Uduak Ubak’s Blog: The Origin and Beauty of Pidgin English in Nigeria

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Listening to the radio can really be an interesting thing to do especially when in traffic. It’s like the much-needed company you need to take your mind off the traffic situation especially if the program aired is an interesting one.

Personally, there are some stations and programs I love listening to but I think my favourite has become those programs done in Pidgin English ( the Nigerian local English). I love to listen to the News in Pidgin English mainly because it makes it less tragic.  A good example is when the word ‘died’ is replaced with ‘delete’.When used in a sentence, we have something like, “the man don delete” meaning “the man has died”. Another sentence in pidgin is “dem don blue-tooth the guy” meaning “the guy is under a spell”

It’s always really funny but what baffles me is how the words are coined. Who makes them up? It seems our vocabulary is endless, boundless.

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It’s also funny how regular English words can be changed or twisted to mean different things. Like the pidgin word ‘dress’ means to “move a bit”. When used in a sentence, you have something like, ‘abeg dress’, meaning “please, move a bit.” At the end of the day, you might actually be saying something to someone and he/she has a different understanding of what you are saying.So, where exactly did this language originate from?Pidgin English or broken English (as it is called) originated during the slave trade era as a means of communication between the Europeans and the Africans. It was the language used in their business transaction.

After that era, the language stayed on as a means of communication amongst the people because of the many different African languages; In Nigeria, for example there are over five hundred different languages.Like most languages, it has really evolved with new words been added on regular interval.

Our entertainers especially the comedians and musicians have made it really popular in recent times, with most of the comedy sketches and music lyrics being rendered in this language.

It is fast becoming the official language of the Nigerian people, at least it is used by majority of the people. Below are example of words in this unique language and it’s meaning.

Wetin  -what
Fall hand – disappoint
Tey tey -long time
Like play like play- jokingly
Comot – leave

In your part of Africa, do you have your pidgin English or pidgin French? What are your most hilarious pidgin words and what do they mean? Please share with me in the comments section below. Cheers

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© 2015 – 2017, Uduak Ubak. All rights reserved.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Am really smiling right now. Nice write up Ubaka. I stumbled on this article while I was researching on previous works on pidgin. I am working on the uses of Nigerian Pidgin in Nigerian stand up comedies as my final year thesis. Naija people no dey dull anytin. language sef we dey kill am. Iove my country.

  2. Really interesting! Because some words like « Sabi » ; « pikin » , « waka » etc. are also used in surinam (Dutch Guyana in South America).

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