About two years ago around the period of Nigeria’s independence day, my friend Dooter Malu compiled a list of 10 words and phrases, Nigerians use, misuse and abuse. I only got to read his post recently on Facebook. I found his compilation and description of each word or phrase very hilarious but apt. So I decided that I would share them with my readers, with his permission and he has graciously allowed me to. No copyright infringements! :P. I believe most Nigerians would totally identify with these words and phrases and I can bet that a few of us have used at least one or two of them at some point or the other. It is just a few days to our Independence Day, so I am posting this in the spirit of preparing for our great country’s 53rd year. I hope you would enjoy reading as much as I did.
Example of how it is used: “I was opportuned to speak with the Governor last week”
This first word doesn’t actually exist, at least not in the English dictionary. It is in the category of words I consider to be IFBG (I Fit Blow Grammar). Speakers would normally use the word with the intention of evoking privilege. Ironically it evokes the opposite.
9. It goes without saying
Example of how it is used: “It goes without saying that the police take bribes”
This is not a disagreeable phrase, but as my friend Myani Bukar notes, if it goes without saying, then it probably doesn’t need to be said. If I could save a word from the list, it would probably be this one, because when I’m speaking, it provides a sort of four-word pause that enables me gather my thoughts. So it goes without saying, that when I use the phrase, I probably don’t know what I’m saying.
8. Go back to the drawing board
Example of how it is used: “In order to move forward with the economy, we have to go back to the drawing board”
This is a good phrase to fill in when you have a dearth of ideas. By saying nothing, it is really saying nothing. This phrase should ordinarily be used to indicate that an idea or scheme has been unsuccessful and that a new one should be devised. When it’s used by Nigerians however, the literal definition is employed, meaning that the bad ideas left on the ‘drawing board” are revisited. The next time you hear this phrase, please request to see the drawing board, because you probably won’t want to go back.
7. Fortitude to Bear the Loss
Example of how it is used: “We pray that God will grant you the fortitude to bear the loss”
This is one of those phrases like “Merry Christmas” that you hear over and over again in its season; in this case, it is the season of loss. The phrase is however quite appropriate as the word “fortitude” stands almost solo in the English language in expressing courage in pain or adversity. I don’t spite the phrase; I just mourn it because its overuse has removed the intimate commiseration that those in mourning deserve. 😦
6. Step up their game
Example of how it is used: “In other to score, the strikers need to step up their game”
This phrase is commonly used in sport commentaries. Compare the following commentaries at half-time of a soccer game:
Tommy Smith (ESPN Sport Commentator): “The 4-5-1 formation should allow some fluidity in the mid-field. The central mid-fielder should overlap more to give the lone striker more support without exposing his back, which can be covered by the wingers.
Tunde Tijani (Nigerian Sport Commentator): “The mid-fielders are not passing well, they have to step up their game; The striker is not going to get the ball, I think he has to… he has to, step up his game.”
5. All Protocols observed
Example of how it is used: “His Excellency the Governor, His Excellency the Deputy-Governor, The Right Honorable Speaker of the House, The Honorable Chief Judge, The Honorable Commissioners, the Honorable Senior Special Advisers, the Special Assistants to the Senior Special Advisers, blah blah blah, all Protocols observed”
Nigerian leaders love protocol. Scratch that. Nigerian leaders love recognition and events are organized to remind them of their names and offices. But that’s not my grouse with the phrase. “Protocol” is an official procedure or system of rules. The phrase “all protocols observed” is therefore the equivalent of entering a meeting and saying “all people greeted” or entering a questioning and saying “all suspects interrogated.”
4. He died of Old Age
Example of how it is used: “We regret to announce the death of our grand father who died of old age”
This is a phrase that I imagine should get Doctors reeling in laughter, but is however commonly used in Obituaries. My brother disagrees with this one as Coroners in the UK and some other countries accept Old age as a cause of death. Old age however, is not quite a disease as it is a state of being. Elderly people can die of Pneumonia, blood clots and heart attacks, but not old age. Saying someone died of old age is like saying a drunken youth died of youthful exuberance.
Example of how it is used: “I remember in yesteryears we had unlimited electricity supply.”
The Nigerian penchant for invoking past memories is quite famed. Nothing is better in the present and this IFBG word is often used by Sages to remind us how pathetic our progress has been. There’s really nothing wrong with this word just that its overuse makes its ordinary usage seem stale.
2. Peradventure – Nigerian Pronunciation: Paraventure
Example of how it is used: “If peradventure we had unlimited electricity supply our economy will be growing by 9%” (This is actually true).
It’s not so much the meaning of this IFBG word as much as its pronunciation that stands out. The word should ordinarily mean “perhaps” or should be used as an expression of uncertainty or doubt as to whether something is the case. For its Nigerian usage however, the phrase that it is used in would have the same meaning as it would have if the word were omitted. (Consider the example above). In other words, if peradventure you omit the word “peradventure” there is peradventure a good chance you would be better understood.
1. My names are…
Example of how it is used: “My names are Dooter Daniel Malu”
The funny thing about this phrase is that it started out as a correction to the perceived grammatical error of introducing yourself in singular as “My name is…” and then calling more than one name. In its noun form as used in an introduction, the word “name” refers to the entire set of words by which a person is known, addressed or referred to. You can however use “names” when you are referring to insults (as in calling someone names) or making reference to people involved in illicit activity (naming names). So the proper expression of using “names” in an introduction would be, “My names are Dumb, Silly, and Tevez”
Have a wonderful weekend and be safe!