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Ochieng gets Queen’s English all wrong

Philip Ochieng is wrong about the use of ‘first priority’ (“Why ‘to give first priority’ is utter nonsense, Saturday Nation, April 27, 2019).” He says, “The term — common among Kenya’s politicians, civil servants and even teachers and journalists — is senseless.”

He adds: “It is absolutely nonsensical to give first priority to anything, to any institution or to anybody.” He then attempts to explain why it is wrong to use the two words.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The words ‘first priority’ exist and are in use even among the native speakers of the English Language.

Many English Dictionaries contain the words. For example, in explaining the meaning of the term, various dictionaries use sentences to illustrate their explanations of the term.

Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary says: “Our first priority is to improve standards.” Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English says: “The children are our first priority.”

Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary says, “My first/top priority is to find somewhere to live.”

And so on. Ochieng should know that language evolves, and as the Collins Dictionary says, “The English language is not a stable system.”

— Pharaoh Ochichi, a teacher of English

The Saturday Nation column, ‘Mark My Word’, used to be a must read for me. I devoured it religiously because it taught me English at no extra cost.

But later it dawned on me that my good teacher of English was, sometimes, teaching me his thoughts, which were in conflict with the Queen’s English! I felt cheated, conned, and ‘used’ because I used to take my teacher as an authority in the language.

Nowadays, I’ve to countercheck everything he teaches. I’m still at a loss why I should still bother, instead of boycotting the lessons altogether.

Take last week’s lesson for example (‘Why ‘to give first priority’ is utter nonsense’, Saturday Nation, April 27, 2019). My teacher was categorical: using the term “first priority” is senseless, nonsensical, “rubbish”.

But Google and Cambridge dictionaries don’t share his sentiments. In fact, not only do they endorse the term but add ‘top priority’. Now, why doesn’t the editor edit Ochieng?

No, it is Muliro, not Elijah

I have seen your interesting story on Page 2 of the Daily Nation of April 26, ‘Muliro Gardens has a rich history”.

However, I am very upset at the misleading statement that the “park is named in honour of fiery freedom fighter Elijah Masinde, who is remembered for launching a spirited campaign against the colonial administration in Western Kenya before the country attained independence.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. Unfortunately, your misleading article is being archived and will be considered as an authority by future generations!

Just like Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, the ‘gardens’ were named after Masinde Muliro, the pioneer Western Kenya leader who was elected to the Legislative Council in 1957 to represent North Nyanza, as the region was then called.

Alongside Ronald Ngala from Coast, Daniel Arap Moi from Rift Valley and other eminent leaders, Masinde Muliro was a founding father of Kadu, the second most influential political party in Kenya in the run-up to, and immediately after, the 1963 independence.

Masinde Muliro, who was fondly referred to as “wa Makinia”, was a devout Catholic.

On the other hand, Elijah Masinde, who was also known as “wa Nameme”, was initially a Quaker convert before he backslid and founded Dini ya Musambwa. I strongly suggest that you find a way to correct the misleading information in your Daily Nation story.

The media assume all that sells is sensational news related to politics or misery others have experienced. This reflects upon the fact that Kenya truly is a hurting nation with all that is going on.

What we need is more news about happy, successful, inspiring Kenyans. Perhaps this may influence Kenyans to do more good than evil.


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