Of overtures and concord

SAMPLE 1: “Shortly after the death of her mother, arising from complications of advanced pregnancy, her father started making nocturnal overtures at her…Mojisola who volunteered her story, having overheard this reporter asking questions on why cases of incest is suddenly on the rise, told the not too palatable story of how the soldier cousin used candle and all sorts of objects on her sister and serially raped her…Rather, she would ascribe the present situation to increased reporting of such incidences…sexual violence and paedophilia is and will remain bizarre… Of the 155 cases, analysis showed that the most sexual offences, 69% was perpetuated against children between 0—10 years…the findings here also showed a frightening perpetuation against the very young and vulnerable…Having being in the forefront of the battle against sexual violence for well over half a decade, Mrs Effa-Chukwuma confessed to having received and attended to some really bizarre cases…Sexual violence is perpetuated by people victims know, love and trust…cases of mothers sexually abusing their children is a rare occurrence…”(Incest Epidemic Reloaded, The Nation, Sunday, April 23, 2017)

First, we note the particle at following the noun overture directly: “her father started making nocturnal overtures at her.” You do not make overtures at people; you make overtures to them.

Now read the following sentences: 1) It is strange that a man as old as that could be making sexual overtures to such a young woman. 2) Many developing nations are making economic overtures to Asian countries. 3) It is wrong to make overtures to a woman who has just lost her husband. 4) We broke up because he was brash and uncaring; but he has started making overtures to me for the purpose of reunion. 5) I am worried that the lady seems to be misinterpreting my overtures to her. 6) The lecherous old man has been making overtures to me for the past three years.

Next, we note the singular verb-form (is) which occurs in the following context: “cases of incest is suddenly on the rise.” The choice of the singular verb-form raises a fundamental question as to the grammatical competence of the reporter. Why does he think that it is the singular form of the verb that is required in this context? It is reasonable to suspect that his choice is inspired by the contiguous presence of the singular noun incest. That choice is a reflection of both poor grammar and poor thinking—poor logic, if you like. The noun cases, obvious plural, is crucial to matters of concord; it should be the noun to determine the form the verb should take. In view of the plural nature of that noun, the verb should be changed to its plural form: are.

There are several other cases involving violations of the rule of concord in the text under examination. Here is another one. Now note the use of the singular verb-form (is) in the following context: “sexual violence and paedophilia is and will remain bizarre.” Readers should please note that the singular verb-form (is) follows the singular noun, paedophilia, directly. That singular noun must have been the word that guided the reporter in his selection of the singular verb-form. The problem with this reporter, as with other writers who grossly breach grammatical rules, is that they usually fail to have a comprehensive view of the entire structure they are trying to manage grammatically. Their focus on only one part of the structure inevitably leads them to an erroneous lexical/grammatical choice.

We note that two nominal items, referring to two separate semantic entities, precede the verb-slot in which the singular item currently occurs. The two nominal items are: sexual violence and paedophilia. It is rather strange that the reporter should allow two separate nominal items to attract a singular verb-form: is. At any rate the verb should be changed to its plural form: are.

Next, we note the word perpetuate (or perpetuation) which occurs in the following context: “Sexual violence is perpetuated by people victims know, love and trust”; “sexual offences…perpetuated against children”; “a frightening perpetuation against the very young and vulnerable.” It should be obvious that the context in which this word (or its variant) occurs is that of crime, particularly sexual crime. That word is a wrong choice in the context.

Recently, we have had cause to illustrate the distinction between the words perpetuate and perpetrate. That discussion is worth being rehashed here.

In the context of crime, fraud, dishonest deals, etc, the appropriate word is perpetrate and not perpetuate. It is true that the two words are similar in appearance, but they have completely different meanings.

Let’s illustrate the usage of the word perpetrate: (1) The young men who perpetrated the crime are being trailed by the police. (2) The former MD is being tried for perpetrating a large scale fraud. (3) Those who perpetrate evil may escape justice here on earth, but will definitely have their just reward in the hereafter. (4) The fraud for which he is being tried was perpetrated many years before he took over as chairman. (5) The men should be punished in accordance with the degrees of the crime they perpetrated. (6) The former Head of State is being tried for the atrocities he perpetrated while he was in office.

Now perpetuate: (1) Language is the chief means by which cultural values are perpetuated. (2) The Sunday School programme is an instrument through which Christian teachings are perpetuated. (3) The human body system has a way of perpetuating both healthy and errant genes. (4) We run a system which perpetuates poverty among the weak and the vulnerable, but wealth among the strong and powerful. (5) Our institutions have been perpetuating harmful habits and practices for generations now. (6) Traditional institutions have been perpetuated for centuries.

From those sentences, we know that the verb perpetuate involves keeping something alive, making something survive, keeping something in existence for a long time. This is different from perpetrate which is used in the context of criminal activities.

At any rate, the word perpetrated should replace perpetuated in the context under review.

The discussion of the excerpt continues next week by God’s grace.