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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Bad English

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With Adama

If you are British, or lived in Britain or are a keen follower of British TV, you would have probably seen or heard of the Catherine Tate Show. I think it ended on Christmas Day, 2007. In it, there was this fictional character, Lauren, a 15-year-old schoolgirl with a surly attitude and was most widely known for her phrase “Am I bovvered?” (i.e. bothered – the “v” in the word takes the place of the “th” that should be there). When feeling angry or embarrassed, she frequently replies with defensive responses such as “Am I bovvered?”, “Do I look bovvered?” and so on. Lauren might not be bothered but I am and so should we all, especially parents. Why bothered? The answer is in two words: Bad English.

Listen to the radios and the TV and all you hear are people speaking very bad English. Log on to the online newspapers or open the dailies and it is very bad English writ large everywhere. It is like the newscasters, journalists and editors cannot be “bovvered”. It is a shame and a tragedy because it is the rule everywhere that formal programmes should be broadcast or written in formal, simple but good English. It is a tragic situation because the way the media practitioners speak and write English does not only reflect the appreciation of the language in the country, but also to a great extent, influence its usage. In many schools in the country, teachers of the English language, use newspaper articles as supplementary manuals of instruction. Below are few examples of the very bad English being used by journalists. These are just six examples picked up in one online newssite and one daily newspaper after a cursory look at a single page within six minutes:

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1. “Omar Cham [was] a former [redundant] member of the defunct National Gendamerie [Gendarmerie]. He was discharged from the Gendamerie [Gendarmerie] following a knife attacked [attack] he suffered from cattle wrestlers [rustlers].”
2. The OIC Executive Director Lamin Sanneh is a former staffer of Standard Chartered Bank. He later worked for ECOBank. He briefly settled in Ghana, before his Dubai Investment banking surgeon [sojourn].
3. Gambia: Breaking News: Tanji Man Allegedly Killed His Seventeen Year Old Brother; Young Boy’s Head Smashed, And Eyes Decapitated [plucked out]!
4. Ansumana Jammeh summons again to appear before Janneh Commission
5. SSHFC staff begin sit-down-strike [sit-down strike]
6. Exact number of tractors sized [seized] is unknown- Says O.J.


Grammar police Fodeh Baldeh and Cany Jobe-Taal could easily point out 16 more instances in these six examples where the rules of grammar and good writing have been broken!
As journalist and former Minister of Communication, Sheriff Bojang, succinctly put it in the introduction to his 2004 Handbook For Journalists, “At every opportunity, journalists trumpet the people’s right to know, it is time [they] championed the people’s right to understand by committing [themselves] to write with clarity.”

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Physical Planning, up your ante…
Last week President Barrow caused a political tsunami with his cabinet reshuffle. The Secretary General and commissioners at the Public Service Commission and the mandarins at the Personnel Management Office should put on their thinking caps and follow suit. The civil service leaves a lot to be desired. And please, stop blaming the Jammeh era. The civil service is not fit for purpose. It is full of square pegs in round holes because of political cronyism, nepotism and other forms of corruption. Let us narrow the scope of our criticism.

Everywhere you go now in The Gambia, principally in the Kombo St Mary’s and West Coast regions, forests and bushes, fields and farmlands are being cleared for new homes. Land is being allocated, demarcated and homes are built without regard to even the most basic physical planning, land development and zoning considerations. Roads are too small and zigzagging all over the place. Homes eat up all the spaces without allocations for public parks and playgrounds, markets, schools, mosques, health centres or other communal amenities. It is madness everywhere. No control. Everyone doing what you want.
Everyday, a new “real estate” outfit is putting up shop at some street corner. It is about time government sets up and

empanels a Land Commission and regulates these sprouting estate agencies just like it does forex bureaux.
If government fails to act now, it will have to act later and the price will be costly for the national exchequer, homeowners and the community. A stitch in time saves nine!


To curb the spate of crimes – More police, less soldiers
Everyday you watch the TV, listen to the radios or read the papers, there is a story about some gruesome murder, rape, armed robbery, aggravated assault or drug dealing. We need more law enforcement officers – police – on the streets. The Gambia does not have a lot of money. But we have enough for our need, if not enough for our luxuries. We should look at our priority areas to invest as a nation. It is obvious that The Gambia does not need the big army we are currently servicing. Since we do not have the money, we do not have to prepare for a war that is never going to happen. No country or external mercenary force is going to attack us. Therefore we do not need a big army. What we need is a big police force so that our borders and streets can be peopled with the police to serve as deterrent to criminal elements and safeguard our wellbeing and the security of our properties. Recruitments to the army should be frozen and some battalions demobilised and retrained as policemen and policewomen. We must think out of the box to solve our problems as a nation.

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