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The ongoing global pandemic is so debilitating and disconcerting that it does not matter to many a person, whether the word is a separated compound (corona virus), a hyphenated compound (corona-virus) or a single-word compound (coronavirus). Coronavirus (Did I just tell which one it is?) is one scourge that has reared its ugly head with disastrous effects for third-world countries like Nigeria, given the alarming and disproportionate poverty rates in such economies. On account of this, scores of people are of the opinion that if they don’t die of the pandemic, they just might ultimately succumb to the pangs of hunger.

Unsurprisingly, this is not an appropriate time to enlighten anyone that, that plant of the mallow family is “okra,” and not okro. They just need to make a low-cost soup with it and ingest same alongside fufu. I even told someone, in the wake of this pestilence, that fufu now enjoys currency in some English dictionaries of global repute. To my utter dismay, his response was that he needed the dish in his house now; not in the dictionary.

Besides, when you tell Nigerians now that “foodstuff” should be written as a single word, as opposed to two words (food stuff), the next question you are likely to hear is: “Will I get some from you after writing it as one word?” Even when my niece said she needed grounded pepper to prepare noodles, and I educated her that it should be rendered as “ground pepper” — notwithstanding the fact that it might be different from the known English compound, black pepper — she remarked: “Uncle, does anything matter to you in this life aside from English? ‘Abeg,’ the populace are too hungry for your grammar.”

As if the aforementioned scenarios will not suffice, I have always found it hard to let go when people say bottle water instead of “bottled water,” cold ice water instead of “ice-cold water,” powder milk instead of “powdered milk,” and tin tomato, rather than correctly vocalising it as “tinned tomato.” But the extant state of the nation has constrained me from correcting anyone. Gone are the days children requested “seconds;” I mean what people often call second round. In several households, it is only by God’s grace that the families therein have a square meal daily. Further to this, those who still defy restriction measures to eat in restaurants wouldn’t dare to request “side order,” what the vast majority of Nigerians call extra plate. In a somewhat related development, if you wish to call it toast or toast bread, just one piece of it might be all some persons will munch in a day. Mark you, it’s “toast,” not toast bread; and the machine that makes it is a “toaster,” not a toasting machine. Regardless of if you call it a deep freezer or a deep freeze, gone are the days that the domestic appliance is sufficiently stocked with varieties of staple, canned, bagged or frozen foods, in people’s homes. As a consequence, I won’t chance informing people, amid these troubling times, that what they have in their homes are “two dozen eggs,” which is converse to the incorrect version: two dozens of eggs. Chances are they will immediately presume that I need one or two eggs to make an omelette.

You know “pickpockets,” right? They are, as often as not, erroneously referred to as picking pockets. They, too, can testify that the times are pretty challenging. “No be pocket wey money dey dem go thief from?”

Oh Lord, save us from the stranglehold of this menacing pandemic and, the attendant hunger that we are grappling with, no thanks to a battered economy.

(c) 2020 Ganiu Abisoye Bamgbose (Dr GAB)

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