Lazy Journalism and Hackneyed expressions

English is not the first language of the Nigerian journalist, but it is our official language. We learn it in school and communicate with it. We have therefore an obligation to learn it well and use it properly. I am tired of reading hackneyed expressions in newspapers, and sometimes doubt that many journalists understand what they are talking about.

They are used to reading and hearing expressions put in specific ways, so that when they write, they “force” ideas to fit into the expressions they know. Words, which should be vehicles for ideas become instead strait-jackets that bind the ideas so badly. that they cease to communicate.

“This axis”, “The less privileged members of society”, “empower”, “he bemoaned”, “against the backdrop of”, “against this background”, “be that as it may”… the list goes on.

At other times, we write too many words when all we want is to express a simple (sometimes single) idea. Many words belie a lack of understanding of the material or lack of preparedness. Mark Twain asks why he should say “metropolis” when for half the price, he can ‘buy’ “city”? But a journalist who has not thought through his matter but is given a page to fill, will gladly say “metropolis” and more, just because he actually has nothing to say!

On a lighter note, remember S.M.O Aka’s English books? He once gave this ridiculous example: “Ornithological specimens of identical plumage invariably conglomerate to the nearest proximity”… as a long and unnecessary way of simply saying that “birds of the same feather flock together”!

Come on people! All it takes is a little effort to understand the message and then look for the best and original way to communicate it. Otherwise, readers suffer from “attention fatigue”, not helped by our feeding them what they erroneously consider “more of the same”. Original expressions encourage the reader to consider them original ideas.

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