Drainage, pooling resources

SAMPLE 1: “…I have resolved to step down from the governorship race in Lagos on the platform of our party and, instead, poll resources together with my brother…adding that the way forward was for like-minds to close ranks and poll resources together, form a formidable front and advance the ideas that can serve the interest of party members.”(Lagos 2019: Ambode final dumped, Sunday Sun, 30 September, 2018)

The expression that interests us is “poll resources together”, an expression that occurs two times in the excerpt. Two features of the expression are remarkable: The word poll, having to do with elections, has been allowed to replace the word pool, the appropriate word for the context. This error is different from the one commonly committed by some Nigerian users of English who would substitute pull for pool.

The second remarkable feature is the inclusion of the word together.

The tendency seems to be widespread among Nigerian users to confuse pool with pull whenever there is a need to use expressions like the one under reference.

When they are interested in saying that a group of people contribute resources to achieve an end, some Nigerians would say: “Members of the family have been advised to pull their resources together and pay their father’s hospital bill” or “Residents pulled resources together to buy a vehicle needed to convey children to and from school” or “People should pull knowledge together for the development of their community.”

Each of those sentences has two problems. One, the word pull has been selected instead of pool. Two, the word together is redundant; that is, it serves no useful purpose, being not a ‘natural’ part of the idiomatic usage. The sentences are revised as follows: 1) Members of the family have been advised to pool resources and pay their father’s hospital bill. 2) Residents pooled resources to buy a vehicle needed to convey children to and from school. 3) People should pool knowledge for the development of their community.

Further usage examples: 4) A society will develop rapidly when its members pool and share wisdom. 5) In those days, farmers pooled their labour resulting in extensive and highly productive cultivation of land. 6) The time has come for scientists all over the world to pool and share knowledge. 7) The Minister of Finance has advised small scale businessmen to pool their money and start a larger, jointly owned business. 8) Three people can pool their savings and start something larger and more impressive. 9) Once they enter an exam hall, students are not expected or allowed to pool knowledge. 10) The purpose of this meeting is to pool ideas for the progress of our company.

At any rate, it will be a good idea for both the reporter and all other readers to note the difference among the words pool, poll, and pull and their respective collocation. Significantly, the difference in pronunciation is worth noting, for it would seem to me that the grave snare is constituted by the users’ pronunciation deficiency. The difference in pronunciation is not something to be glossed over. Good dictionaries and competent teachers will be of great help.


Sample 2: “In line with his ‘Willie is working’ mantra, Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State a couple of weeks ago directed the Nnewi North Council Chairman, Hon Chukwudi Orizu to clear drainages that had caused flood disaster at the Nkwo Nnewi Market. It was gathered that flood had recently overflown into the traders’ stalls at the market because of blocked drainages that had accumulated for a long time…The governor immediately directed me as the Nnewi North Council Chairman to embark on this exercise to open up all the blocked drainages there…He warned those who built on top of drainages to dismantle them before they incur the wrath of the governor…We have told those whose stalls are on top of the drainages to remove them for easy passage of drains…”(Obiano tackles blocked drainages at Nkwo Nnewi market, Sunday Sun, 20 October, 2019)

The word drainages (notice the plural form) occurs five times in the excerpt. Here are the contexts in which it occurs: “to clears drainages”; “blocked drainages”; “all the blocked drainages”; “on top of drainages”; and “stalls are on top of the drainages”. In none of those instances should the word occur in its plural form.

This usage confusion arises, I guess, because the reporter mistakes the drainage facilities for the system or process which the word drainage properly denotes. Yes, drainage is about the system or process of making water or any other liquid flow through an appropriate channel or facility. Drainage does not refer to a structure or facility; it is an uncountable noun denoting the process or system of movement of liquid.

It should be obvious that what the reporter has in mind when he uses the word drainage is the concrete structure, the facility, the water pathway being constructed for the drainage system. Many Nigerians frequently pluralize the word drainage. But it is an uncountable noun which, typically, should not be pluralized.

Please read the following sentences: 1) Given the poor drainage, erosion will damage this road within a short time. 2) Engineers are already thinking about ways of improving the efficiency of the drainage system. 3) I am not an engineer, but it should be obvious to any observer that the drainage facility is faulty. 4) I think it will be useful to construct the drainage facility before the major construction begins. 5) Water gathers on this portion of the road because of inadequate drainage. 6) The drains seem to be blocked somewhere along the line. 7) The problem is that the drains are not big enough. 8) The drains connected to the central drainage system are either broken or blocked.

The important issue here is that the noun drainage should never be used in its plural form because it is an uncountable noun. In addition, it should not be modified by the indefinite article, a or its synonym. However, the word drain, referring to the pipe connected to the drainage system, is a countable noun and can be pluralised. For this reason, the following sentence is faulty: “The governor has given approval for the construction of more effective *drainages.” The sentence should read: “The governor has given approval for the construction of a more effective drainage structure/facility/system/channels.”

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