Sometimes Trooping to a Platform

Sample 1: “So, what a better way than to start a scandalous rumour around such revered figures for people to start trouping to a platform or site.”(Attack on MFMGO: Maureen Badejo under fire, Opera News, 23 September, 2020)

I draw readers’ attention to the present participle, trouping, which occurs in the following context: “for people to star trouping to a platform or site.” The context does suggest that the idea is about people moving en masse to a place. The word used appropriately to convey the notion of people moving in large numbers is not troupe but troop.

It is important to note the difference between troop and troupe, two words often confused by some Nigerian writers. It is interesting that the two words, troop and troupe, have identical pronunciation. But apart from being spelt differently, they are as far apart semantically as any two words can be.

Now, the noun troupe is used to denote a group of actors, dancers or singers who perform together, moving from one place to the other. Please read the following sentences: 1)Led by a veteran musician, dynamic and entertaining, the troupe treated us to a thrilling performance that I had never seen in the last two decades. 2)In spite of its great performaces, the troupe always faces the problem of insufficient funding. 3)As the leader of our school’s cultural troupe, it was my duty to ensure that every performance was successfully carried out. 4)As a Youth Corps member, I organized a cultural troupe for the school where I carried out my primary assignment, a troupe, I’m told, is still active till today. 5)The dancing troupe is made up of ladies only as dancers and men as drummers. 6)The NTA troupe performs only during festive seasons. 7) A cultural troupe, formed, funded, and encouraged by the palace, is being arranged to entertain the guests. 8) The national troupe is very versatile, capable of entertaining guests with a medley of performances reflecting the diversity of the Nigerian cultures. 9) As a burgeoning group, the first performance of the troupe was at the National Theatre. 10) After about five performances, the troupe lost focus, became weak and died.

As we have noted, the verb form of the word troupe is very rare except in its very technical or professional sense. Here are examples of its usage in the verb form: 1)Hubert Ogunde was said to have trouped his plays to such distant places as the northern Nigeria. 2)The pioneer travelling actors like Oyin Adejobi trouped their performances all over the country, not because of the money they made from the performances, but because of the fulfilment they gave them. 3)To troupe plays requires considerable effort and dedication.

The word troop basically denotes a group of soldiers. It can be used in its singular or plural form. Let’s read the following sentences: 1)The Federal Government has deployed troops in the troubled states of the North East of Nigeria. 2)Now that peace is returning to the war-torn country, the foreign troops are being withdrawn. 3)The troops are on their way to Somalia on a peace-keeping mission. 4)Brigadier Taiye Ojopagogo is leading a troop to the zone to assist in quelling the civil unrest that is beyond the capacity of the police. 5)Member nations of the African Union have agreed to contribute troops towards restoring peace to a region that has been ravaged by war. 6)During the civil war, the Federal troops were said to have committed all sorts of atrocities, including rapes. 7) The troops were weakened by the activities of moles and deserters. 8) In disarray, the troops retreated and requested for reinforcement.

We have used the word troop as a noun in each of those sentences, and the sense has been that of soldiers in or ready for action.

But the noun can also refer to a group of people, non-soldiers moving to a place. Now read the following sentences: 1)We met a troop of young boys poaching animals and having fun.  2)There they  were, a troop of angry, tired and frustrated retirees, seeking sympathy and justice. 3)We were distracted by the chatter of a troop of schoolchildren on their way to the football field. 4)It all happened in the middle of the dry season when troops of women went to distant places in search of water. 5)The advertisement displayed in front of the building attracted a troop of job seekers, anxious and desperate, shouting themselves hoarse. 6)We saw a troop  of tenants marching to the police station to report the misconduct of their landlord. 7) A troop of militant students blocked the road, protesting the lack of electricity.

Each of the seven sentences demonstrates the usage of the noun troop in its figurative sense. But the figurative sense can also be used in the verb form. Let’s consider the following sentences: 1)The villagers trooped out to see the white men who were visiting the palace. 2)Almost the entire town trooped out to welcome the president. 3)After the football match, spectators trooped into streets, leading to a terrible traffic jam. 4)The masses have been advised totroop out on the day of the election and vote for the candidate of their choice. 5) I expect the box office takings to be in hundreds of thousands in view of the rate at which spectators trooped into the cinema. 6)In those days when public execution of armed robbers was common, members of the public could be seen trooping out to watch the gory sights. 7)Following the series of armed robbery attacks, members trooped into the meeting called to discuss security issues. 8)It was the closing time and students trooped out of the school compound.

Sample 2: “Sometimes last year, her baby’s father, who was assumed by many to be her spouse, went on record to say that the behavior of Olajumoke to him had altered and that she was starting to have pride.”(Do you remember Olajumoke the bread seller? Opera News, 24 September, 2020)

The word that interests us is sometimes which occurs in the opening adjunct: “sometimes last year.”

We have had cause to comment repeatedly on the arbitrary nature of part of the English spelling system, noting that a single letter may be the only meaning-bearing signal constituting the difference between two words or between two variants of the same word. Such is the case with the forms sometime and sometimes, the former being the appropriate one in the context in which the writer has used the latter.

As should be obvious, the only visual difference between the two words is the presence of the letter –s in the one, which is absent in the other.

The word sometimes (please note the final –s) means occasionally, on occasions, once in a while: (1) Even the most educated people are sometimes confused as to the difference between the words “sometimes” and “sometime”. (2) I sometimes have this feeling that the end of the world is near. (3) Surprisingly, it sometimes rains in December. (4) Dull and incoherent as he is, he sometimes springs surprises by making brilliant points. (5) In spite of themselves, people in power sometimes show compassion. (6) Climatic changes usually occur gradually, but they sometimes occur suddenly. 7) Even highly educated people sometimes spell words wrongly. 8) Situations can be so bad that you sometimes wish you were not born. 9) Under satanic influence even the most religious people sometimes succumb to horrible temptations. 10) She is generally calm and sedate, but sometimes throws a tantrum.

The word sometime (without a final –s, mind you) means at a time in the past or future about which you are not certain: (1) Sometime in 1962, horrendous violence broke out in Western Nigeria. (2) We can hold the meeting sometime towards the end of the week. (3) I saw him last sometime in January. (4) You can take your leave some time before the Christmas/New Year break so that it can run with the break. (5) The impression the government gave some time in 2008 was that the remaining subsidy on the prices of petroleum products had been removed. (6) There was a prophecy, sometime before you were born, to the effect that you would be a great man. 7) The news of General Abacha’s death was broken to Nigerians sometime in 1997. 8) We can discuss this matter sometime next week. 9) The protest took place sometime last year.

Please note that the word sometime can be rendered as one word or as two words. The important point to note about the difference between sometimes and sometime is that the presence or absence of the letter –s is of great significance. When you mean occasionally or once in a while the letter –s must feature. It is obligatory. It is not a cosmetic element. On the other hand, when you mean that something happened at a time in the past or will happen in the future at a time about which you are not sure, never make the mistake of including the letter –s.

At any rate, the word sometime should replace sometimes in the context under review.





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