AS the world strategizes on how to deal with the impacts of Covid-19, Tanzania is looking into the use of herbal remedies to assist in the treatment of the symptoms of this novel virus.
The Custodian of 24 May carried a front page item titled: “TAFORI lists ten herbs to curb Covid-19 symptoms”, in whose fifth paragraph, the following was written: “While the whole world is fighting the pandemic, whose cure has not been found, we at TAFORI (Tanzania Forests Research Institute) have identified 10 trees that can treat early symptoms of the infection, and if people use “it” correctly, they will be safe”, said an official.
Our concern here is with the use of the pronoun “it”. What noun is it representing? Certainly, it is not representing “infection”. Most likely, it is representing the 10 trees. Should that be the case, “it” should be “them”, since we are talking about 10 trees, not just one tree.
This should make the sentence read as follows: “We have identified 10 trees that can treat early symptoms of the infection, and if people use “them” correctly, they will be safe”.
In the same news item, another research institute is referred to: “The National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) recently partnered with the Ministry of Health to develop guidelines on ‘how’ and what type of traditional medicines can be used for treating Covid-19”. In the above sentence, the functional word “how” is hanging and begs for a verb such as “to use”.
My re-write is as follows: “… has recently partnered with the Ministry of Health to develop guidelines on ‘how’ to use, what type of traditional medicines, for treating Covid-19”. We leave Covid-19 aside and join the Director General (elsewhere wrongly abbreviated as MD) of the National Environmental Management Council (NEMC) on his working tour of Mabibo residential area in Dar es Salaam.
A reporter prepared a news item on this tour, titled: “Misuse of storm water canals saddens NEMC” (Custodian May 15, p. 5): “NEMC said here yesterday it is gravelly distressed by urban residents ‘pouring’ waste water and into big public canals that clear away storm water from streets and urban roads”.
Do we have canals in Dar es Salaam? A canal is defined as: “an artificial river” usually dug to ease water transport between places. We know of the world famous Suez Canal as well as the Panama Canal. But there are many canals in various parts of the world. What the writer had in mind is “storm water drains”.
A drain is defined as: “a pipe or passage through which water or waste liquid flows away”, while storm water is defined as “surface water in abnormal quantity resulting from heavy falls of rain or snow”. Lack of adequate and interconnected drains is a major cause of urban flooding.
Unfortunately, the few existing drains are not well looked after and are sometimes used as dumping grounds for solid and liquid waste. They are drains, not canals.
In another story, the Chief Executive Officer of the Weights and Measures Agency (WMA) warned traders against tampering with measurements used in their business (Custodian, 21 May, p. 5): “Traders should ‘inculcate’ a habit of using correct weights and measures in their businesses to bring fairness to customers. They should ensure that their ‘merchandises’ are certified by WMA”.
Our concern is with the use of the verb “inculcate” which means “to fix an idea or belief firmly is somebody’s mind especially by repeating it often”. Inculcate, therefore means, teaching someone something so that they make it their habit, their part and parcel of their behaviour.
Thus, it is not that traders should inculcate, but rather embrace, the habit of using correct and untampered with, weights and measures. Finally we need to point out that “merchandise” is an uncountable noun. Thus, we do not say “merchandises”, just “merchandise”.