being does not permit us to use the article "the" or "a" to 'point' out God except in such a sentence as "The God I serve is a mighty God", for example.

My point is that we say 'God', Almighty God' without the 'the' (sometimes spelt with a capital or small 't'), "The Almighty", or "God Almighty". Is it correct to say "The Almighty God"?

The BBC DICTIONARY says, "The Almighty is another name for God". The CONCISE OXFORD DICTIONARY has this entry: "(the Almighty) God."

Not so controversial, I hope, is the use of the verb "award" without the proper object. One sometimes hears, "Students and workers were awarded". Awarded what? It should be, "Students and workers were awarded prizes."

Its continued wrong use jars on my nerves, because I know you have written on it a number of times. You apparently, have much more work to do.

Of course, if the word "reward" is used, there is no need to add any object. It may take an adverb, as in, "The hard workers were rewarded handsomely."

Prof., you know, and I know that the verbs 'solicit',' demand', 'emphasise', 'order',' stress', for example, do not take prepositions. So there is nothing like 'solicit for', 'demand for', and 'order for', neither should one say 'emphasise on' or 'stress on'. Of course the nouns 'emphasise' or 'stress' must necessarily take the preposition 'on'.

Prof., why has 'can be able' gained such currency that even those supposedly well educated use it? I thought 'can' means 'able to', not so, I mean isn't it?

Prof., please, once more, come out to tell us the difference between 'increase' and 'increment'. They are still saying 'increment' where they should say 'increase'. Is it an 'increase' in the price of fuel or an 'increment'? What is the difference between a salary increase and a salary increment?

Prof., I heard that the verb 'help' may or may not be used with 'to', as in "My son helped me to wash my car" or "my son helped me wash my car."

However, I hear that when you use the word 'enable', you necessarily need to use 'to', as in "the assistance he gave enabled me to set up my own business."

I hear people say, "I know fully well", instead of "I know full well", where 'full' means 'very'.

Prof., do not be down-hearted. At least, more and more people have got to know from you that should they ever be bereaved, there will be no wake, there will be a lying in state (not laying in state), and that there will be an interment, not internment. Kudos!

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