Refraining from collaboration

“COLLABORATING what the speaker said, the newly elected Deputy speaker, Faloju Abimbola called on the Inspector General of Police to immediately redeploy the Commissioner of Police outside Ondo State as he has shown bias and injustice against the ordinary man in the state.”(Ondo: Inside Story of State Assembly Crisis, The Nation, 11 November, 2018)

Let’s note the present participle collaborating which occurs in the following context: “Collaborating what the speaker said, the newly elected Deputy Speaker …called on…” The idea supposedly conveyed by this word is this: A statement was made and that statement would require another person to say it is true before it can have credibility. What word do we need to say that another person has confirmed or affirmed the truth of the statement?  The reporter has opted for the word collaborate ( present participle form, collaborating). Is that the appropriate word? Certainly no! The reporter obviously has an issue with the identities of two words: collaborate and corroborate. These two words are marked by clear semantic boundaries.

When two or more persons collaborate, they work together for either a positive or negative end. Whether the intention is noble or ignoble, the word collaboration (the noun form) is about working together, cooperative efforts. Please read the following sentences: 1) The Federal and state governments should collaborate on security matters. 2) It was so easy to root out the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) because all the stakeholders collaborated to tackle it. 3) The professor is collaborating with at least two international experts on the vaccine. 4) The combined efforts of two people collaborating are usually more productive than the efforts of each of them working separately. That is what is called synergy. 5) The production of a play requires experts to collaborate at different points.

Those five sentences illustrate the positive sense of the word collaborate. The following sentences illustrate its negative sense: 1) The students who cheated in the exams and the lecturers who collaborated with them later appeared before the Disciplinary Committee. 2) Those who collaborate with a thief are as guilty as the thief himself. 3) America often says it doesn’t recognize any difference between terrorists and those who collaborate with them. 4) Wole Soyinka and Tai Solarin were accused of collaborating with the Biafrans during the Nigerian Civil War. 5) Are there people in Dr Goodluck Jonathan’s government collaborating with the Boko Haram insurgents, as he often asserts? 6) Only evil men can collaborate with evil men. 7)) The rebels and their collaborators will not go unpunished. 8) The moles did what they did in collaboration with internal members.

Please note that sentences 7) and 8) each contains the noun form of the verb collaborate.

As we noted earlier, the word collaborated has been used in the context under review instead of corroborated. Now read the following sentences:  1) A journalist should be wary of publishing information that is not corroborated by an independent party. 2) Lawyers are usually interested in obtaining evidence that will corroborate whatever their clients tell them. 3) What you have just said serves to corroborate the evidence of my intuition. 4) The police are reluctant to go to court because they are not in possession of any fact that may corroborate whatever they have extracted from the suspect through torture. 5) If no standard textbook corroborates whatever a lecturer says, the student is not bound to accept the information as the gospel truth. 6) We will not accept the veracity of that claim unless a member of our team corroborates it. 7) No preacher should ever make a statement that is not corroborated by the Bible. 8) The lady always corroborates whatever her husband says even when it is clear that it is a blatant lie.

Sample 2: “The danger of her aneurysm bursting has prompted doctors to refrain her from taking painkillers, so she goes through every day on nothing but faith.”(Hauwa Sulaiman: A Life Endangered by Brain Aneurysm, The Nation, 17 February, 2019)

The word whose questionable presence in the excerpt requires our attention is refrain. Occurring in the structure, “has prompted doctors to refrain her from taking painkillers”, the word refrain is confused with restrain. Although the two words overlap semantically to a point where a blithely inattentive user would find them undistinguishable, a circumspect user should be able to identify the usage and semantic boundaries between them.

To refrain is to hold yourself back from saying or doing something: (1) I have refrained from smoking in the last three years. (2) You must leave this place if you can’t refrain from talking. (3) People should refrain from defacing the walls with careless writing. (4) The lawyer said his client had refrained from commenting on the issue because it was already before a court. (5) Godly people would normally refrain from enjoying the pleasure of life to the fullest. (6) For close to five years, I refrained from spending the money that was kept with me. (7) The girl refrained from interacting with her neighbours.

To restrain is to stop yourself or someone else from doing or saying something: (1) The crowd restrained the angry man from killing his wife. (2) When I got to the scene of the fatal crash, I could not restrain myself from crying. (3) It is important to restrain oneself from talking while eating. (4) Poverty restrains people from fully realizing their God-given potentials. (5) Restrained by sickness and general feebleness, the man could not make an extensive farm. (6) Godly influences restrained him from damaging his own interest.

Let’s now compare some sentences as a way of illustrating the usage differences between the two words: (1) (a) I refrained from talking when I was eating. (1) (b) I restrained myself from talking when I was eating. (2) (a) Artistes usually refrain from coughing during performance. (2) (b) Artistes usually restrain themselves from coughing during performance. (3) (a) A good student would refrain from going out during lessons. (3) (b) A good teacher would restrain his pupils from going out during lessons. (4) (a) Well-brought-up children would refrain from insulting elders under whatever circumstances. (4) (b) Well-brought-up children would restrain themselves from insulting elders whatever the degree of provocation. (5) (a) My children refrain from going out when it is dark. (5) (b) I restrain my children from going out when it is dark, though they have a tendency to do so.

The point is: X refrains from doing something; but X restrains Y from doing something; or X or Y restrains himself from doing something. Furthermore, you use the word refrain to say that an action is prevented from taking place; but you use restrain to say you are stopping an action that has commenced or has a tendency to commence.

In any case, the word restrain should replace refrain in the context under examination.

Actually, both words are possible in the sentence under consideration provided sensible adjustments are accommodated: a) “has prompted doctors to advise her to refrain from taking painkillers” b) “has prompted doctors to restrain her from taking painkillers”


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