Nigerian English (17 posts)

  • Profile picture of Tola Odejayi Tola Odejayi said 8 months, 2 weeks ago:

    I was reading a story on NS (can’t remember which now) and I came across a word that I haven’t heard for a while now - ‘trafficator’.

    Of course I know that the writer meant turn signals, but it made me reflect that there are some words and phrases that are unique to Nigeria, that you won’t hear anywhere else.

    Other examples (in case you are wondering) are phrases like ‘men of the underworld’ (armed robbers); ‘carpet’ - as in “Jonathan carpets Atiku Abubakar” (to deal severely with).

    My thoughts are - maybe we should formalise this type of English as Nigerian English. After all, you have Americans saying ‘faucet’ to mean ‘tap’ and ‘pants’ to mean ‘trousers’ (by the way, it still makes me laugh when I hear Americans talk about wearing their pants to work); so why not Nigeria too?

  • Profile picture of Myles Idoko Ojabo Myles Idoko Ojabo said 8 months, 2 weeks ago:

    I totally agree with Tola. I also like to encourage inventions. I remember one of my invented words in which I tried to describe a seven year old girl without breasts yet. I described her as a ‘breastless girl’ …who knows if our inventions might be added to the dictionary in years to come.

  • Profile picture of kaycee kaycee said 8 months, 2 weeks ago:

    I only learnt recently and quite embarrasingly, that “Mercedes V-boot”,”Honda End of discussion”,etc were strictly Nigerian names for this cars.

  • Profile picture of writefight writefight said 8 months, 2 weeks ago:

    This Nigerian thing adds to our Nigerianess. Even in our writing, there is this flavour that you smell and almost immediately, you can say this is a Nigerian. However, i like it when you make the invented word comprehensible by a non-Nigerian. I mean, my friend in Durban shouldn’t have a proablem understanding why “soaking garri” doesnt mean you want to wash anything…i simply want to feed myself.

  • Jaywriter said 8 months, 2 weeks ago:

    Don’t know who knows what ‘standing to greet the king’ means. But feel we can’t possibly have official Nigerian English because most Nigerian don’t have English as their first language. But we have lotta words like that. ‘Change’ instead of ‘balance’ would be one of the most common which me does a lot. It might even be easier to stop pigeon English than Nigerian English. Anyone ever considered that?

  • Profile picture of Emmanuella Nduonofit Emmanuella Nduonofit said 8 months, 2 weeks ago:

    I made a reference when I posted two of my works written in ‘creole’, a heated debate on Facebook about the piginalisation of Nigerian Literature. I wish to take some of the things I said there: “I agree that pidgin is not a language, it is a bastardiser, a rebellion, a resistance, a corruptor of the rules governing languages. So, it is a fact that there is pidgin in the languages of the world. Apart from the fact that it is a matter of choice to speak pidgin, it is also naturally attractive to infuse pidgin in our everyday speech, even sometimes without knowing it. There is a saying that it is easier to destroy than to create, and that is true in every sense.

    For instance, the correct expression: “What are you saying?” becomes “What are you talking?” or “What are you speaking?” in what I have decided to call Nigerian English. Would you conveniently say that Nigerian English is the pidgin, or is it the English conditioned to suit the Nigerian soil without ever breaking the rules that govern the English language? It would be erroneous of me to use the instance above to start drawing conclusions here. I could say that Nigerian English is the English that accommodates other expressions from Nigerian languages.

    I believe that pidgin greatly affected only the morphology of languages, but I wouldn’t say that mindless affixing of words gave rise to pidgin, no way! Let us briefly analyse the contemporary Nigerian music scene that is full of hip-hop, reggae and R&B, or the mix of these three genres: If you pay attention closely, a great majority of the lyrics is expressed in pure pidgin, and the highly attentive audience of this music scene is the younger, upcoming generation of Nigerians. They “break their bodies” and go crazy to this music. And, funny enough, this sort of music is a source of identity for some of those musicians who sing it. Please tell me that any of you here are not guilty of being listeners of this music because I admit that I am due to the fact that my little ones at home sing to it, watch it on TV, listen to it over the radio or buy it.

    Look at the government “public” primary schools and kindergartens. Even if there are qualified teachers or otherwise for those kids, should pidgin be the source of communication between them? This shows the ineptitude and uncaring nature those at the helm of government affairs on education matters have towards the future of these children. For sure, those children did not have the same privileges as most of us here when we were kids. But I stress here that those privileges can be got through a re-orientation and concrete re-emphasis on moral values. The problems with Nigerians generally are primarily and centrally attitudinal in nature, with ethnicity and religion following suit, making economic and socio-political problems secondary, in the postmodernist world we live in, as I was rightly told. GBAM!”

    Would be correct to say that pidgin English in Nigeria is adjacent to the coined expression ‘Nigerian English’, as I have defined? At some point, one cannot but separate the two. There’s an obvious enrichment of that primary language English, and there is a need for lexicographers to be on hand to update the most looked-at dictionaries for new words brought about by those countries the English people ‘conquered’ during their historical voyages, hm, not just Nigeria and Africa.

  • Profile picture of Emmanuella Nduonofit Emmanuella Nduonofit said 8 months, 2 weeks ago:

    I want to add here that there is a book called NIGERIAN ENGLISH. I saw that book during my university days. It’s best that @TolaO hunts for the book. I don’t know if it’s online, o! I didn’t buy it because language was not my stress then, it was literature.

  • Jaywriter said 8 months, 2 weeks ago:

    Mastress, pigeon English is a language, maybe not an official language. But it surely is a language. Most people identify with with Nigerian songs because of the beats oh, not exactly the lyrics. You’ll agree with me that most people who listen to country songs will probably know the whole story of the song because they listen because of the lyrics. Ask yourself, is the story of ‘Do Me I Do You’ by Psquare as clear as perhaps their ‘Say Your Love’. Hmmm?

  • Profile picture of kaycee kaycee said 8 months, 2 weeks ago:

    But naija pidgin is beautiful.It is an art that should be given attention.One only has 2 listen to the pidgin masters speak it- to love it.

  • Profile picture of 4ran6 4ran6 said 8 months, 2 weeks ago:

    Pidgin is the new face of Nigeria… Call it a brand and u wont b wrong.

  • Profile picture of uchechukwu obiakor uchechukwu obiakor said 8 months, 2 weeks ago:

    Nigerian English?This sound funny,but you would hear our honorables in hallowed chambers ‘hammering’ d innocent english.It is high time every writer in nigeria ink every words of his,into pidgin.

  • sambright said 8 months, 2 weeks ago:

    Nigerian English is now been looked into by various professors in Nigeria.It is not in any form substandard,it is a variety of world English.
    Just as we have scottish Englis,Canadian English,American English,Nigerian English exist to express our peculiar culture,tradition and world view which the native speakers cannot express.that is why words like ‘agbada’,'waist bead’ abound in our lexicon.meanwhile pigeon english is regarded as a variety that cuts across social stratem usually spoken by both the educated and non educated.

  • Profile picture of Tola Odejayi Tola Odejayi said 8 months, 2 weeks ago:

    Thanks all for the comments.

    Idoko, it’s hard work to get your own personal inventions incorporated into a language. Sometimes, I wonder who actually came up with these phrases…

    Writefight, I guess someone might guess that soaking gari might mean eating it, since that’s one of the few meaningful things you can do with gari… but really, the reason that people develop a special kind of vocabulary is to strengthen the idea of the group, not to welcome outsiders.

    Kaycee, I’d never heard of ‘Honda End Of Discussion’ before. When did people start saying this?

    Emmanuella, I think that Pidgin English and Nigerian English are two different things. Nigerian English is more like what you describe, English which has a uniquely Nigerian flavour without overtly breaking the rules of English grammar (I think the ‘What are you talking?’ is a good example). Thanks for the book reference, although I doubt if I’ll be able to lay my hands on it.

  • Profile picture of Emmanuella Nduonofit Emmanuella Nduonofit said 8 months, 2 weeks ago:

    @TolaO, as long as the English people came to Nigeria and gave us this ‘English’ that we speak today and for the rest of our lives, the rules of the English grammar is circumvented a bit as soon as it hits Nigerian soil. Pidgin English in Nigeria (‘pigeon’ according to @Jaywriter) is a ‘perverter’ [if there could be pidgin French in those francophone African countries], for there is also Pidgin Igbo, Pidgin Hausa and Pidgin Yoruba, as well as Pidgin Urhobo, Pidgin Isoko, even Pidgin Oron, Pidgin Efik, Pidgin Annang and pidgin in all the languages of the minority tribes in Nigeria. Yes, there is a beauty in pidgin, and that’s why I’m an advocate of pidgin, but I can’t allow pidgin to be my lingua franca at all! Mba!

  • Profile picture of Emmanuella Nduonofit Emmanuella Nduonofit said 7 months, 3 weeks ago:

    Gals and guys, I have this to add. This just came in: a NATIONAL LIFE newspaper publication dated Sunday, April 3, 2011 (I read one, two or at most three, national dailies every Sunday and this paper is the one I have been reading quite frequently). Their website - On page 18, the second of the three LITERATI pages conducted by Kayode Yaqub, there is this article entitled WORKSHOP AIMS TO DEVELOP WRITING SKILLS OF NIGERIAN WRITERS. From the first four paragraphs of this article, I understood that this workshop was organised by the Nigerian Academy of Letters (NAL) in association with the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Company (NLNG). The intention of this workshop, according to the president of NAL, is for ‘the need to develop the writing skills of Nigerian writers because NAL and NLNG were not happy about the low standard of some of the entries received for the NLNG literary competition.

    Well, my focus is on the ninth to the last paragraph of this article. I quote: “Nigerian English, according to Professor Munzali, is the bane of Nigerian writers. He traced the origin of Nigerian English and how it has become difficult for Nigerian writers to differentiate between it and standard English. According to him, words like ‘ghost worker’, ‘chewing stick’, ‘arrangee’, ‘decampee’ and ‘send-forth’ are freely used by writers thereby damaging their works. To avoid this problem, he said, writers should avail themselves of writing aids like dictionary and thesaurus.”

    Hmmm…. Go figure. What ever happened to that terminology called WORLD ENGLISHES, hm? This could mean that all Nigerian writers should and must take lessons on the knowledge of Standard English for their works to be acceptable for competitions and maybe publication, ya? Chei! :( Na wa o! Nigerian English is popular English. Those guys shouldn’t expect all upcoming Nigerian writers to know the entire rules of English for us to write perfect works of fiction or poetry or play by their standards, c’mon! Well, if that is the case, I can stay very unpublished and not bother to enter for any kind of literary competition. This is just my opinion.

    Anyway, read the article online, if it’s there, and say what you think of it.


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