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People Contract Diseases, They Don’t Contact Them

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One of the questions I gave in the homework of November 29, 2018 required that readers choose between ‘contact’ and ‘contract’ in terms of whether a person contracts a disease or he contacts it. I am not surprised that many people missed the question as they chose ‘contact’ – which is the same word that millions of users of English outside there would select. Indeed, the meaning of the word seems so easy and relevant that such folks would consider the question the cheapest I have ever asked. “What is the big deal in contacting a disease?” they could ask.

Unfortunately, ‘contact’ is not the right word for the expression; it is ‘contract’. People contract diseases, they do not contact them. This fact sounds so awkward to some members of the class that, since over a week after I marked the homework, they have continued to take me up on it. Well, as I have pointed out in the past, grammar is not like music that should be rhythmic and sweet in the ears. At times, some of the expressions sound ugly and odd but because language is governed by rules, conventional and arbitrary, we just have to master the way the expressions are.

One of the members of the Punch English class challenged me on the fact that there is a way contact is also used in connection with disease. I appreciated his suggestion but noted that it would be in a different situation. In the question given in the homework, the word required must be a verb; that is, the one that means to catch or be ill with a disease.

As a noun, contact can mean different things: communication with a person perhaps through speaking or writing; a person, especially in a high position, who can give you useful information or tips that will help you at work or socially; or the fact of two people or things touching each other.

In the medical parlance, we can have direct contact, referring to mutual touching of two individuals or organisms. That is how, according to experts, many communicable diseases may be spread by direct contact between an infected person (host) and a healthy person.

According to dictionaries, it also refers to a person who has been exposed to a contagious disease, “as in being sufficiently near an infected person to have been exposed to infectious materials,” says an online dictionary.

So, in the sense we are considering, contract is the required verb, meaning to catch a disease, while contact, a noun, means a person exposed to a disease.

Immune, not immuned

We should seize (not cease) this opportunity to remind ourselves that a person can also be immune to a disease and not immuned to it. The word – immune – can be contrasted with verbal adjectives that often carry d when they move from the present tense to the past tense and past participle eventually. Such include expired in expired drugs and disgraced as in disgraced person. The case of immune is not like that because it is never a verb in the first place. So, it is not coming from any verbal source and can therefore not experience the verbal adjective transformation.

This, again, should remind us about the fact that there are some adjectives that should not carry the past tense marker, d, because they are adjectives and are used as such. They include secure and mature:

You have to leave there as soon as possible because it is not secure. (Not not secured.)

I want accommodation in an area that is secure. (Not secured.)

I don’t like the way Jemila behaves. She is not mature. (Not not matured.)

Mature men don’t batter their wives. (Not Matured men.)

But this is not to say that there is no occasion you can use secured and matured as adjectives. There is, only that the meanings will be different:

I like this area. It is secured by policemen.

The government has ordered that the area be secured by soldiers.

The check ought to have matured by now.

The crop matured in no time.


Source: https://punchng.com/people-contract-diseases-they-dont-contact-them/

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