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Ethiopia’s quirky quandary of the Class vs Room misadventure lost in translation

By Demessie Girma (PhD)

Addis Abeba – Let’s address the elephant in the room – or should I say, in the class?

No, wait, definitely not the class, because that’s where the problem lies! It’s time to set the record straight: please say “room” and not “class”, for the love of coherent communication!

Now, I understand. We all make mistakes, and while some are more forgivable than others, this particular one is like a persistent linguistic itch that simply can not be ignored. I’ve taken the bold step of bringing it to public attention despite the potential risk of being labeled as elitist or something like that. However, I believe it’s better to take that risk now than to allow future generations to continue this misstep.

How did we even get here? My best guess is that it all started innocently enough with the compound word “classroom.” Fair enough, right? It accurately describes a room designated for a class. But somewhere along the line, someone decided to take a shortcut, and “class” started getting tossed around like confetti at a grammar party. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t mean a room!

Sure, “class” has its place – like when we’re talking about groups of students learning together or different societal strata.

On a serious note: a class is a group of pupils or students who are taught together, usually in a specific subject or course, under the guidance of a teacher or professor. Likewise, a class can apply to a social or economic distinction as in an aristocratic class, working class, and so on. The concept is similar when we use the phrase “class of 2001” to denote a collective of graduates from that particular year. In every instance, “class” denotes a collective group of individuals (and never a room!).

But it’s not synonymous with “room”. It’s as if someone unleashed a linguistic virus, and now it’s spreading faster than a meme on social media. I’ve seen it everywhere, from casual conversations in random places to hotels where receptionists and cleaners alike refer to rooms as “class.” It’s a linguistic faux pas that’s become all too common. It’s quite intriguing how English language teachers allowed this linguistic oversight to slip through and spread like wildfire.

So, let’s make a pact, shall we? Let’s collectively agree to ditch this linguistic misstep and stick to calling a room what it is – a room. And hey, if a brave soul in the public broadcasting world wants to take up the mantle and spread some linguistic sanity, I’ll be the first to cheer them on. After all, language teachers everywhere are just waiting for another juicy addition to their eternal topic of “Common Mistakes in the English Language.” Let’s not disappoint them, shall we?

In closing, let’s sprinkle in a bonus irritant, albeit in the minor category. How about the ubiquitous use of the word “interesting”? It tends to pop up in comments as a one-liner or even stand alone. But here’s the kicker: “interesting” doesn’t always offer much insight. I suspect some people mistake this word for something positive, like “good.” In actual fact, it’s as vague as a foggy morning and can leave readers scratching their heads, wondering what’s so intriguing about the subject. Something could be “interesting” for being good or for being bad, yet the word itself doesn’t spill the beans. So, the next time you’re tempted to sprinkle your commentary with “interesting,” consider adding a pinch of specificity to spice things up! AS

Editor’s Note: Dr Demessie Girma, PhD, CEng, MIET, SMIEEE, is a technologist specializing in digital transformations. Dr Girma extensively writes about emerging technologies, particularly Mobile Cloud Computing and AI, with a special emphasis on their implications for the developing world.

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