‘Solarisation,’ and the English Language!

On Sunday, 21 Apr 24, I watched a TV panel discussion on Ghana’s Energy situation. A new word I learnt from a panelist was “solarisation” of all future high-rises. My mind raced back to Professors Sey and Senanu in the English Department at Legon in the 1970s who taught us “functional shift” in the English language.
Functional shift is when a noun like solar is stretched into a previously unfamiliar/unknown verb eg, “to solarise” as the panellist did. For me therefore, even though I had not heard “solarisation,” it was easy to understand it in the context.
More commonly, anytime there is a major RTA, as happened on the Kumasi-Accra Highway on 16 Mar 24 with 21 dead, government officials quickly promise to “dualise” our trunk roads to prevent head-on collisions.
 The verb “dualise” is derived from the noun “dual-carriageway.” On “solarisation,” I was surprised when checking from Goggle, I had another meaning below. 


“Solarisation is the inhibition of photosynthesis at very high light intensities, primarily due to photooxidation of specific compound such as chlorophyll. Solarisation is the destruction of chlorophyll. Holman discovered the process of solarisation in 1930!”
After sighing heavily, I wished my Professors were alive to help me out, based on what they taught me as “Functional Shift!” However, reminding myself of how illogical the English language can be, my mind raced back to my article in April 2021 titled “The English Language: Tony Blair on ‘Imbecilic’ slogans!” Part read as follows:
“As I watched TV on the night of Sunday, 22 August 2021, exactly a week after the fall of Kabul/Afghanistan to the Taliban, an involuntary sigh “hmmmmm!” came out of me. 
I was struck by two things; firstly, international-correspondent Lyse Doucet’s running-commentary on the fleeing/flight from Kabul airport, and secondly, comments made by former British Prime-Minister Tony Blair. 
As the Prime-Minister who launched British troops in 2001 to Afghanistan in support of the US after the 9/11 bombing in the US, he angrily described the chaotic withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan as resulting from “imbecilic” political slogans, unrealistically setting a deadline of 31 August 2021. He added, the decision for American withdrawal was “tragic, dangerous and unnecessary.”
I get fascinated listening to English spoken by the English. It is their language and they use it simply, but with maximum effect. Tony Blair’s choice of words reminded me of my March 2017 article titled “English is difficult, Sir! - Stratospheric Somersault?” Part reads,


“My South-East Asian Staff-Officer, a young Indonesian captain, was getting frustrated with my constant correction of memoranda he wrote for me. We were serving with the United-Nations-Transitional-Authority-in-Cambodia (UNTAC) in 1992/1993. One day, he burst into my office saying “Sir, English is difficult….it is not logical. Why?”

Bake, Take, Make

For example, he did not understand why three words ending with “..ake” in the present tense, should have different endings in the past tense. He mentioned bake, take, make. While bake changes to “baked,” make becomes “made” and take becomes “took.”
Why not be logical and agree on one ending, he asked? So, if take is “took,” then make should be “mook” and bake, “book!” For a pilot, his logic was understandable.  
While I sympathised with his frustration about the apparent lack of logic in English grammar, I am intrigued by the beauty of the language, particularly when spoken by educated Englishmen/women on BBC like Prime-Minister Blair.

Unquote English in Ghana

A comment I read recently stated that the ease of social media has made it possible for people “to churn out” large quantities of recordings of themselves addressing the world. 
Given the meaning of “churn out” as producing large quantities of something mechanically without much thought, such clips qualify to be so described. They show cheap mass production with little thought or quality.
However, when a church proudly proclaimed that, small as they are, they have “churned out” many bishops for Ghana, that was incorrect. Certainly, they did not mean that! The bishops they have produced are of high quality after long training regimens. They were not cheaply churned out!
Unfortunately, the expression “to churn out” has gained currency being wrongly used daily where “produced” could simply be used correctly. For example, the church could say, they have produced many bishops, and not “churned out” many bishops!
“Gentlemen armed-robbers/Ladies thieves?”
The word “gentleman” currently is freely applied on radio/TV to thieves, armed-robbers and all manner of men with dubious character. Certainly, an armed-robber/thief/murderer is not a gentleman! 
Similarly, there is a wholesale reference to all females as “ladies.” Recently, a house-help who packed everything of her employers with the intention of driving away with the stolen items before they returned from church was called a “lady!” No!


As my Indonesian pilot told me in Cambodia, the English language is not logical. However, the beauty of the language is that it is rich, flexible and disciplined, ensuring that words are either correctly used or lose their meaning and create confusion.
So, while Prime-Minister Blair may effectively describe the retreat from Afghanistan as the result of “imbecilic” political slogans, the English language does not call armed robbers “gentlemen.” Neither does it allow the “churning out” of good products like bishops.”
So, while politicians the world over must learn lessons from Tony Blair’s comment on the consequences of unrealistic “imbecilic” campaign slogans they feel obliged to fulfil at all cost even if it means disaster, we the people must learn to produce good outcomes and not “churn out” cheap unproductive/negative outcomes.

Unquote Discussion

The use of “solarisation” by the panellist opened up Tony Blair’s “imbecilic” slogans” and my Indonesian pilot friend’s frustration with the illogicality of the English language?
Quoting Tony Blair, do we have any “imbecilic” slogans? Leadership, lead by example! Fellow Ghanaians, WAKE UP!
Brig. Gen. Dan Frimpong (Rtd)
Former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association
Nairobi, Kenya
Council Chairman
Family Health University College

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