Joke apart or Joking apart?
During one of our recent lessons, I used the expression, Joking apart, in one of my sentences. This seemed to have surprised some of our readers who expected ‘Joke apart’ in the context. Three of them, indeed, contacted me for clarification. Their concern is understandable based on how popular ‘Joke apart’ is. I will use this opportunity to explain why I made the choice and link the question to two other ones that I believe are of general interest.
As popular as ‘Joke apart’ may be, if you painstakingly consider the expression as a grammatical piece, you are likely to suspect that there is something wrong with it. Joke apart? Can joke stand alone in the phrase since it is a countable noun? Would Joke apart or Jokes apart have been better grammatically? In other words, apart from the fact that a fixed expression is required in the idiomatic context, the expression Joke apart is faulted against the principle of number.
The real issue, however, is that when you want to say something serious after you have cracked a joke about an issue or you have made a light remark about it, the correct expression is joking apart or joking aside.
Joking apart, the appointment of an ex-convict as the chairman of the board is an unwelcomed decision.
Joking apart, the Senator’s visit to the President is ill-timed.
I have no special relationship with the man – joking apart.
So, when you want to express the same or a similar idea, go for Joking apart.
Another expression where many people rob with of appearance is in company with. When they want to note that someone attended an event together with another person, they say he attended it in company of him. But the standard thing to say here is in company with:
The President attended the programme in company of his wife. (Wrong)
The President attended the programme in company with his wife. (Correct)
Akpabio went to see Osinbajo in company of the deputy governor. (Wrong)
Akpabio went to see Osinbajo in company with the deputy governor. (Correct)
But there is also this other valid expression – in the company of, which, though can also mean together with, may be more appropriate in the context below:
I felt embarrassed finding myself in the company of the notorious boys.
President Buhari ought to ponder how he found himself in the company of the people facing corrupt charges.
Beware of together with
Since together with suggests plurality, a lot of people treat the subject with which it is used as plural. They thus use a plural verb with it:
John, together with James, have gone.
This is incorrect. The term, together with, is a weaker conjunction. It does not enjoy the status as well as the stature of and. So, while you use the plural verb with and, use the singular with together with, in company with, alongside with, as well as etc:
John and Ade have gone.
John, together with James, has gone.
The coach and the assistant coach are angry.
The coach, together with the assistant coach, is angry.
But note that if the main subject is plural, the verb will be plural – even with the use of together with:
The boys, together with the woman, has gone. (Wrong)
The boys, together with the woman, have gone. (Correct)
Some Cameroonians, together with a Ghanaian, wants to visit Nigeria. (Wrong)
Some Cameroonians, together with a Ghanaian, want to visit Nigeria. (Correct)
Charged with, not charged for
Lastly, since we are looking at some of the with-expressions in style, I want to remind you that the correct preposition with charge, when we want to note that someone has been sued on the basis of a particular allegation, is with – not for. This is a preposition issue that hardly changes:
Jacob Zuma has been charged for misappropriation of funds. (Wrong)
Jacob Zuma has been charged with misappropriation of funds. (Correct)
The woman who killed her husband has been charged for manslaughter. (Wrong)
The woman who killed her husband has been charged with manslaughter. (Correct)