Sea ports of grammatical confusion! (III)

cannot ports supposed toThe analysis continues today of the excerpt that has been under review for the past two weeks.

Sample 1: “The people on daily basis pass through agonizing experiences, importers are in cacophony of tears for the delay of their cargoes on the sea with high demurrage cost…Investigations revealed that when the Apapa port started operation in 1970, it was only made for 30,000 cargoes, but as of today it harbours about 80,000 cargoes, yet the infrastructural facilities to make it run effectively is zero… There is no light in Apapa and the initial agreement was that the government will provide them electricity to do their business, but they were now running on generator on daily basis…To a first time visitor, who perhaps has experienced the hustling and bustling of Western ports in Lagos with the attendants traffic jam, he will probably wonder why there was a graveyard silence in the Eastern ports. When The Nation visited the Delta port in Warri, aside the good road network inside the empty ports, majority of the big warehouses which supposed to be a beehive of activities were under lock and key…The situation at Calabar was worst…Majority of the big warehouses that littered the port was locked…He lamented that poor parade of the sea on twenty four basis is a threat to any business in the area…the issue of security has chased away intending exporters who cannot risk their vessels to berth at there…He regretted that if everybody knew where the problems lies why is it difficult for the people of the area to take the bull by the horns…He explained that the contract for the repair of the Apapa road had been approved and work will commence on it in earnest, nothing (noting?) that clearing agents have been ordered to have a holding bay where their empty containers can be deposited. He added that the option of using Ikorodu terminal is underway and that importers can take their vessels there to offload…Though, The Nation found out that of the said dry ports established, Kano, Kaduna, Oyo, Imo and Onitsha, only that of Kaduna is operational…Aside this he advocates for urgent dialogue with the militants.”(Nigeria’s Sea Ports of Confusion, The Nation, Sunday, 3 June, 2018)

We pay attention to the expression, “cacophony of tears.” This is supposed to be a metaphor meant to create an image, a mental picture. It succeeds only creating a distorted and confusing mental picture. It is important to note the awkwardness of yoking the word cacophony to the noun tears. An elementary morphological analysis of the word cacophony reveals that the final (bound) morpheme, –phony, is about sound. A similar morpheme is found in the words symphony and homophony. The initial morpheme, caco-, denotes dissimilarity, a lack of harmony or coherence. When we merge the two senses found in the two morphemes making up the word, we secure an idea of an ear-jarring sound or sounds. We may have a cacophony of voices; a cacophony of protests; a cacophony of answers; etc. We may, however, not have a cacophony wood or cloth or leather or thread. It is only sound that may be described as either being harmonious or cacophonous.

The noun tears, the other word in the endangered metaphor, is about drops of liquid, with nothing about it suggesting sound. This metaphor fails because it is founded on a shaky linguistic ground, being not produced by a creative mind. Indeed, any expression intended as a metaphor is likely to fail if it is generated by an unimaginative mind.

Next, we pay attention to the way the word supposed is used in the following context: “the big warehouses which supposed to be a beehive of activities.” A be-form (were) has been erroneously omitted immediately before the word supposed. There are several different senses in which the word suppose is used. The two whose grammatical characteristics concern us are presented as follows. First, there is the sense of the word which means assume, guess. In this sense, the verb is used in the active voice. Please read the following sentences: 1a) I supposed that the boy had no parents. 1b) Did you suppose that the boy had no parents? 1c) I did not suppose that the boy had no parents. 2a) The white men wrongly supposed we had no culture. 2b) Did the white men supposed that we had no culture? 2c) The white men did not suppose we had no culture. Rather, they thought our culture was barbaric. 3a) Many people suppose that lawyers are liars. 3b) Do many people suppose that lawyers are liars? 3c) Many people do not suppose that layers are liars. 4a) Our people suppose that God is like men. 4b)Do our people suppose that God is like men? 4c) Our people do not suppose that God is like men.5a) They saw some men whom they supposed were thieves. 5b) Did they suppose the men were thieves? 5c) They did not suppose the men were thieves. 6a) Some Christians suppose financial prosperity is the hallmark of faith. 6b) Do some Christians suppose financial prosperity is the hallmark of faith? 6c) Christians do not suppose financial prosperity is the hallmark of faith.

Readers should please note that in none of the sentences above is the word suppose preceded by a form of be such as: is, am, are, was, were. The negative and question forms among them have been formed by the introduction of the word do.

The other sense in which the word suppose is used requiring attention is the one which means: expected to; meant to. Now read the following sentences: 1a) Teachers are supposed to be patient in all their interactions with pupils. 1b) Are teachers supposed to be patient in all their interactions with pupils? 1c) Teachers are not supposed to be impatient in all their interactions with pupils. 2a) Children are supposed to be polite to elders. 2b) Are children supposed to be rude to elders? 2c) Children are not supposed to be rude to elders. 3a) Policemen are supposed to protect the citizens. 3b) Are policemen supposed to protect the citizens? 3c) Policemen are not supposed to harass the citizens. 4a) Parents are supposed to guide their children. 4b) Are parents supposed to guide their children? 4c) Parents are not supposed to mislead their children. 5a) Employees are supposed to come to the office punctually and regularly. 5b) Are employees supposed to come to the office punctually and regularly? 5c) Employees are not supposed to be absent from work or come to work late. 6a) Strangers are supposed to be guided by those familiar with the terrain. 6b) Are strangers supposed to be guided by those familiar with the terrain? 6c) Strangers are not supposed to be misled by those familiar with the terrain. 7a) She was supposed to have discussed the matter with her husband. 7b) Was she supposed to have discussed the matter with her husband? 7c) She was not supposed to have hidden the matter from her husband. 8a) Books are supposed to be read and digested. 8b) Are books supposed to be read and digested? 8c) Books are not supposed to be read haphazardly.

Please note that in every sentence above the word suppose is preceded by a relevant form of be: is supposed, was supposed, were supposed, are supposed. Note, in addition, that the word supposed invariably has final –ed. This rule does not change.


In the light of this fact, note the following: Defective: * “You suppose to confide in your father.” Better: “You are supposed to confide in your father.” Defective: *“As “Christians we suppose to love our neighbours as ourselves.” Better: “As Christians we are supposed to love our neighbours as ourselves.” Defective: * “Wives suppose to love their husbands.” Better: “Wives are supposed to love their husbands.” Defective: “Employees suppose not to be absent from work.” Better: “Employees are not supposed to be absent from work.”

The structure should now read: “the big warehouses which are supposed to be a beehive of activities.”


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