Site, Cite, or Sight

SAMPLE 1: “Others said the location of the university, perhaps, makes it possible, explaining that it is sighted close to a mountainous area.”(Kidnappers on the rampage in Adamawa, Sunday Vanguard, 12 January, 2020)

I can cite off-hand numerous instances of stylistic infelicities and malapropisms in Nigerian dailies. If you think I exaggerate, each time I sight an error, I’ll circle it and invite you to agree or disagree with me on whether or not it should be so regarded. This observation is without prejudice to the incontestable fact that the Nigerian press is the most vibrant, the most progressive, and the most impressive on the African continent. No matter where they are sited – in the North, in the East or in the West – the Nigerian newspapers reflect and espouse the Nigerian character: feisty, irrepressible, indomitable and sanguine. It is this paradox of strength and weakness, glory, glamour, glitz and gloom, sanctimoniousness and venality etc. that continues to make the Nigerian character such an enigma of attraction and repulsion.

At any rate, we cite another example of unsatisfactory lexical choices.

From our preliminary sentences, intelligent readers are bound to suspect an attempt to spotlight an error involving confusion of the words cite, site and sight. Specifically, the fault has to do with the erroneous choice of the word sighted in the following context: “it (the university) is sighted close to a mountainous area”. Intelligence and contextual clues should yield the information that the word, as used by the reporter, is about visual perception, observing with the eyes, seeing.

In other words, any word that would fit perfectly into the syntactic slot must be about physical location.  However, in selecting the word sighted for that context, the reporter has proved sadly vulnerable to the plague of wrong choice arising from bad spelling, poor grammar, and awfully limited vocabulary – a plague that must be stayed and purged if any writer would have clean, admirable and grammatically, lexically and semantically accurate texts.

Yes, quite unfortunately, the writer, instead of selecting a word that has to do with location, succumbed to the pressure mounted by weak and insecure vocabulary power, and chose a word that we would use in the context of visual perception/process. It is our next duty to clear any confusion, potential and actual, that may arise from some writers’ attempt to use the words cite, site and sight.

First, let’s point out that the three words, apart from having identical pronunciations, have nothing in common semantically. As we have indicated, the word cite is the one required in the context of giving examples. Let’s illustrate its usage: (1) If you cannot cite examples, your discussion will be abstract, unexciting and unconvincing. (2) After citing numerous authorities, the judge delivered a judgement that was as shocking as it was severe. (3) Wole Soyinka was cited as an example of the good things that have come from Africa. (4) Can you cite two African novels, apart from Achebe’s, which you find extremely readable, interesting and political? (5) I can cite a number of atrocities, involving human lives, that have been committed by Nigerian policemen.

This word must be carefully distinguished from site and sight with which it has nothing in common, apart from pronunciation.

Now, we illustrate the usage of the word sight. Usually used as a noun and as a verb, the usage of the word sight is illustrated as follows: (1) A lion was said to be on the prowl, but nobody could claim to have sighted it personally. (2) Having sighted the moon, the Sultan ordered the commencement of the Ramadan fast. (3) Jacob bragged about his ability to kill a lion, but when he sighted the antelope, he became so fearful and nervous that he dropped the gun and took to his heels. (4) When the woman sighted his son’s corpse, she sobbed uncontrollably.  (5) On sighting the New World, Columbus, who discovered America, could be imagined to have been beside himself with excitement. (6) The sight of the mangled body of the young girl provoked instant hysteria and anger, and the crowd killed the driver and burnt the offending vehicle.  (7) The policemen fired a shot as soon as he caught sight of the armed robber, but to everybody’s surprise, the violent criminal kept on running and shooting. (8) From Biblical experiences, we know no human can stand the sight of an angel, not to mention the all-powerful, all-seeing God. (9) The slum and squalor were such an ugly sight that the visiting American President shed tears and was reported to have said he wanted to be spared more of such sights. (10) Even the bravest and most experienced soldier would shudder at the sight of the massacre.

Perceptive readers would have observed that the first five sentences illustrate the usage of the word sight as a verb and the latter five as a noun.

Now, we illustrate the usage of the word site. Like sight, the word site can be used both as a verb and as a noun: (1) The ownership of the land on which the University is sited has been so controversial and disputed that the new institution has been contending with interminable litigations and payments of claims and counter-claims. (2) The proposed university will be sited at a place where it will not only serve as a political compensation, but also bring dividends of democracy to all and sundry. (3) When the factory was finally sited at the least expected village, all the contenders and petitioners sheathed their sword and agreed to work with the government to promote the economy of the state. (4) Nobody can dispute the fact that the institution has been sited at the most appropriate place, though many people would have wanted it in their own villages. (5) The decision to site the Teaching Hospital in the rural area was guided by political, social and cultural factors. (6) The site of the construction has been cleared and the needed materials will soon be moved there. (7) The choice of Kaduna as the site of the new Petroleum University was greeted with controversy and, in some cases, condemnation. (8) One of the most important facts that influence the choice of a place as the site of a factory is the availability of raw materials. (9) We have information that a former President has bought the site of the air crash. (10) Men and materials have been moved out of the dangerous building site.

Again, let us note that the first five sentences illustrate the usage of site as a verb/past participle, and the last five illustrate its usage as a noun.

It may be helpful to have two or all three of the words together in single sentences: (1) The villagers claim they have been sighting ghosts at the site of the air crash. (2) He cited three instances in which he had sighted lions at the construction site. (3) Up till today, the site of the massacre remains an ugly sight, not in any way comparable to those often cited by historians. (4) He didn’t remember to cite the day he was attracted to the site by the sight of a beautiful girl. (5) I cannot remember sighting new bags of cement at the construction site and I can cite numerous instances in which you told similar lies.

The point needs to be driven home: that there are differences between and among site, cite and sight. At any rate, the word sited should replace sighted in the context under examination. Yes, we should say: “it (the university) is sited close to a mountainous area.”

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