By Hussaini Hussaini
A few days ago, after witnessing the interment of a late Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), I made a grieving post on my social media handles as follows:
“It looks beautiful to witness the admission of an SAN into the inner bar; and it is so direful to witness the laying of a late SAN into the inner earth. The name, the prestige, gone! Bottom line is to watch the end as we watch the goal.”
I received several direct messages seeking to correct my perceived grammatical error in using the indefinite article “an” to “SAN” in the first line of the above post. But in the true sense, there is no error in it, based on the popular usage of the term within the legal circle in Nigeria. An average lawyer uses the term as an abbreviation like “etc” not as an acronym such as NATO or CITAD. So forgive us for not using the dots like “S.A.N.”, which is typical of some abbreviations.
Therefore, an average lawyer pronounces the term to sound like “es-ey-en” and not sound like “-san” as in “Sani”, “san yoghurt”, or “San Francisco”. The contrary is the usual way of pronouncing the term by an average non-lawyer in Nigeria.
It is known that “a” as an indefinite article is attached to a word whose pronunciation starts with a consonant sound, while “an” is attached to a word which starts with a vowel sound. Therefore, since an indefinite article is attached to a word based on the sound of its preceding letter(s) of the alphabet, such as saying “an hour” or “a unanimous”, I believe a lawyer will be correct to say “an SAN”( es-ey-en).
I also said “a late SAN” in my post quoted above. However, I think that is not an issue because the article “a” serves the adjective “late” and not the SAN that succeeded it.
I am not a grammarian, but I hope this little explanation explains the tradition, most especially to people outside the bar.
I can’t imagine how funny it will sound after one works day and night to achieve the silk and a colleague look at him in the eye and call him “-san”.
I sincerely appreciate the efforts of those who attempted to correct my mistakes, and I will always welcome the same at any time. Thank you so much.
Hussaini Hussaini sent this article via firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect The Daily Reality’s editorial stance.