Defy, Defile, Perpetrate, Perpetuate

Sample 1: “The video which was shared on Twitter showed the journalist in a black top and white trousers, covering the protest while asking the protesters questions, especially on why they chose to defile the curfew and come out.”(NTA journalist who survived Lekki shooting described it…Opera News, 24 October, 2020)

I draw readers’ attention to the verb defilewhich occurs in the following context: “they chose to defile the curfew and come out.”How contextually appropriate is the word defile?It is completely unsuitable being as contextually incongruous as any wrong choice can be. Cheated by poor pronunciation and hobbled by intellectual indolence, the writer has committed a blunder in his choice of defile rather than defy. The two words are totally semantically unrelated, similar as they may seem at the levels of spelling and pronunciation.

When a person, place or thing is defiled, that person or thing is made unholy, violated, robbed of his/its sacredness, sanctity. The word is often used by journalists to say that a man has slept wrongfully or forcefully with a lady. In that case, the lady has been violated. Please read the following sentences: 1) God’s sanctuary has been defiled by offerings derived from the proceeds of crimes. 2) Armed robbers now regularly defile the worship centres by breaking into them and making away with sacred valuables. 3) These days marriage beds are defiled unconscionably. 4) The courts have been defiled by judgments that are inspired by pecuniary benefits. 5) The armed robbers shot their way into the house and defiled all the ladies there. 6) Officiating priests in the Jewish temple were expected to avoid things, including sex,that could defile them as they presented themselves for God’s service.

Now read the following sentences: 1) The president often defies the national assembly by implementing policies not approved by it. 2) Members defied the rain and attended the rally in large numbers. 3) The police defied the court order and rearrested the suspect. 4) Miracles are by definition acts and developments that defy science and common sense. 5) The military government defied public opinion and executed the suspects. 6) I defied my doctor’s order and left the hospital without being formally discharged. 7) Children who constantly and flagrantly defy their parents’ instructions are in danger of divine wrath. 8) Most criminals defy their conscience when they engage in heinous acts. 9) Defying all protocol and security checks, the man went straight to the president and shook hands with him. 10) Defying the threats and foreboding associated with darkness in the jungle, the hunter went out in search of his abducted son. 11) The mystery in the air defies description. 12) The love he has for her defies any explanation. 13) The military defied all opposition and protests and imposed an unpopular candidate on the nation. 14) Defying all known laws and logic, the insensitive government sent the political activists to jail. 15) Defying booming guns and flying bullets, the protesters marched through the streets, singing solidarity songs. 16) Defying obvious danger and his wife’s passionate appeal, the man ran after the gun-wielding thieves.

When you defy something, you act in spite of it, you ignore it, you refuse to be deterred by it; when something defies another thing it works or functions in spite of or contrary to it.

At any rate, the word defy should replace defile in the context under examination.

Sample 2: “Daily Post gathered that some residents of Lokoja were hit by a stray bullet, while as at yesterday night, unconfirmed reports revealed that no fewer than five persons have lost their lives after sustaining degrees of injuries in different locations, where the hoodlums perpetuated their heinous crimes. In a reaction, the Police Public Relations Officer, William Aya, said those who shot the journalist could be the looters who were scaring people to enable them perpetuate their nefarious acts…(ENDSARS: pastor arrested over looted N1.2b medical equipment, Daily Post online, 27 October, 2020)

We are interested in the word perpetuate which occurs twice as follows: “the hoodlums perpetuated their heinous crimes” and “to enable them perpetuate their nefarious acts.” It is important to note the expression “their heinous crimes” which occurs together with the first appearance of the word perpetuate and the expression “nefarious acts” which follows the second occurrence.The context makes it clear that the word perpetuate has been used as a near synonym of the word commit as used in the expression “to commit a violent crime”.

It should become obvious that the word perpetuate has been used in confusion with perpetrate. The confusion of identity stems partly from inaccurate pronunciation and partly from spelling liability on the part of the reporter. This kind of problem will continue to arise for as long as writers do not take up the challenge of getting thoroughly familiar with the “tools” of their trade – the words of the language. Crimes and other forms of misdeeds are said to be perpetrated. To perpetuate something, on the other hand, is to cause such a thing to continue.

Let’s illustrate their respective usage. First perpetrate: (1) Since the crime was perpetrated long before the law came into force, the offender cannot be successfully prosecuted now. (2) Poverty cannot be an excuse or justification for perpetrating crime. (3) Those who perpetrated the violent crime will be brought to justice speedily. (4) The human rights abuses perpetrated during the military era are still being collated. (5) The surprising thing is that the crime was perpetrated under the nose of the police. (6) Any crime perpetrated henceforth shall receive instant judgement. 7) Several murders have been perpetrated in the neighbourhood in recent times. 8) All over the world, great evils are perpetrated by the police in the name of keeping law and order. 9) The thugs on the payroll of politicians perpetrate more heinous crimes than [do] the much touted criminals being pursued by the police. 10) The nation has been subjected to far more danger by the crimes perpetrated by political and technocratic elites than those perpetrated by violent criminals. 11) Various forms of injustice are perpetrated by the police through taking of bribes and excessive use of force.

Now perpetuate: (1) The interesting thing about genes is that they are perpetuated for as long as new generations are brought into being. (2) Folk tales are the chief means through which values are perpetuated in traditional societies. (3) Church doctrines and practices are perpetuated through regular Bible teaching. (4) Chief executives usually seek to perpetuate their influence in office by replacing themselves with their lackeys. (5) Instead of perpetuating them, we should do everything we can to eliminate these pernicious habits. (6) By refusing to punish those misdeeds, we are not only condoning poor work habits, we are actually collaborating to perpetuate them, encouraging people to continue to indulge in them. 7) Experienced teachers should exercise leadership by not allowing inexperienced teachers to perpetuate incorrect information. 8) Education is the chief means through which values of previous generations are perpetuated. 9) Journalists have a great role to play in perpetuating the society’s positive values.

At any rate, the word perpetrate should replace perpetuate in the context under examination.



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