• Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Coordinated words in English

English language

The English language is one of the linguistically rich languages in the world, and its expansive vocabulary is pieced together in different patterns to generate idioms, collocations and phrasal verbs. Along the same lines, this treatise will acquaint the readership with words that are conjoined by ‘and’ to generate fixed meanings. Consequent upon that, some of the erroneous usages of such fixed expressions, especially as noticed among second-language users of English, will be addressed.

First in this sense is BAG AND BAGGAGE, which is often misrepresented as bag and baggages. The expression means ‘with all possessions’ and should be used as exemplified below:

He sent her out with her bag and baggages (non-standard).

He sent her out with her bag and baggage (non-standard).

He sent her out, bag and baggage (standard).

As consummately portrayed in the latter statement, be reliably informed that ‘bag and baggage’ should not be preceded by determiners such as ‘his’ and her’. Also, it does not admit the preposition, ‘with’, as a precursor. Next, the activity of people arriving at and leaving a place is COMINGS AND GOINGS (not, coming and going). Pay scrupulous attention to its immaculate application in the accompanying examples:

With so many comings and goings in this office, I just cannot seem to concentrate (standard).

He sat in the lobby watching the comings and goings of others (standard).

Again, to be careful about what one says and does is to mind one’s P’s and Q’s; hence, you can advise someone to mind his/her p’s and q’s in the workplace (the P and Q can be written in upper or lower case). Also, when you intend to emphasise the precise details about something, it is essential to pluralise the phrase, ‘fact and figure’, as depicted in the standard example below:

Check the website for fact and figure on skin cancer (non-standard).

Check the website for facts and figures on skin cancer (standard).

Meanwhile, the phrase, ‘bread and butter’, should not be mistaken for ‘bread and water’. While the former means a person’s livelihood or main source of income, the latter is used to refer to a frugal diet that is eaten in poverty, chosen in abstinence, or given as a punishment. For clarity’s sake, their usages can be distinguished in a sentence like: My friend earns his bread and butter as a teacher, but he has been living on bread and water since he was sacked. Away from that,  something done in small amounts or numbers is said to be done in DRIBS AND DRABS, while an activity that goes on intermittently is done by/in FITS AND STARTS. Therefore, it stands to reason that: The young man is building his house in fits and starts and settling his debt in dribs and drabs. Complaints and uncertainties are alternatively referred to as IFS AND BUTS. By implication, a boss can admonish a member of staff to undertake a task without ifs and buts. Similarly, to be adequately informed about the details of anything is to know the INS AND OUTS of the same. As expected, humans experience UPS AND DOWNS, which are the fortunes and misfortunes of life.

Two other conjoined expressions that are sometimes confused with each other are BY AND BY and BY AND LARGE. While BY AND BY means ‘before long’ or ‘soon’, BY AND LARGE is synonymous with ‘generally’ or ‘mostly’ (not completely). To consolidate the foregoing justification, we have:

By and by, she ran into an ex-colleague (standard).

The shoes Alice wears are, by and large, Italian products (standard).

Moreover, make mental note of the reality that a state of confusion or disorder is called HUSTLE and BUSTLE (not, hustling and bustling), while the spelling of hale in HALE AND HEARTY should not be mistaken for its homonym, HAIL.

Finally, other instructive examples of sentences that accommodate conjoined expressions are:

The wedding was characterised by pomp and pageantry (non-standard).

The wedding was characterised by pomp and circumstance (standard).

Tested and trusted strategies were implemented to proffer solutions (non-standard).

Tried and trusted (or ‘tried and tested’) strategies were implemented to proffer solutions (standard).

The machinery is up and doing (non-standard).

The machinery is up and running (standard).

The malefactor was beaten blue and black by the mob (non-standard).

The malefactor was beaten black and blue by the mob (standard).

Ahmed will give you professional feedback as at when appropriate (non-standard).

Ahmed will give you professional feedback as and when appropriate (standard).

It is raining cat and dog (non-standard).

It is raining cats and dogs (standard).

We searched the nooks and crannies of the room for the missing money (non-standard).

We searched every nook and cranny of the room for the missing money (standard).

I will call you the moment I have crossed my t’s and dotted my i’s (non-standard).

I will call you the moment I have dotted my i’s and crossed my t’s (standard).

It is an immense honour to wine and dine with the President of the United Arab Emirates (non-standard).

It is an immense honour to wine and dine the President of the United Arab Emirates (standard).

A mastery of fixed expressions adds fragrance to one’s use of the language. Users of English should, thus, endeavour to broaden their active vocabulary through the mastery of such expressions.