In capturing uncommon heights that people attain in different fields, some words come in handy. Among such are doyen, veteran, legend, icon, luminary and superstar. These are different from academic titles such as Dr (Doctor) and professor. Unlike some of the reverence terms, ‘doyen’ is not commonly used as it is associated with the most senior, respected or oldest person (male) in a profession – and not everyone can be such. The female counterpart is doyenne – though both are pronounced the same way, with the ‘o’ pronounced as the one in dot, dog and log – not like the one in don’t, dose of close.
Interestingly, after arguably disappearing from the Nigerian space for a long time, the word resurfaced a few days ago when the doyen of accountancy in Nigeria, Pa Akintola Williams, died. For decades, he had duly worn the title like a flowing agbada – until old age slowed him down and he was no more part of many programmes or projects. As many mourned him, Publisher of QED, an online newspaper, Olumide Iyanda, raised an interesting point. In a Facebook post, he asked who would answer the ‘doyen’ now that Akintola had eternally moved on at the age of 104. The poser harboured sarcasm, as he subtly criticised journalists who love dishing out big accolades even when occasions do not call for them. It was thus not surprising that his mischief sparked a great deal of more sarcasm. Yet, some of the responses that the post generated are revealing.
Some, for instance, came up with similar terms like veteran, legend, icon and superstar. These are words whose meanings and usages you should master so that they can become part of your linguistic assets. More importantly, you should avoid using them indiscriminately because it is not every time they are interchangeable.
Apart from Iyanda’s other sharp bites, another editor (or is he a ‘media luminary’ or ‘pen juggernaut’?), Bamidele Johnson, noted: “The word (doyen) should be retired, as jersey numbers famously are. Doyen was exclusive to him (Akintola) for so long. The only doyen I can immediately remember was that of the theatre. That was Hubert Ogunde and he died a long time ago.”
Iyanda, however, recalled that there were actually two doyens of journalism – Babatunde Jose and Peter Enahoro – just as he described Biodun Shobanjo as the doyen of marketing/advertising.
His friends generally want users to avoid the abuse of the word and other related terms. Because I agree with them, I have here a list of some of the elements with their meanings and examples to help in inspiringly and appropriately applying them. They are largely taken from Oxford Dictionary:
the most respected or prominent person in a particular field.
– He became the doyen of British physicists.
an extremely famous or notorious person, especially in a particular field.
– The man was a living legend.
- J. Okocha is a soccer legend.
Someone very famous and admired, usually because of their ability in a particular area (Cambridge Dictionary):
Jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald once sang in this bar.
a person who inspires or influences others, especially one prominent in a particular sphere.
– One of the luminaries of child psychiatry.
(Interestingly, the late thoroughbred lawyer, Rotimi Williams was a ‘legal luminary’.)
a person or thing regarded as a representative symbol or as worthy of veneration.
– This iron-jawed icon of American manhood.
Soyinka is an icon, legend and luminary put together.
an extremely famous and successful performer or sports player.
– He became a superstar overnight.
a person or thing of enormous size, importance, or ability.
– The Russian Empire was the colossus of European politics.
a person who behaves in an unconventional or controversial way.
– The enfant terrible of contemporary art.
(Legal icon and human rights champion, the late Gani Fawehinmi, was often described as the enfant terrible of the law profession.)