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Grace Efezokhae: For the Love of Pidgin English



dreamstime_m_20233099I am easily attracted to people who are multilingual. It is such a beautiful thing to watch someone speak multiple languages fluently and easily switch between each of them while communicating. The manner in which Nse Ikpe Etim speaks impeccable English and Waffi English simultaneously in movies captivates me. By the way, Waffi has to be the most beautiful kind of Pidgin English.

The Nigerian Pidgin English can be traced to the time when European traders and colonialists came to trade with the locals and this had to be the provisional mode of communication. Over the years, it has evolved and continues to be a major mode of informal communication in Nigeria.

Scholars have argued that spoken Pidgin English accounts for poor grammatical errors and overall poor performance of English language among children and youths. There are millions of people who speak Pidgin and Queens English without interference of the other, but I guess it’s a matter of perspective. I came across the website, and I was thrilled to learn new words in our very own Pidgin English.

Some of the words we all know of and can be found in the site include;

Tanda– stand still

You dey find my mouth– Trying to make one say something

No be am– that’s not it

No dey yarn opatz for hia– Stop talking trash

Awoof– free things

Maga– gullible person

Katakata– commotion

Old tori– stale news

The matter the you see so– the issue at hand

No yawa– no problem

E heavy for mouth– unspeakable

See her place, see my place– She and I are neighbours

At all at all na im bad pass– not having any is worse

Tear race– run away

You don see the one wey senior devil– you have suffered

Sidon look na dog name– telling someone off

Pidgin English has been referred to as a razz mode of communication, but I want to believe that this lies in the colonial mentality we have, that appreciates everything foreign over our very own indigenous stuff. Sometimes, it breaks my heart that we don’t even appreciate our local dialects and it pains me that despite being an Esan girl, I speak Yoruba better than my mother tongue. I just console myself that at least I have knowledge of both Esan and Yoruba.

We really don’t have to wait for a Beyonce or a Leonard Di Caprio to say a sentence in Waffi English or sing a song and then we go on jubilating and then the video has two billion views on YouTube to validate its existence. That kind of validation that comes from a white man making us feel that ours is great is pathetic.

I agree that Pidgin English cannot be spoken in formal environments like in an office or a conference, but let’s let it be and take pride in it. It’s even more interesting that is a user friendly site and we can all go there and add other Pidgin English words and their meanings for the world to learn from.

Photo Credit: Diego Vito Cervo |

Grace Efezokahe is a finance professional based in Toronto, Ontario. She is an avid reader, writer and traveller who loves to travel and share her experiences for others to see the world through her eyes. She can be reached on [email protected].


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