Take it from me, you have been using this phrase wrongly

Friday November 24 2017

WORD USAGE

To take, then, already means to adduce or to name as an example. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By PHILIP OCHIENG
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As we have seen here a billion times before, the verb to take literally means to lay hold of, to grab by the hand.

In Kenya, as we all know, grabbing from the common treasury is the name of the most characteristic method by which certain individuals amass wealth, a method popular even among Jehovah’s most eloquent campaigners.

Grabbing includes the method by which we exemplify and explain the word “grabbed”.

SPEECH

In this case, then, the verb to take means to identify as a single example of a whole category of ideas or persons or places or things.

In this case, to take is to adduce, to name, to parade or to pick some particular thing or idea or place as representing a certain category.

To take, then, is to latch onto something or some notion as representing a larger category already mentioned.

That is why it is tautological for so many leaders all over East Africa — especially Kenya’s politicians — to ask their audiences to “take (something) for example”.

For, in that context, to take already means to make an example of.

TAUTOLOGY
In other words, to take is already to exemplify.

To take is to parade or merely name something or use some word as representing a certain category that you have already specified.

That is why to “take for example” is to repeat oneself.

It is to utter pathetic tautology because, here, to take already means to make an example of.

To “take for example” is to repeat oneself because, here, to take already means to cite something as an instance of a larger category that one has already named.

EXPRESSION

Therefore, in the expression “take for example”, the words “for example” are completely superfluous because, here, the verb to take already means to make an example of.

As we remember from this column, to take is to mention or to recognise as an instance of a larger category that the speaker or writer has already named.

To take is to name something at some subsequent point as an example of a category that the speaker or writer has already given a generic or general name.

ENGLISH

To take, then, already means to adduce or to name as an example.

That is why to “take for example” is to tautologise.

To take for example is to parade as one instance of a whole category that the speaker or writer has already given a generic name or general description.

USAGE

Indeed, in England and in former English colonies in which I have lived and worked, “take” is among the commonest invitations through English.

“Take your choice” and “Take it from me” are just two examples of idiomatic uses of that splendidly versatile verb.

“Take it from me” is an invitation most likely to issue from the mouth of any of Kenya’s noise lovers otherwise known as parliamentarians, by far the wordiest human beings that the English-speaking world has ever created.

They are very good examples of Mrs Malaprop of English literature.

Philip Ochieng is a retired journalist. email: [email protected]