The 'erroneous' spelling of Africa should have been changed
Stabroek News
April 6, 2002

Related Links: Letters on language
Letters Menu Archival Menu

Dear Editor,

Regarding the editor's note affixed to my letter (April 4, 2002), I wish to point out that Stabroek News does not have the right to change the English language as it sees fit. However, this is not the only time that SN has displayed arrogant flouting of the rules of the English Language.

Why does SN think it can simply change the language from one day to the next? Africa is spelled only one way in English and as a supposedly half-decent newspaper you know it and have an absolute duty to respect that spelling at all times.

Is SN saying that when its reporters submit stories with incorrect spellings these are not corrected because this would "exclude their expression of views"? What nonsense, though this would explain a lot. Are grammar and spellings not corrected before letters are published? If they are, why then was Dr Nehusi given the privilege of using an incorrect spelling of Africa? He has every right to express his views and to do so using, as well all do, the language correctly. Why was his glaring spelling error of Africa not corrected before publication?

Since SN now contends that it respects the correct spelling, your editor's note explains nothing. Why was the privilege of an incorrect spelling extended to Nehusi and why is this error being compounded by a vociferous defence from SN?

Is SN unaware of how newspapers are published and what rules apply? Every respectable publication respects and upholds the correct use of the language at all times. Sub-editors and sub-editing desks are busy all day long making sure that the rules are applied to every piece of information published. Are you not aware of this?

I would have expected SN to apologise to its readers for the oversight. However, this would be too much decency to expect from SN. Might is right and you have the right to affix another editor's note to this letter rather than simply apologise for your error. It takes decency and maturity to apologise and you will not.

Just remember that when you write editorials bemoaning the indiscipline that reigns supreme in Guyana that we are all aware that you are more than knee-deep as active participants in the rudeness, indiscipline and disrespect for rules.

Yours faithfully,

Nirvan Persaud

Editor's note

Dr. Nehusi clearly believes Afrika is the way Africa should be spelt and other people share that view and that spelling. This is not a misspelling but a deliberate choice of a different spelling. It is therefore, we believe, perfectly proper to allow the writer to use that spelling in his letter. Different considerations apply to editorials and news reports where we use standard English.

Though this is not directly comparable we do not change American spelling in letters from Guyanese in America or from Americans.