- 3 commissioners suspended for improper dressing in Ebonyi
- CBN issues two new merchant bank licences
- Ekiti PDP accuses ACN of attacking members
- Daniel eulogises HID Awolowo at 97
- Jonathan hails Koroma's re-election
- Collapsed man: Edo dep gov threatens Airhiavbere
- Communal clash: Police arrest gang leader, 12 others in Nasarawa
- Corruption: There ‘ll be no sacred cow - Jonathan
- Amosun’s wife tasks students on reading culture
- Flooding: Dangote committee sets N50bn target
- Adamawa LG election conducted peacefully
- 1999 Constitution: Women group calls for amendment to gender-biased provisions
Rationale for sheathing sword
SAMPLE I: Addressing reporters in Osogbo, the Osun State capital at the weekend... he also advised the sponsors and leadership of Boko Haram to sheath their sword and approach the Federal Government on how to address the injustices for which they claimed to be fighting”(Onoja Supports Dialogue with Boko Haram, The Nation on Sunday, March 18, 2012)
The word under focus is sheath which occurs in the structure, “he also advised the sponsors and leadership of Boko Haram to sheath their sword”.
I understand this expression as saying that those involved in the Boko Haram’s activities are to stop fighting. The specific aspect of the structure that conveys this idea is “to sheath their sword”. Literally, the idea is that the sword is put back into its container – the sheath. That is at the denotative level. At the metaphorical level, it suggests the idea of bringing about peace.
I have no problem with the denotative or metaphorical meaning of the word as used in the context. The problem has to do with the form in which the word occurs. Enlightened readers would have noticed that the word sheath occurs in a structural slot belonging to a verb. (Note: “to sheath their sword”).
The remarkable issue is that the form sheath is not a verb but a noun. The obvious difference between sheath (the noun form) and sheathe (the verb form) is the presence of the letter –e in the final position in the latter which is absent in the former. It is an obvious fact that the English orthography is notoriously difficult to manage, with a single letter signifying a huge semantic difference or signalling a change from one word class to the other.
Now let’s illustrate the difference between the noun and the verb forms of the word: (1) The knife has no sheath. (2) The sheath that came with the knife having been lost, I had to make another one for it. (3) The leader of the warriors ordered them to stop fighting and put their swords into their sheaths. (4) Nomadic Fulanis don’t carry naked knives or swords; their knives and swords are usually put in their sheaths. (5) Every mobile policeman has a sword that is usually kept in a sheath. (6) The cow Fulani brandished a knife, and it took the persuasion of the people around before he could sheathe it. (7) To prevent it from rusting, each time you use this cutlass, please make sure you sheathe it. (8) This is a magical knife that must be sheathed all the time to avoid it cutting wrong people. (9) He is so careless that he wouldn’t remember to sheathe the knife after using it. (10) It is believed that he killed the man because he was caught sheathing his sword about the time the man was found dead.
Sentences (1) – (5) illustrate the nominal usage (sheath) and sentences (6) – (10) illustrate the verbal usage (sheathe).
Still on seemingly insignificant letters that convey significant meaning, let’s have Sample II:”Among other things, the lawmakers questioned the Legal Commissioner and the Director of Finance on the rational of buying three Toyota Helix vehicles for N32 million without following the procurement act of passing the resolution to buy the vehicles through the proper tenders’ board” (SEC BOSS, Arunma Oteh: Victim or Villian? The Nation on Sunday, March 18, 2012).
The word that interests us is rational which occurs in the structure, “the lawmakers questioned... on the rational of buying...” Enlightened readers are familiar with the word rational as an adjective. It is therefore queer that it occupies a position belonging to a noun. Yes, the position occupied by the word rational in the structure under examination is that of a noun. We suspect, however, that the writer has mistaken another word for rational. That word in all probability is rationale.
From the point of view of spelling, the only difference between the two words (rational and rationale) is the inclusion of the letter –e in the one and its absence in the other. A rational human being is one who bases his decisions and actions on logic, reasoning and common sense. A rational action or decision is one that is taken on the basis of logic and careful evaluation of all the facts. Actions and decisions that contradict logic and common sense are said to be irrational.
The rationale for doing something is the logic or reasoning behind that action or decision: (1) The young lady explained the rationale for changing her job. (2) The rationale for delaying the elections is to allow all imported materials to come in. (3) What is the rationale for allocating so much money to defence? (4)It will be difficult for you to explain the rationale for your decision to move into a more expensive apartment. (5)The management had a hard time explaining the rationale for withholding the secretary’s salaries. (6)The rationale for avoiding a civil war should be evident to everybody.
At any rate, the word rationale should replace rational in the context under examination.
Sample III: “Punch Metro learnt that the girl often referred to as Tawa was sent on an errant to buy a pepper from a nearby shop” (Surrogate Mother Burns Girl’s Breast With Pressing Iron, The Punch, Friday, March 23, 2012)
We focus attention on the word errant which occurs in the structure, “Tawa was sent on an errant to buy pepper”. We are handling another case of mistaken identity, of mixing up two words on the basis of a slight spelling difference. We are told that Tawa was sent on an errant. Errant?
The word required in the context is errand and not errant. There is the word errand, a noun, and there is the word errant, an adjective. It can be seen that the only difference between them, superficially, is that the one ends in –d and the other in –t.
When you carry a message from one person or place to the other, you are said to run an errand: (1) I stayed at home for weeks running errands for my sick and aged parents.
(2) The purpose of a wife is not to run errands for the husband, but to support him and care for the home and the children. (3) Unfortunately, the girl who was sent on an errand by her teacher was attacked by a wild dog. (4) Under no circumstances should you send your students on errands. (5) I need to employ a boy whose duties will include running errands and cleaning up the house. (6) Can’t you send your neighbour’s children on errands?
The adjective errant, on the other hand, means badly behaved, unfaithful, not dutiful: (1) Henceforth all errant students, including truants and latecomers, are to face severe sanctions. (2) The court has sent the errant husband to jail. (3) The law allows tenants to sue errant landlords. (4) An errant arrow hit the ill- fated boy. (5) The court did not allow the errant wife to take custody of the children.
At any rate, the word errand replaces errant in the context under examination.
Sample IV: “Our correspondent noticed that they had earlier broken into other shops on the streets. Other youths were seen grabbing loafs of bread in a shop they had broken into “(Hausa, Yoruba Clash in Lagos over Murdered Youth, The Punch, Tuesday, March 20, 2012).
The word that interests us is loafs which occurs in the structure, “youths were grabbing loafs of bread”. We note in particular the fact that the word loafs is in its plural form. This plural form, let us note, fails to be consistent with the idiosyncratic character of English. The plural form of book is books; that of box is boxes; of road is roads; of house is houses; of boy is boys; etc. However, the plural form of child is not *childs but children, of ox is not *oxes but oxen; of sheep is not *sheeps but sheep, of tooth is not *tooths but teeth; of foot is not *foots but feet, etc.
Now, what is the plural form of knife? Knifes? No. The plural form of knife is knives; of life is lives; of leaf is leaves; of loaf is loaves.
At any rate, let loaves replace loafs in the context under examination.
The title of the column last Sunday was given as Sharp Sparrow when it should have been Sharp Arrow. The error is regretted.