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Knocks & Kudos

A Case For Nigerian English





By Paul Dada

I take an exception to the seeming attitude of subservience by Nigerians who give themselves out as English Language purists with regard to what constitute standard English.

I think that these people do not take cognisance of two facts: (1) The dynamism of language (2)The varieties of language

English, as every other language, develops with time. New words and expressions are added to the language. Words change in meaning. Or at least their meanings become modified.

Then there are different kinds of English; e.g. British English, American English, Australian English, Nigerian English.

I submit that no kind of English should be viewed as standard English. While it is true that Nigeria was colonised by the Great Britain, our English has assumed a life of its own taking up nuances affected by our peculiar experiences, cultures and interactions.

You cannot say Nigerian English is inferior to British English any more than you can hold that American English is not up to the standard of the Queen’s English.

If you travel to the US, you’d have to come to terms with the fact that a pharmacy is a drugstore; a flat is an apartment; a toilet( restroom) is a bathroom, and a pair of trousers is a pair of pants. So if you choose to live in that country, you’d better start adopting their English.

Similarly, any English -speaking foreigner who visits Nigeria ought to understand that our women don’t just give birth, they PUT TO BED. No, we don’t go the barber’s shop but the BARBING SALON. We eat at BUKATERIA, just deal with it. And in traffic, our vehicles are often close to one another BUMPER TO BUMPER. They must realise that when we have serious discussions here, we RUB MINDS TOGETHER. Here in Nigeria, we are not satisfied with just having governorship elections, we like to have GUBERNATORIAL elections.

In this beautiful country, we like to see our friends NEXT TOMORROW and not just the day after tomorrow ( a jaded expression in my view). GIST to us is not just the crux or essence of a matter, but a rumour or even gossip. “GIST me, bro. What is happening in your office?”

We have the EMBER months here. And some plans have K-LEG. And we love to have SEND-FORTH parties, not retirement parties.

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I am disenchanted with the fixations of some English teachers with the Queen’s English, which they take to be standard. I think many people are still bedeviled by a neo-colonial mentality.

Even the brains behind the Oxford Dictionary, realising the versatility of the English language had to recently accept some Nigerian words.

The media, I submit, must lead the way in helping the people to favour peculiar Nigerian English expressions as standard. We should see headlines like these:

“Actress, Sophie Puts To Bed

“FG Economic Blueprint Develops K-leg”

“Hoodlums Attack Commuters In Bumper To Bumper Traffic.”

My hat’s off to Chimamanda Adichie who said; “My English-speaking is rooted in a Nigerian experience and not in a British or American or Australian one. I have taken ownership of English.” My respect I give to all true lovers of Nigerian English.

Okay, it’s time for me to ride my OKADA. What’s my business with a motorcycle?


Paul Dada is the Editor,

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