Malema takes the bar of malapropisms a notch higher

MANY moons ago my fellow Gautengers and I - Vaalies at the time - hit the city of Durban to start first-year university studies.

MANY moons ago my fellow Gautengers and I - Vaalies at the time - hit the city of Durban to start first-year university studies.

The sideshow to this eureka moment came in the form of the Indian preposition, at which we'd always crack up.

Everything is by: "Let's meet by the bar." "You will find me by my car." "A spade is a spade by me; not a garden tool."

And just when we thought the demise of the bigot Eugène Terre'Blanche would offer mankind no positives, we had fun as a whole torrent of syntactic faux pas was unleashed on the pedantic ear.

The AWB's André Visagie hit the premises for an interview after he'd "subtracted" the spur-of-the-moment statement that he and his coterie of right-wingers were going to avenge Terre'Blanche's death.

You guessed right. He'd meant retract - a word that, according to means "to withdraw (a statement, opinion, and so on) as inaccurate or unjustified, esp. formally or explicitly; take back".

In a bit Visagie would be reprimanded for "touching me on my studio".

If you had come down from outer space, had no inkling of what the English language was and caught a whiff of this altercation, I bet you'd be left thinking that, like gonads, touching a man on his studio would immediately throw suspicion on the sexuality of the toucher.

Not once but twice the thick-skinned Visagie was warned to keep his grubby hands away from the other man's studio!

Memories of Durban, where the folk "tune", not speak, came flooding back.

It wasn't such a howler but not to be outdone, Julius Malema took the bar of malapropism a notch higher when he kicked out BBC journalist Jonah Fisher from the ANCYL press briefing. He lamented Fisher's "tendency" when, for all intents and purposes, he'd meant to decry the journo's attitude.

In a rage, the lines of difference between tendency and attitude might be blurry but a sober mind will appreciate the chasm in meaning.

If they have a certain agenda, I suspect that one is likely to carry an attitude into a press conference rather than a tendency, don't you think, Jules?

It might mean nothing to the common ear when a newsreader at one downtown Johannesburg radio station says an aircraft overshot the "runaway" when that piece of tarmac is in fact a "runway".

On its site, warns that "though prepositions are small words, they are very important, and their correct usage is a test of your mastery of the language".

They then go on to list differences between such words as in/within, since/for, beside/besides and my favourite - used interchangeably by my friends at the radio station - between/among.

The new song, Don't' Touch Me On My Studio, might have inspired some creativity but hey! prepositions stand. As Lynne Truss - she of Eats, Shoots & Leaves fame - would say: Sticklers of the world unite!

TEACHER: "Chris, say after me: The cat sat on the mat."

PUPIL: "The cat what?"