Why We Should Ban This Word For Some Moment

Harris Mungai By Harris Mungai, 24th Feb 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Columns & Opinions

Let me never tire of urging the chief editors of all our English-language news publications throughout East Africa to collectively slap a ban on the word 'former' until their reporters ,sub-editors and other editorial operators have learned to use it accurately and intelligently.

Same Adjectives

Despite my frequent warnings against that adjective,I found the following in a prominent page; "after the former President handed over power in 2002 (sic!) Nakuru based rancher Malcolm Bell set the ball rolling when he sued the retired Head of State for taking his father's 100-acre farm..."
If-as is evident-you know that when,Mr.Bell sued him,Mr. Moi was the "retired Head of State", shouldn't you also know that here the adjective 'retired' means more or less the same thing as the adjective 'former'? The point is that former presidents no longer have any political power and,therefore cannot hand it over.


Only as President-never as former president could Mr. Moi have handed over power to anybody. To be quite sure. It was Mr. Moi's last day as President. But he remained the President up to and including the minute he handed over his presidential authority to President-elect Mwai Kibaki at the beginning of 2003.
To reiterate this,it was only as President-not as 'former president'-that Mr.Moi could have hand over power to Mr. Kibaki the presidential relay baton. Examples abound. No matter when you're speaking-whether in 1980,in 2014 or in 2017-it was president Moi (not former President Moi) who appointed Mr. Kibaki as Vice-President.
Mr. Moi can only be describe as 'former' president only with regard to events which have taken place ever since the January day in 2003 when he handed over the presidential baton to Mwai Kibaki. I have recently seen many newspaper stories in which Mr. Kibaki himself is reffered to as 'former president' even concerning the things he has done as president.


No. Mr. Kibaki will always be President Kibaki-not former president Kibaki-as long as you refer to anything which either he did or concerned him when he was the President. Even if you're speaking in 2014 or in 2050,it was President Kibaki-not former President Kibaki-who named Moody Awory as the Vice-President.
Even a grade one pupil can see the logic. A former President does not name the vice-president. A former president no longer has any such power. Mr.Kibaki's presidential title requires the adjective 'former' only with regard to things he has done ever since he bequeathed to President Uhuru Kenyatta.
In other words, Mr. Moi didn't become "former president" until the day,early in January,2003,on which Mr. Kibaki formally took the presidential relay baton into his own hands. In short,with regard to events which occurred when he was the president-especially those over which he presided-Mwai Kibaki must always be reffered to as president,never as "former president".


English, English Grammar, English Language, English Literature

Meet the author

author avatar Harris Mungai
I developed an interest in writing when I was in elementary school and since then this passion keeps on burning in me.Thank you Wikinut for this chance to express myself here.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
24th Feb 2015 (#)

You are correct to complain about that and the press seem to get it wrong all of the time. The same would be talking about something that George W. Bush did while in power, he should always be referred as President Bush, and even if we were speaking in relation to things done in the present day it is still best not to use the term 'former'.

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author avatar Retired
24th Feb 2015 (#)

I think you are wrong here. I see no problem in referring to a President as being "former" when he left office some 12 years ago. Of course he was not "former" when he acted in a Presidential capacity, but he is now!

I always find it odd when Americans refer to "President Bush" and "President Clinton" when they actually preside over nothing at all! A country can have only one President, but any number of former Presidents.

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author avatar Harris Mungai
24th Feb 2015 (#)

Thank you very Peter for moderation and publishing my article.
And for the comment also. Thanks.

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author avatar Carol Roach
25th Feb 2015 (#)

I understand what you are saying but you can say, the now former president, meaning at this moment he is a former president but inferring he was not when the action took place.

You will see it written here in North American, former president X delivered this speech (filled in as a date when he was president) when he was in power, or when he was in power is not even including and people are expected to know that what was being said occurred when he was in power

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author avatar Retired
25th Feb 2015 (#)

"Now former" sounds clumsy to me. When someone refers to a former president the meaning is clear enough as it stands - i.e. he was president at one time but is not so now.

If one wants to clarify whether or not someone was a president at the time a certain action took place, that can be done, but I see no need to invent a new usage to cover an eventuality that occurs only rarely.

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author avatar Retired
25th Feb 2015 (#)

Great post! Helpful!

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author avatar Jenny Heart
1st Mar 2015 (#)

Carol has a great comment about your concern. great article

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author avatar Shamarie
20th Apr 2015 (#)

Very good article, Harris! I do understand your point of view.

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