If there was a law in Nigeria against pasting a poster or erecting a signpost or billboard ridden with errors, many political groups, individuals and small business owners would have run afoul of the law.
The way things are now, the situation has created jobs for many proofreaders and editors. It’s not uncommon to behold error-ridden adverts on poles, banners, vehicles and even billboards in Nigeria.
From church programmes to political and small business adverts, Nigeria’s streets are littered with error-filled posters, which could sometimes be amusing. Such error-ridden banners have found their way to social media thus causing humour and concerns.
Of course, the English language is not the mother tongue but it is the official language adopted by the country since the colonial era. Nigeria is a multilingual country with over 520 languages, according to the World Atlas. Of these languages, three are major, namely Yorùbá, Hausa and Igbo.
Except in closed settings, English is the language used for all formal communication in government. It is the language used in the drafting of legislation and the medium of instruction in the education system.
As a result of this, all political, educational, religious or business adverts and announcements are usually written in English, except if such adverts and announcements are targeted at particular ethnic groups.
Hence, when such adverts or announcements are written in the English and full of errors, they can cause some serious laughter among some informed Nigerians, especially the youth, who are now fond of posting such funny stuff on social media.
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Last month, a banner mounted on wires across major roads by the National Union of Road Transport Workers, Mainland West Branch, got people talking on social media.
Obviously, the union’s Mainland West branch wanted to refer to the Chairman of the NURTW in Lagos State, Musiliu Akinsanya (aka MC Oluomo), as their mentor. But rather than the word ‘mentor,’ the union’s banner read, ‘menthol.’
By the way, menthol is crystalline alcohol with a minty taste and odour, found in peppermint and other natural oils. It is used as flavouring and in decongestants and analgesics. Of course, Akinsanya couldn’t have been the union’s “menthol” as they wrote but rather their ‘mentor’ – which means an experienced person who advises and helps a less experienced person.
But the union did not just stop at referring to Akinsanya as ‘menthol,’ they went on to commit other noticeable blunders on the banner.
It read, “The National Union of Road Transport Workers, Mainland West Branch, rejoice (sic) with our leader and menthol (sic), Alhaji Musiliu Akinsanya (MC Oluomo). Wishing u successful (sic).”
Probably, if the union had employed a proofreader to edit the words on the banner before erecting it, it would have read, “The National Union of Road Transport Workers, Mainland West Branch, rejoices with our leader and mentor, Alhaji Musiliu Akinsanya (MC Oluomo). Wishing you a successful tenure.”
But since they failed to do that, they subjected themselves to mockery.
“The graphic designer who handled the banner can’t make heaven,” one commenter with the username, excellgraphics, posted on social networking site, Nairaland.
Another commenter on Nairaland with the username, Laycan, wrote, “Imported weed at work.”
Another Nigerian with the pseudonym, Mrblaze06, jokingly wrote, “MC Oluomo is not only a ‘menthol’, but he is also peppermint.”
One Twitter user with the handle, @sammytopy, creatively and jokingly wrote, “Before the world can ‘wish you successful’ (sic), you must have a ‘menthol’ (sic).”
The banner, which was liked and retweeted thousands of times, was also shared by celebrities such as popular actress, Kate Henshaw.
But a user, @menaloneng, used the opportunity to throw a jab at the actress, saying many Nollywood actors had also been guilty of putting out error-ridden subtitles in movies.
“Your industry has done more than this in subtitles,” @menaloneng told Henshaw.
To this, she jokingly responded that maybe Akinsanya’s people and movie producers guilty of error-ridden subtitles used the same printer.
But the error-ridden NURTW banner is not the only one that has got people talking. There are many similar signposts, banners and posters which have made their way to the public.
An Instagram user with the username, @tolextoks, posted a signpost in Abeokuta, Ogun State, which read, “No donpin (sic) of dosbin (sic) here. By police order.”
Of course, the words on the signpost should have read, “No dumping of refuse here…”
Tolextoks also posted a job vacancy by a computer centre which read, “A female (sic) computer is needed. Contact 080***.”
Saturday PUNCH was still researching on ‘female computers’ as of the time of filing this report.
Another poster read, “We sell dog childrens (sic). Please contact Master Aboagye on…” The post meant to read puppies.
Also, a signpost apparently mounted by an electrician read, “Kofi Aaron Auto Electrition and Battle Charger.”
The signpost should have read, “Kofi Aaron Auto Electrician and Battery Charger.”
Filled with many errors, a banner by a snacks seller also read, “Meat piles, egg roll, donot, fish piles, plantain cheps, roseted meats, ice block.” Apart from egg roll and ice block, every other word on the banner was error-ridden.
If the snacks seller got a proofreader before putting the banner out for the public, his banner would have listed the items correctly as follows: meat pie, doughnut, fish pie, plantain chips and roasted meat.
A house agent’s banner was also seen on social media reading, “4 bird room flate for sale.” This should have read, “A four-bedroomed flat for sale” or “A four-bedroom flat for sale.”
Unfortunately, not only illiterates make such grammatical blunders. As the country marked the World Teachers’ Day 2019 on October 5, a picture surfaced on the Internet depicting some teachers in Abuja carrying a glaring error-ridden banner.
Dressed in green and white tops and caps, black trousers and white sneakers, the teachers were seen marching and carrying a banner which read, “Federal Ministry of Education. World Teachers’ Day. Match Past.”
Clearly, the teachers mistook the word ‘march’ for ‘match’ in that scenario. Quite a number of Nigerians, including a former Minister of Education and Co-Convener of the #BringBackOurGirls Campaign, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, could not contain their disappointment as the blunder got many talking on social media.
She wrote via her verified Twitter handle, @obyezeks, “Dear Lord! So no one checked that banner to see that ‘match’ should not be brought near that banner while the teachers are on their march past?
“What a day, it has been in our land. ‘Cry the beloved country.’ May our weeping only endure for a night and joy come in the morning.”
Another Twitter user, @Donteewrites, wrote, “This banner aptly captures the poor state of education in Nigeria. Simple!”
Also, a commenter with the handle @harrydaniyan said the NURTW members who described Akinsanya as their “menthol” should not be criticised if teachers could also make such a blunder.
One other Twitter user, @LAIDETOS, wrote, “One can’t abuse students anymore.” he wrote.
Few days ago, an error was also spotted on the official number plate of a car assumed to belong to the Chief Whip of the Kano State House of Assembly.
The customised number plate, which had the symbol of a legislative mace, read “Chip Whip” instead of “Chief Whip.”
Some social media users said it might be a case of dialectal interference because in some parts of the North, “f” is pronounced as “p” while “p” is pronounced as “f.”
Even at that, social media users were quick to react and knock the lawmaker for making such a mistake on an official vehicle.
A columnist, Jaafar Jaafar, displayed a photo of the Chief Whip of the Kano Assembly, Mr Ayuba Durum, beside the car with the wrong spelling on the number plate and wrote, “10 lashes for Hon Ayuba Labaran Durum, the ‘Chip Whip’ of Kano Assembly.
“Those in favour of this resolution, say aye; those against, say nay…”
However, some Nigerians blamed the Federal Road Safety Corps for issuing the error-ridden number plate. But the corps has denied issuing the number plate.
In a statement, the agency said it could not have made such a grammatical error owing to its “rigorous, quality assurance procedure in producing and issuing licences.”
Other error-ridden photos that have popped up on social media included one of a water tank supposedly donated by a Yobe State lawmaker, Mr Ibrahim Umar.
The inscription on the tank read, “Denoted (sic) by Hon Ibrahim Umar” instead of “Donated by Hon Ibrahim Umar.”
Another error-ridden photo of a recharge card seller read, “Buy your richard (sic) card here” in place of “Buy recharge cards here.”
Tackling grammatical mistakes
Since the English language is the official language of communication in the country, linguists said it was necessary for the citizens to acquaint themselves with the use of the language.
According to the linguists, the fact that the English language is not the citizens’ mother tongue is not an excuse for writing sentences full of grammatical blunders.
A linguist at one of the private universities in Ogun State, Mr Isaac Oyewole, advised Nigerians to read and write more to improve on their English use.
He said, “No one is perfect but the way some Nigerians, even the so-called informed youths, write in English is inexcusable. You sometimes ponder whether some graduates went to school at all.
“Look at the CVs of some graduates and you will marvel. Some of them are full of grammatical blunders. I have yet to understand what the youth of today do in school.”
A social commentator and Lagos-based lawyer, Ms Itunuoluwa Alayode, said it was pathetic that many Nigerians did not usually read to improve on their writing.
“Youths especially need to work on their writing in today’s world. There are various opportunities out there and they are competing with youths from across the globe. This is not a threat, but if a youth cannot write well in English in today’s world, their opportunities are limited,” she said.
A manager in one of the banks on Victoria Island, Lagos, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said many graduates had been denied jobs because of the grammatical blunders in their CVs.
A United States-based linguist, Frank Elliot, wrote on Quora that for people to perfect their writing, all they needed to do was to “proofread and edit until you are sure there are no errors.”
“One of the main things that correct grammar will impart to your texts is an aura of authority; settling for less-correct or even sloppy, poor grammar will leave your readers with concurrently less-favourable impressions,” he said.