A Great Feast of Languages

Posted: June 23, 2009 in Uncategorized


Michaela Moye

During a recent trawl through personal emails, I learned that William Shakespeare is credited for the invention and first-time usage of more than a thousand words in written English – Puking, kissing, courtship and obscene being, shockingly, amongst them.

This discovery sparked newsroom discussion on the etymology of words … which led to listings of terms that are peculiarly Nigerian. And we are not talking about indigenous words like “okada” or borrowed terms from early visitors like the Portuguese “sabi”.

Although one can hardly claim that Nigerians are responsible for the coinage of English language words, we are certainly to blame for keeping some obscure terms in daily speech. Take for instance, “convocating” i.e. “to convocate” or “call together” – An internet search availed a definition from the 1913 version of Webster’s.

A short list of a few other words was put through the modern litmus – a vigorous Google search – with interesting results:

In Nigerian parlance, a “graduant” (whether or not she has convocated) is a “graduate”. In French, however, “graduant” translates into “graduating”.

“Good for you!” would be the appropriate response to “Uncle, I’m now a graduant”. But over here, “good for you” means “serves you right”.

One Wiki-search that threw up a pleasant surprise was for the definition of “toasting”. In Nigerian colloquial speech, when a young man is wooing his love interest, “he is toasting her”, usually with poetry or improvised but “cool” dialogue in what he hopes is a sexy and charming tone. The original meaning is not far from this: According to Wikipedia (filed under Deejaying), “toasting has been part of a verbal art tradition…dating back to the griots of Africa” and is “the act of talking or chanting usually in a monotone melody.”

The national favourite has got to be “parastatal” – which refers to a “fully or partially state-owned corporation or government agency.” Although such entities do exist in other countries, like France, the Free Online Dictionary did mention that parastatals are explicit in Nigeria!

Link: http://www.234next.com/csp/cms/sites/Next/ArtsandCulture/x2/5424733-147/story.csp

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