Awash with Formal Requests

Sample 1: “About two  days ago, the Internet has been awashed with news of ex-Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, who verbally assaulted a Daily Trust journalist, Charles Eyor”(Verbal assault: Fela’s daughter reacts to outburst of FFK against Daily Trust journalist, Charles, Opera News, 26 August, 2020)

I draw attention to the form ‘awashed’ occurring in the structure, ‘the Internet has been awashed with news’.   Let us note that the word is in the past participle form, a fact attested by the final –ed that characterizes regular past/past participle forms in English.  It is difficult to fault a reported sentence that appropriately inflects the verbs, converting them to their past/past participle forms.

However, the trouble here is that the word awash is not a verb but an adjective, and, as we well know, adjectives are never inflected for past or past participle.  Some writers often commit the injurious blunder of adding the morpheme -ed to awash, thusgiving the misleading impression that it is a verb.

Meaning to exist or be available in large numbers or to be numerous, the word awash is typically used as follows:  (1) The streets were awash with posters advertising the new film. (2) The newspapers were awash with stories of the Governor’s sexual escapades in the US.  (3) During the era of the oil boom, the country was awash with naira.  (4) Atthistime of the year, the markets are usually awash with fruits. (5) Five weeks on, the country is still awash with unsavoury rumours about the president’s health. (6) American newspapers were awash with the reports of the police’s murder of an innocent African-American. 7) Soon Nigerian landscape will be awash with the posters of politicians seeking elective posts.

What we have learnt today is that the word awash is not a verb but an adjective and, as an adjective, it is anomalous to add –ed to it i.e. to convert it to a past form or a past participle.  The error must have emanated from the erroneous analogy that sees the word in terms of the verb wash.  Unmistakably a verb, the word wash can be correctly inflected for the past tense and past participle both of which happen to be washed:   (1) I have washed my clothes.  (2) The erosion washed away all the sands intended for the construction of a new building.  (3)  Having washed the floor and the walls, the new tenants seemed ready to move into the apartment.  (4) The boy washed his hands thoroughly before eating. (5) The driver has washedthe car.  (6) She washes the plates every morning.  (7) What are you doing? I am washing my clothes.

Yes, as the sentences above demonstrate, we have the following forms of wash: washes, washing, washed. It is remarkable that such forms do not exist in the case of awash, which, as we have emphasized, is an adjective.


Sample 2: “Adams Oshiomole is the formal Governor of Edo State; he is also the formal president of the Nigerian Labour Congress, but fortunately for the formal Governor, he was able to find a woman who helped him to heal his wound.”(5 years after Oshiomole got married to a foreign lady…Opera News, 24 August, 2020)

The word formal occurs three times in the excerpt as follows: “formal Governor”; “formal president”; and, again, “formal Governor.” In each of those three appearances, the word formal has been confused with former. In other words, the word former should replace formal in each of those contexts.There is a difference between formaland former, a difference often blurred in the Nigerian perception by poor pronunciation.

Next, we illustrate the difference in meaning and usage between former(ly) and formal(ly). Now read the following sentences: 1) It was surprising that a former chairman of our party could be so shameless as to join another party. 2) He earns much more salary here than he did in his former employment. 3) Disciplined and respectable as he seems, he has had two former wives. 4) Former students of the institution are holding meetings on the possibility of giving it a facelift. 5) In former times, Sanitary Inspectors had some of the powers reserved exclusively today for the police. 6) I ran into a former classmate who introduced me to the new business. 7) Two former governors are being prosecuted for embezzlement and related corrupt practices. 8) It is interesting listening to the testimonies of the former armed robber, now an evangelist.  9) One of the guests is a former beauty queen. 10) One of the governors is a former labour leader. 11) The clinic was formerly housed in an old property belonging to the Local Government. 12) The school formerly belonged to a Christian Mission. 13) The young man was formerly working with an expatriate firm. 14) Our rates of pay were formerly higher than those of the civil servants. 15) It wasformerly thought that the earth was flat. 16) Mathematics was formerly regarded as an arts subject. 17) The Nigerian economy formerly ranked among the strongest in the third world countries. 18) The English language formerly belonged exclusively to the British Isles. 19) The nursing profession was formerly associated with women only. 20) Twins were formerly believed to be demons or gods unfit to live with humans.

The word formal(ly) has do with official situations or conditions or behaviour. Now read the following sentences: 1) It is now time to formally welcome our guests. 2) The former leaders have not formally handed over to the new leaders. 3) The President formally announced the dissolution of the council yesterday. 4) The formal inauguration of the 8th Senate was characterized by controversy. 5) The occasion was declared open formally by the Vice Chancellor. 6) Formal education in modern times is synonymous with western education. 7) Before any other thing, we must have formal introduction. 8) Nobody can occupy a position like that without formal training. 9) The case will be presented formally today. 10) To be admitted into the hall, you have to be formally dressed. 11) Jokes of that nature should not be cracked on formal occasions. 12) A formal meeting is being arranged between the new Senate President and the President of the Federal Republic. 13) A letter has been written formally appointing him as MD. 14) Since the meeting has not adjourned formally, nobody should leave. 15) The chairman formally assumed duty last Wednesday. 16) The Matriculation day is the day new students are formally admitted into the university system. 17) The so-called engagement is the occasion the future groom’s parents formally request the future bride’s parents to release their daughter to them. 18) Retirement marks the retiree’s formal disengagement from service. 19) This is not an occasion for formal, boring speeches but for celebration and jollity. 20) The book will be formally presented to the public before the end of the year.

At any rate, the word former should replace formal in each of the three contexts under review.



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