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Posted by keayo on Mar 16, 2010 in Naija |

Nigerian people love to naija-fy the English language – if a naija speaker does not use a “dey”, a native-tongue word, or does not speak certain words with a Naija accent then he dey Entah-A TRUH-bol [trouble].   Now to the non-Naija listener, these substitutions, extra words, and interesting pronunciation choices may seem like a completely unnecessary misuse/abuse of the English language.  But, eef you do not unda-stand owa talk, SHARRAP that yuah mout and listen well well . . . . ee-djut..

Sillpass - Slippers

Naija people will double up words in certain phrases to lend emphasis.  For example, to describe a good looking girl, a Naija will describe her as “fine fine”, a little child as “small small”, or a person who is easily led as “follow follow”.   Bicoz why? Naija people also love to hear themselves talk, and saying something twice allows the speaker more words “for come-out mout.”  Na waa ooo…

Naija people have pretty much created a separate language especially for their children.   Common phrases like “Cry….TRUH-bol dey call you”, “make am do kwik [quick]”, or “[*hiss/suck teeth*] no dey take….put eye see [*hiss/suck teeth*]” would probably have Noah Webster turning in his grave.   Because of this, American-born Nigerian children are forced to re-learn simple English words in school.  In fact, most Naija people  can think back to their younger days and remember the following exchange:

Baff - to bathe

Bāf - to bathe

Parent: “My fren, go and BAFF [Bathe]!”
Child: “But I don’t wanna BAFF!”
Parent: “Mm-Wa, BEFORE I COUNT TREE…..WAN!!!! TWO!!!! TWO AND HAFF !!!!! TWO AND WAN QWATA!!!” (Oh yea, did I mention, we also have to re-learn the order of our fractions.)

Special emphasis can be added to any statement by beginning the sentence with “Sef [Self]” or “In fact”. Like in this scenario:

Parent: “In Fact, Don’t Em-BA-RASS Me, in this place”
Child (mutters under breath): “You’re embarrassing yourself….”
Parent (top of lungs): “Hai!, you dey craze?! You haff mout to talk, Ee-DJUT[idiot]; STUPID CHILD OF GOD!”

(Now a conversation like this usually ends up in what Oigbo people may call “Child Abuse” but what we in the Naija community simply call “DETTY SLAPS” [Dirty Slaps].)

Another characteristic found in owa version of English is using one word to cover a variety of similar things. For example, let’s say your moda prepared a delicious meal using nothing but hot payppa [pepper] and salt. You may hear the following exchange at the dinner table:

Dad: “The chicken dey SWEET, sef.”
Child: “How is this sweet?!?!”
Dad: “WAT [What] A [Are] You TALKIN?!?! Na SWEET chicken!”


Dis'thin - That Thing

Some of you Nigerians reading this still don’t see what’s wrong with that statement, but I am not here to judge you.  You are probably the same ones who have interchangeably used the Naija-English “am” to mean his, it, him, her, she, you and whatever else you fancy.  You’ve also probably used ‘for’ in interesting and different ways.  If you have ever uttered “Come-out for road, useless man!”; “he dey carry am for head”; and “weak for bodi”, please note that ‘for’ is not meant to be used interchangeably with “of, in, on, with, etc.”  (Chei! Make I see why oigbo no unda-stan)

My papa and mama done use my head oh, I done pass 20 and remain small make I clock 30. Till today I no know if na stuck, stalk, or stock fish.

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Mar 16, 2010 at 10:54 pm

More things we do are Mispronouncing words left, right, top, bottom and center:

“Go and collect my SILLPASS [Slippers… also note usage of the word ‘collect’]”

Completely made up verbs, while driving your parents:

“Oyah – now, TRAFFICATE”.

And though this word doesn’t exist, we know exactly what to do as we hit that blinker.

yolanda Reply:

Kingsley!! YES. use your trafficator to trafficate – you know to indicate where you will be next in the traffic. it made such sense growing up! hahaha I had no idea it was made up & just a signal light until my senior year in highschool. and flip flops were even better in my house they were SEPAS. AND i STILL have to double check how to spell mattress bc i always hear my dad saying it – MATTHRRAS haha such confusion.

Oddie M Reply:

cos we call the blinker “trafficator” in England it just made more sense when my parents use 2 say trafficate. little did i know that Nigerians however found a way to add that one to the dictionary…

and growing up, i assumed every SUV was a JEEP..Thanks to mum and dad that called SUV Jeeps regardless if it is a Toyota, Chevy or other SUV….it was simply ” A JEEP”

Kola Reply:

wait. wait. wait. so trafficate is not a real word? LOOLLLL dang. i wonder what other crap i’ve been saying with so much confidence.


Miss Ndi
Mar 16, 2010 at 11:18 pm

OMG!!! I’ve always wondered about the word, “Trafficate!” I remember saying it to someone like a year ago and they gave me the strangest look!! I thought it was in the driving books, but clearly not!! LOLOLOL!

yinkuslolo Reply:


i have asked so many yankee folks about that word to and no one knows it. just cant stop using it.

Mar 16, 2010 at 11:38 pm

“He go come next tomorrow”

Mar 16, 2010 at 11:45 pm

LMAO!!! I used that word too!!! I was telling a friend to “trafficate” boy did they look at me funny as I tried to explain myself!! SMH.

Some Other words are

fork= sounds very similar if not the same to as “fuck”



Mar 17, 2010 at 12:06 am

Lol guys! I am a high school teacher and i actually used the word next tomorrow to tell my students that they had a test coming up. They couldn’t stop laughing. At first i didn’t even realize i said something wrong.

Kingsley Oparaeke Reply:

How about, instead of tonight using “this night”….

Mar 17, 2010 at 12:39 am

Hilarious! I have an aunt that always refers to Wal-Mart as WAH-mAHt. I just can’t figure out is she’s completely unaware that there is an ‘L’ sound in there somewhere. Ezichi, that’s so funny about the next tomorrow but I’m a sucker for language and words, unfortunately I’m now stuck on ‘day-after-tomorrow’, but after this, I think I just may revert back to ‘next tomorrow’…. I love the way it feels when said. Hey maybe it’ll make a come back lol.

Kingsley Oparaeke Reply:

Omitting key letters in a word is a Naija favorite. Even though my name is KINGSLEY all I hear in my house is KINSLEY with no attempt at a G sound in there.

Oddie M Reply:

HAHAHAHAHA! too funny…

Kola Reply:

LOLLL yeah. I’d have to say that the top three names that get a whooping are Kingsley (KEE-n-Z–i-lee), Florence (floor-hence), and Fatimah (far-tee-mah-too)

yolanda Reply:

hahaha SO TRUE – my sister txted my dad asking who our cable provider was & his re: Time Wana.

P.A. Reply:


olderwhiteamericangf(aka gonagetmedisowned) Reply:

I love the way Nigerians text. Everytime I read a text from my Nigerian boyfriend I can hear his voice, because the text message is written exactly the way he pronounces things. Other people will shorten words to make them fit, but a Nigerian will alter the word to make the pronunciation Naija-fied.

Nkiru Ichu
Mar 17, 2010 at 1:13 am

My fav from my mom: “Do you HEAR that smell?… it smells like dis’thin is burning”..


Kingsley Oparaeke Reply:

yup, we love to misuse words just for kicks and giggles.

“You just dey MONOPOLIZE am anyhow”

yolanda Reply:

hahah so true and even better misuse of words — calling a girl he/him and a boy she/her. ALWAYS confusing stories in my house and now i catch myself doing it too arghhhh! or completely disregarding our names entirely. In a matter of 2 minutes I’m linda, nneka, and KINGSLEY. WHO AM I?!!

keayo Reply:

same thing happened with my dad. I’d be upstairs and my dad would be trying to call my name from downstairs. “CRYSTAL!!!!…..KAREN!!!…NICOLE…!!…!!. AH KINSLEEEEY!!!! Everyone running downstairs and he’s looking at us like “What? i was calling cry..KINSLEY.”

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Mar 17, 2010 at 4:01 am

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Nkiruka O.
Mar 17, 2010 at 4:03 am

LMAO @palor=palo
In 4th grade I was typing a paper and tried to type that my father was in the “palow” but Microsoft Word kept saying that the word was incorrect and I could not figure out why (and thought that maybe it meant living room in Igbo). It wasn’t until my junior year in high school when I realized palow=palor

Kingsley Oparaeke Reply:

LOL, hilarious how Microsoft Word even telling us WTF?!?!? when we try and use “english”.

yolanda Reply:

hahah omg this happened to me too when I tried to write about my uncle AATHA. [arthur] and my cousin CUTKNEE [courtney] hahah my teacher was so confused and it all made sense to me so I didn’t see a problem with me going shopping with my uncle aatha and my cousin cutnee to buy new sepas and pants because mine were jump up hahaha

Oddie M Reply:


reminds me of how I always thought my aunt Maureen as aunt Moree-in..take note of the hyphen cos that’s actually how they kept pronouncing it.. and my mum who happens to be Esther is called ESTA! and aunt Veronica is aunt VERO.

madame Reply:

jump up mehn.. aka “i fear ground”
talk about creativity…lol

Miz Izzo
Mar 17, 2010 at 7:51 am

LOL on Pa-Lo! I didn’t learn that de-ve-LOPE was the wrong pronounciation until like 6th grade! Heck, I still say em-ba-RASSED when I want to get the point across, lol. What about the infamous “Make you go and tie that your wrap!” or “make you do and go fix that your hair”? eerr…excuse me? ma-Ma couldn’t just say “Go get dressed” or “Fix your hair”; she had to add “this your” “that your” and a “make you do” to get it through my thick skull, I guess.

Miz Izzo
Mar 17, 2010 at 7:58 am

Abeg, Com-and carry dis thin! (When they need help with something…or if they are annoyed with you they just shorten it to “Aaah Aah, come and carry dis thin, nooow *suck teeth*” when they see you struggling with the 26 pounds of groceries they dumped on your 69 pound 12 year old body….

The Chidi Opurum
Mar 17, 2010 at 9:12 am

Naija people like English!?!?!? How bout my dad’s favorite subjects in school was Engleesh, Mat-e-matics, and Helt… In lame men’s term, english, mathematics, and health. We all know why they love english… Mat-e-matics they all love cause they brag about how they were always top of their Math class in grade school, come bring them a college algebra question and the answer you get is…
“*blank stare*…. *blink* *blink* *more blank stares* then an abrupt, Chai – this is not the same, I need to find my X-cise buuk. Tell your teacher to show you how to do dis’thin”
And my dad always loves to preach about what the staple food should be. What is good wat is bad… Foo foo is the greatest thing known to man and good for my helt. Does he know how much starch, carbohydrates, and unhealthy stuff is in that food?

My favorite is when he combines his love for english, math, and helt in one sentence. For example:

“Chidi, before you bring me dis’thin (tea), add wan kwatah cup of milk (which really = 1 pint of milk)… You know milk carrys Cal-shum (calcium) which is good for one’s helty bones”

He loves showing off his love for grad school subjects

Miz Izzo Reply:

LMBO!!!! OMG CHIDI!!! So true on the Math, Health, and don’t forget Science. My dad was a chemistry and physics teacher before he came to this country so every morning before school we had to do math and science experiments. It’d be me and my sibs listenin to dad explain how tea/water can get to 212 Fahrenheit and that’s what makes the steam, which is really water, blah blah blah…shoot, I remember in college he’d be tryna help me with Chem and giving me ADDITIONAL assignments beyond what my prof gave me. (Serves me right for stayin near home for college)

Kingsley Oparaeke Reply:

LOL, at your dad assigning additional assignments to your already cumbersome homework.

madame Reply:

lmao…additional assignments BEYOND your scope? your dad is my hero!

P.A. Reply:

Nigerian parents always think that they know what is good for our health….if anything is wrong with you, let you have a simple headache, “have you POOHED?” Not having a bowel movement will cause cancer, headaches, colds, sleep deprivation, back pain, etc. to them lol
But it’s ok for them to pour a whole bottle of palm oil in soup or stew?!?!

General rule of thumb:
If a word has -ER at the end…it is now “AH”…Bittah leaf (bitter leaf), watah (water), daughtah (daughter), etc.
And my Igbo name is Ihuoma, but I get called Ifeoma, Ijeoma, etc. all the time by ANties and ONcles (aunties and uncles). And I know everyone has a relative with an English name that you can’t say “normally” because it just doesn’t sound right? Like you HAVE to say it in the accented way your parents say it or else nobody will know who you are talking about.

And about MATHS, I remember asking my dad for help on some fractions homework (way before Algebra), and he bust out with X=this and y=that…I was like wth is this?

Oddie M Reply:

Oh my, you have that problem too??
if I want to refer to some of my aunts and uncles, i just cant say the right thing.. I have to shorten it or use the accent they dad’s name is George but his mum kept calling him Gerog-EY… growing up I actually thought his name was Georgey….went to school one day talking about my dad Georgey and my mum ESTA(Esther)..SMH

Oddie M Reply:

You always have a way of having the funniest comments…dad took everything in school from his-TORY to Mass(maths) to phycis(physics)…BOY!

Had this teacher in high school when I was in Nigeria who just could not get along with English.. she always had to murder something….and mischievous me made a book of all the English errors my teachers use to make…almost got myself expelled….LOL

Mar 17, 2010 at 11:36 am

Palo isn’t an Igbo word?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! Chinekeme

Oby O.
Mar 18, 2010 at 1:24 pm

lmao!!!!@ “Aathaa”

What about “SEF JOHNNY”… I was SOOOOOOOO confused growing up..

Translation: “Safe Journey”

Mar 18, 2010 at 10:40 pm

went to Naija last summer.. and in Abuja they had some housing developments by a construction company “Berger”… took me the whole 2 months to realize this because everyone was saying “Beh-gga” lol

Mar 28, 2010 at 12:50 am

-“madame d madame”
-“pure water tutu re”
-“breadiii agege”
-passenger: “conductor, abeg my change!, driver, OWA o!”

i miss lagos

a friend’s friend is called RUZZEH…
his name is really RUSSEL.

we need to legalize “trafficate”, it cannot NOT be a word

I <3 my nigerianNESS

Lucid Lilith
Apr 6, 2010 at 1:22 pm

I remember primary school. That was the high point of my Eeengiri and Eeengiri-Igbo.
“I wii te teeesha and teeesha wii beetyuu”

OR this chant:

Onwele otu mbosi
N fu nwa snake agwo
N chuo ya run oso
Ogbapulu house uno
N tuuta knife nnma
N cutuo head isi
Ogba wa blood nmmiri
O die ya dead onwu

Apr 6, 2010 at 8:28 pm

This so interesting. I suppose making English over gives it a bit more flavor…LOL. I know growing up in the U.S,. we invented words that just makes sense to us or double up on words as well. Something that is really good is the good good. Very “spicey” is hot hot. While playing ball and we needed cleats with better grip and traction we needed more gription…LOL! And, my father’s favorite subjects were Maff, Anglish and Helt, and he is from Mississippi!

Apr 12, 2010 at 6:19 pm

haha I remember a time when I was little & I asked my aunt if we could go to the zoo. She asked me why & I said I wanted to see the hippopotamus. Then she looked at me like “whaaat?” Then she asked me to repeat what I said & I said “hippopotamus?” Then she said, “You mean HEE-POE-POE-TAH-MUSS?” Mannn, me & my sister was rollinn’ !

And I was talking to my mom one day, & I said “Hyperbole” & she said, “That is not how you pro-nouse it. It is ‘Hii-Pahh-Bowl’ ” Haha. Good Times.

Apr 18, 2010 at 8:20 pm

How about how we like to use two-worded insults: “stupid fool” “bloody fool” “stupid idiot” “compound fool”, etc. I think insults “enter well well” when they contain more than one word!

Aug 25, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Ok. it’s called pidgin ( I hope u feel the same way when you hear an American say “Twenny” instead of “TWENTY”, or when they say crap like “Imma let you finish” instead of “I’m going to let you finish” or “Gonna” instead of “Going to”… I could go on for miles,.. bad english isn’t just a Nigerian thing. Everybody partakes and just ‘cos u think it sounds ‘cool’ doesn’t make it any more correct than Sillpass or trafficate! They are all the same,.. MADE UP WORDS spoken with BAD ACCENTS!


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