Harold Hoyte (FILE)
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Today, we bring an article from one the columns written by late Editor Emeritus Harold Hoyte. Of Mice and Man was a staple in the Daily Nation for several years when Hoyte was Editor-in-Chief. He passed away on Sunday at age 77. This article was published in the Daily Nation, March 27, 1995.
“Everything burn up.”
“The whole house burn down.”
That’s what two reporters from the newspaper exclaimed to me on Friday night about a fire in Bank Hall, St Michael, where a fine young man on our staff lost his home.
For one reporter, it “burn down”, for another it “burn up”.
Same fire, same result. One saw it going up in smoke, the other saw it going down in ashes.
That’s the King’s English. Sorry, the Queen’s English.
You see, it really depends on who s on the throne. No, not that common and ordinary throne we all use. I mean the throne that is a kingdom … but if a king has a kingdom, why is it that a queen does not have a queendom?
After trying to unravel whether it was a case of burning up or burning down on Friday night, I wondered what it would be like to have to teach English to someone who is a complete stranger to the language.
After all, you teach a stranger that the plural of nose is not neese; and that the plural of foot is not foots, but feet. Just when he gets that, you describe to him the function of noses and feet. He is told that feet are for running and noises are for smelling.
But it does not end there, When he gets a cold, he is told that his nose is running. Then he things his nose is his feet.
Furthermore, he discovers with dirty socks his feet smell. And he is not sure if his feet are not his nose.
Slim chance that anyone learning the English language for the first time can understand it. But that is not only a slim chance. It is also a fat chance. While slim is small and fat is big, a slim chance and a fat chance are the same things,
Next you tell your English student that you will oversee his work by paying close attention to it. But when he makes a mistake you tell him you will overlook it.
See what is hidden in that one?
Trust me, the student quickly learns that in English, the more you look the less you see.
Again, if an indisciplined child is proving to be bad all the time, then he is bad for good. But that is very bad, isn’t it? How can it be for good?
And if by chance you decide to take matters into hand and give the child a good flogging – or bad flogging – it is either a bad licking or a good licking. Same amount of blows to the same child by the same person. But it is both bad and good at the same time.
Again. If you decided to wear only your left shoe, your right shoe is left. Right?
Whereas a woman can man a station, a man can’t woman anything unless he is a transvestite.
Right. No. That’s wrong. But it is correct.
You can be inoculated for measles or inoculated against measles. Same shot, same result.
Finally, it is possible to add up a column of numbers or add them down. Same bottom line.
You can have a column of numbers or columns of words.
That’s my bottom line. On other words, that tops it off.
* Harold Hoyte is Editor-in-Chief.