Danfo Semantics – “The Cause and The Curse”

You hear cases of people killing themselves, countries annihilating countries, years and years of this family and that family feuding, that person not talking to this person and the likes of it. It turns out sometimes (when you finally trace the origin of dissent) that it was just a simple case of – He didn’t understand, she didn’t understand, he thought, she thought – a little misunderstanding.

Here’s a scenario – it’s not unusual for a danfo conductor and his passenger to be in a war of words and insults. In fact it’s a novelty for one to experience an entire bus trip without a single exchange of heated words. So when I enter the bus and the woman in the front seat beside the driver, stretches back her hand and starts to hit the conductor, I think nothing of it.

The woman continues to hit the conductor non stop – give me my change she screams and punctuates every scream with a slap at the conductors back. She’s throwing the punches from the front seat and since the conductor is hanging from the door (nothing unusual there) I’m surprised at the accuracy of her punch.

All the while, the conductor is receiving the punches like a champ (Mohammed Ali style) – all smiles and no concern until the man to my left intercedes.

Madam abeg no hit am again, but conductor you know you are the cause of this thing.

It is then the conductors’ voice comes back from the sabbatical leave it had been on all the while he was being hit. He points to the man angrily and says “Oga” I no be curse na you be curse, you and your children and your children’s children, all of una be curse!

The man’s jaw drops in astonishment, “ahn ahn? What I’m I saying, what are you saying? I said you’re the cause of this woman’s anger you’re telling me I’m a curse. Rubbish illiterate man!”

I no be illiterate, the conductor retorts furiously.  As if to validate his point, he switches to English- I went to school, its condition that put me here.

Hey! The man exclaims and then proceeds to clap his hands together and fold them under his arms in typical Nigerian fashion – See this obtuse man o? He asks no one in particular.

Oga na you be confused man, the conductor shoots back.

Ahn ahn? E ma gba mi! (People save me) what has confused got to do with obtuse? It is not your fault conductor; it is me who poked my nose in your matter.

Na you know wetin do your nose and nevertheless na u still be curse no be me , in fact as you talk so, generational curse dey follow you from village and e no go stop.

There’s nothing wrong with my nose the man exclaims, slapping his palm on his forehead in frustration.

At the “nevertheless”, I start to pay attention, I mean nevertheless is not an “everyday word” in a typical Nigerian sentence if you get my drift? Everyday words are words like ehn, ehen, shebi, sha, abi. So “Nevertheless” from a bus conductor is very surprising and confusing.

Surprising because he’s a bus conductor (not looking down on anybody) and Confusing because if you can think to say “Nevertheless” in your sentence then you should know that Cause and Curse are two different words entirely (although in pronunciation the difference is not a stretch) Obtuse and Confuse are worlds apart and poking your nose in somebody’s matter does not depict a problem with the anatomy of that persons nose.

But I digress. Back to the punching angry woman and her conductor punching bag.  The initial “star” of the “boxing match” has been long forgotten and come to take her place is the “Pokenoser”, but it’s no longer a boxing match but a verbal match

By now, the other passengers have started contributing their voices. Everybody is talking at once so there’s not much sense to be made out of the cacophony of voices.

An elderly woman then tugs the conductors’ shirt to catch his attention. She explains to him that the “Poke noser” did not abuse him at any point before their exchange. She proceeds to tell him that what the “Pokenoser” meant was that, if the conductor had given the “Puncher” her change, the puncher would not have resulted to punching him.

Another man chimes in; Conductor because you no give that woman her change, na why the woman dey punch you, so na wetin cause am. No be say I swear for you o, na because of wetin u do the woman, you understand abi?

…And so different variations and explanations begin to emerge, all avoiding the word “cause” of course.

The “Pokenoser” is shaking his head from left to right, at his wit ends and almost afraid to utter another word. I nudge him covertly and whisper to him to keep mute from then on

The conductor must be a staunch believer of “vox populi vox dei” (the voice of many is the voice of God) or the explanations of the many passengers are too much for him to start to attribute his own “Conductor Webster” dictionary meaning to. Either way he shuts up and pipes down.

Now imagine that the conductor was not a “vox populi vox dei believer” and the pokenoser was a “hot headed easily offended who do you think you are talking to kind of person” it’s more likely than not that they would have come to blows, maybe even gotten into one of those “nobody comes out alive, till one of us dies fights” and then somebody does die. Would it, not have been all for nothing? A misconception of original intent.

There are times when we do A B C because we thought the other person meant   D E F. At the end of our A B C we realize that the person actually meant X Y Z, and then our A B C with all the effort put into it becomes a waste of time and energy

The question ultimately is – In situations where we don’t have a bus full of voices; explaining, pacifying and trying to make sense out of – should we not become our own voice of reason? Would our mistakes and regrets in life not be fewer then?






13 thoughts on “Danfo Semantics – “The Cause and The Curse”” by danfo girl (@alli-eniola-funmilayo)

  1. There are too many direct speeches in this narrative without inverted commas.


  2. Found this funny and original.
    ‘Nevertheless’ is actually common lingo, esp in Eastern Nigeria.
    Well done. :)

    1. danfo girl (@alli-eniola-funmilayo)

      @kayceenj thank you very much

  3. Your conclusions from this analogy was astute and thought provoking. The writing was beautiful.
    There were a few typos “am” rather than “I’m”; “person’s” rather than “person” and a few others
    Then u omitted inverted commas in many of the dialogues

    1. danfo girl (@alli-eniola-funmilayo)

      @topazo thank you very much. noted on the typos. thanks

  4. Your conclusion from this analogy was astute and thought provoking. The writing was beautiful.
    There were a few typos “am” rather than “I’m”; “person’s” rather than “person” and a few others
    Then u omitted inverted commas in many of the dialogues

  5. Go over the work again, you will not some things you overlooked.
    Nice write up.

    1. @kaycee: it happens as you have ‘not’d :)

  6. Very enjoyable, @alli-eniola-funmilayo. I like how you took a simple incident and wove a narrative round it.

  7. Babe, I didn’t look at typos. I didn’t even notice them. I simply enjoyed the simplicity and Nigerianness of this story.

    Well done.

  8. Wow! Looks like you switched the @ things with the nick name taking the side of your proper name :)
    @alli-eniola-funmilayo… Hmm. Truly, you made my morning with this. This is really funny and I have to say, it’s not every time writers steal my views from concentrating on issues that would have made a work better!
    I had a fun read and the Nigerianness of it all hit me to the couch in laughter, mentally. Memories of several bus rides came flooding down my mind. The times sure have changed and the events vary. Stopped these things regularly due to some shift but oh, you sure got me laughing so much.
    How do you do this? Do you write like this all the time?
    C’mon! Well done.

    1. danfo girl (@alli-eniola-funmilayo)

      @sueddie thank you very much. your comment did my writing dreams good.thank you

  9. beautifully written and educative. clear message and good style of writing.

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