Artists do not play musical “tools”; they play musical ‘instruments’


By Abdi Sultani

This is the first article of 2022 in the section “Our Kind of English”; it is therefore appropriate for me to say: “Happy New Year, dear esteemed readers.

Let me start by recording my appreciation for the reader responses which have been overwhelming. There were those who wrote to say that I was wasting my time and my press space; others said I was doing a commendable job, urging me to keep going. The most positive were those who suggested that I compile selected pieces in a book.

To all of you I say, thank you very much. Why, any comment, be it a pat on the back or a slap in the face, is motivation for a writer. Pushes him to continue or to make improvements.

I will now proceed to share the linguistic “gems” drawn from recent editions of the English press of Bongo. Here we are…

A reader communicated and drew my attention to a caption for a photo on page 4 of Bongo’s large and colorful large diary of December 25, 2021. It reads:

“Muheza District Traffic Police Commander in Tanga Region, Richard Muwe, ENABLES passengers to USE seat belts for their safety …”


Now Muheza is the name of a region just like Tanga. These are best placed next to each other. And then, what does “talk (to passengers) to use” mean? Signs of intellectual laziness are apparent here, under the pretext of being brief! Let me redeem the legend with a rewrite:

“Traffic police commander FOR Muheza district in Tanga region, Richard Muwe, TALKS to passengers ABOUT THE NEED TO USE seat belts for their safety…”

Come on Friday, December 31, 2021, and the tabloid associated with this columnist had a solemn year-end article on page 14, titled “Hail and goodbye to all the stars we have lost in 2021”.

Informing readers about late hip-hop artist C-Pwaa, the entertainment scribbler wrote:

“He started music in Park Lane with Suma Lee, before the two became ASTRAY.”

It seems our colleague does not know what the phrase “stray” means, so one wonders why he used it, even if it is in the past tense – did he get lost?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, “to go astray” means “to get lost”, “to be stolen”, “to go in the WRONG direction” or “to have the wrong result”. There are no details that show that Suma Lee and C-Pwaa suffered from any incident that could be defined as “going astray”. Kwenda mrama in Kiswahili. Thus, we claim that the two artists simply went their separate ways, each taking their own direction.

Next, the scribbler gives a summary on another deceased artist, Simao, whom he describes as someone “who knew how … to play TOOLS music”.

Play musical tools? We’re sure our colleague is referring to things like guitar, piano, or drums. They are not musical tools; we call them musical INSTRUMENTS.

Writing about another entertainment star who died in 2021, the scribbler mentions radio presenter Fredwaa, who died due to what police claimed was EXCELLENT SPEED. Well let me remind my fellow communicators that when you drive over the legal limit it is just SPEED (not excessive speed)!

Finally, a glimpse of what was picked up in Bongo’s oldest large-format newspaper from Saturday January 1, thanks to a story titled “Mwinyi swears to WAR on MALPRATICAL”.

Well, what about “Mwinyi swears TO WAR ON THE MALPRACTIC”? In any case, the intro says: “The president of Zanzibar … has sworn to lead the fight (sic!) Against corruption, the misappropriation of public resources and acts of humiliation (sic!) …” evoked, is not it?

In paragraph 4, the scribbler claims to quote what the president said and wrote: “ISLE is guided by the principles of human rights and good governance …”

The island is…? No sir! When you want to end the “monotony” of designating Tanganyika’s partner for the United Republic of Tanzania as “Zanzibar”, then say “ISLANDS (are)” and not Isle (east).

Ah, that treacherous language called English!

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