Thursday, August 26, 2010


Nigerians have a very distinct way of speaking. It is a result of having a very complex system of languages interwoven throughout history and contemporary society. Nigeria has over indigenous languages. It also has a history of colonialism which brought British English to the country, and before English was widely taught in schools, communication between colonizers and natives developed as it often does in "baby talk" or simple communication, which eventually turned in to a much more highly developed system of language called Pidgin English. Nigeria has one of the most sophisticated systems of Pidgin in the world. So much so, that some linguists believe that Nigerian Pidgin should be classified as a Creole (for non-academics, just ignore this's deeper than I'm sure you care). So the current status of language and communication in Nigeria is a complex mix of British English, Pidgin English, Native Languages, and even a bit of American slang thrown in (as a result of Western influence through media and globalization).

There are certain phrases and words that are uniquely Nigerian and I wanted to give you some examples...
  • I am coming - I wrote a whole blog post about this previously, but basically it means, "at some point in the future, I will be back"
  • Off de [light, a/c, etc.] - This phrase is used instead of saying "Can you turn off the [whatever]"
  • Dash or dash you - If someone is going to dash you something, it basically means they are giving you something, so "Please, dash me 1000 Naira" means "Please can you give me 1000 Naira?"
  • Ahbeg - Literally "I beg." It can be used in two different ways. The first is with genuine sincerity, like "Please loan me 1000 Naira, ahbeg." The other is used in a sarcastic way, like "Please! Leave me alone, ahbeg!"
  • The boot - This means a trunk of a car. If you say "Driver, open the trunk," they'll look at you and have no idea what you are asking. But if you say "Please, open the boot," they'll totally know what you are asking. This is a leftover British saying as the British call the trunk the boot to this day.
There are many more examples but these are just a smattering to give you an idea. It's kind of amazing how quickly little sayings and idioms take over your normal style of speaking. Part of it has to do with easing communication. Americans speak much faster than Nigerians (on average) and many Nigerians find it hard to understand our "thick American accents" so instead of repeating what you mean over and over, sometimes it's just easier to give in to the local expressions even if it isn't how you would normally speak or is completely grammatically incorrect. I just wanted to give everyone a heads up before I come home...if I come home and it sounds like I'm speaking gibberish, just give me a few days and I'll return to normal.

1 comment:

ange said...

Well, pardon me if I ask you what in the heck something means...