Akeem Lasisi

We will start today’s lesson by attempting the following questions:

Because three of Chelsea’s top players were down with injury,

Arsenal just … through the qualifying round of the Championship


(a)     snailed ( (b) slipped (c) sailed (d) scaled

  1. The mandate to halt naira depreciation is really … the brains of the CBN governor.

(a) tasking (b) taxing (c) charging (d) taskking

With the introductory test, we seem to be back in the court of phrasal verbs and idioms. And it is one fearful court where only a few people can be innocent.

Just imagine if many people who use expressions such as scale through/sail through; and task his brain/ tax his brain are arraigned in a court of the

English Language. Our prisons will become further congested because a lot of them will be guilty as charged.

sail vs scale

When there is a challenge you can successfully tackle with little or no effort,  you sail through it and not scale through it.

Examples of such activities are a test/ examination and a competition.

If you, thus, say scale through in such a context, you are wrong:

The exam will be tough. Don’t expect to scale  through it without studying intensively. (Wrong)

The exam will be tough. Don’t expect to sail through it without studying intensively. (Correct)

I scaled through the competition because my opponents were ill-prepared. (Wrong)

I sailed through the competition because my opponents were ill-prepared. (Correct)

On the other hand, in this context,  to scale means to climb up or over something high or steep – the way an athlete scales the hurdle, say, on the Olympic pitch.  This also means that when the action involves difficulty, the correct option is likely to be scale:

The thief scaled a high fence when the policemen gave him a hot chase.

Real Madrid were not ready for a tough match. So, Dortmund sailed through with two goals.

The difference between the uses of ‘sail through’ and ‘scale’, therefore, also lies in the way the expression is constructed. You scale a hurdle but sail through a contest, trial etc —  the way an expert swimmer sails through a river:

Bode George could not scale through the intrigues of the PDP’s chairmanship tussle. (Wrong)

Bode George could not sail through the intrigues of the PDP’s chairmanship tussle. (Correct).

Secondus had issues with the zoning question, but he finally sailed the hurdle. (Wrong)

Secondus had issues with the zoning question, but he finally scaled the hurdle. (Correct)

Beyond paying tax

The word task can be a noun, verb or an adjective:

The task must be done. (Noun)

He tasked us with finding the missing bag. (Verb)

The lady was appointed as the task master. (An adjective, describing list and master; asking the questions, Which list?  and Which master?

But when you want to use task as a verb, you need to be very careful.

The reason is that it is often wrongly applied, as many people use it where tax ought to be. In other words, the word, tax, is not just about paying tax to governments. It is versatile and is supposed to be used in vital places where people erroneously flaunt task.

When a job is mentally or/and physically challenging, you say it is taxing – not tasking:

I am tired already; the work is tasking. (Wrong)

I am tired already; the work is taxing. (Correct)

The question on tithing tasked the cleric’s brain. (Wrong)

The question on tithing taxed the cleric’s brain. (Correct).

The above reminds me of another contagious error of talk less, used where let alone ought to be. This happens in clauses where you add information suggesting that a matter does not arise at all – in relation to what has been said in the main clause. The correct expression is let alone,  which is used “to emphasise that something is more impossible than another thing.”

Consider these:

I can’t afford to buy a motorcycle now, talk less a car. (Wrong)

I can’t afford to buy a motorcycle now, let alone a car. (Correct)

The politician did not win in his ward, talk less in the entire state. (Wrong)

The politician did not win in his ward, let alone the entire state. (Correct)

I will end the class by noting that there was a problem with ‘Answers to last week’s assignment segment of the English Class of December 6. It was an error that came up during the process of production.

Note that the intended and correct answers to the questions are the ones in capital letters below:

  1. The name of D’Banj’s … is Lineo.

(a)     SWEETHEART (b) sweet heart (c) heartthrob (d) hearttrob

  1. Neither Ade nor Phillips … arrived.

(a)     Has being (b) have (c) HAS (d) have been

  1. I learnt that they have … clearing the site.

(a)     begins  (b) began (c) BEGUN (d) beganned

NOTE: I am sorry, results of last week’s home work cannot be accommodated today. This is due to a little technical challenge. The section will be back next week.

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