OCHIENG: Forget acronyms in headlines they alienate many - Daily Nation

Forget acronyms in headlines they alienate many

Saturday August 18 2018

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Youth in Obunga slums, Kisumu, read the Daily Nation on August 16, 2017. Information is a newspaper’s advertised stock-in-trade. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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In the first place, “information” is a newspaper’s advertised stock-in-trade.

It is what a newspaper company is in the marketplace to make money out of.

That is why, whenever, in a headline, you use the abbreviation of any of Kenya’s institutions, you do not at all inform, say, any tourist, at least not immediately.

Indeed, you may even mystify and put off very many of the people, even local ones, who buy your newspaper.

Yet official Kenya expects tourism to be a major source of foreign exchange. This, we are told, is a vital source of the nation’s livelihood.

That is why official Kenya expects newspapers – as merchants of ideas – to help the country to market itself abroad.


I refer, in particular, to the tourists who pour into our country every day hoping to regale themselves with your country’s oft declared scenic excellence.

No, you only mystify especially the hundreds of highly valued tourists who pour into your country every day from Europe, North America and Japan, fat dollars, francs, marks, pounds, rubles and yens in their pockets, hoping to spend them on regaling themselves with your country’s advertised scenic excellence.

Yet, according to newspaper practice throughout East Africa, you don’t have to obey any language rule in your headlines.

Accordingly, if you are as powerful as the Head of State, our information organs will happily license you even to “nominate a nominee”.

An example occurred in the following headline in a recent number of The Daily Nation: “Uhuru names fresh SRC boss nominee”.


No, I will not bother the reader with the question of what an “SRC” is in a headline on a prime news page of an organ which daily asserts that “information” is its stock-in-trade.

I will point out only that a headline containing the word “SRC” is never likely to force any shilling out of any tourist’s pocket or, for that matter, out of mine.

Indeed, to “nominate a nominee” is like to “love a lovee” and to “eat an eatee” or to “worship a worshipee”, that is, if the deity will allow me to coin just one more appellation for the heavenly one’s already uncountable names.

If he does, then hurrah because we can then even call him a “callee” (that is, if you will allow me to coin a new word in a tongue which is far from being my mother’s).


As I have frequently pointed out, English is at base a northern Euro-Germanic language – with an imposing southern (Mediterranean) cultural,-religious and intellectual roofing based hundreds of long land and sea miles away from my own motherland.

English comes, namely, from faraway north-western Europe.

It is a language in which my mother, father, most siblings and all cousins never uttered a single sentence or even word.

That is why what English has achieved for me is merely that, in conception, I can communicate with people thousands of miles away from my ancestral roots, whereas neither of my parents and none of my siblings could.

Philip Ochieng is a retired journalist. [email protected]