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Language wahala: Different strokes for different folks

By Ebele Orakpo

It was as if commuters in the CMS-bound commuter bus this Tuesday morning, unanimously decided to create their own happiness despite the heart-rending news items bombarding them from all directions in the past couple of weeks as they laughed all the way to the final bus-stop.

The conversation started when a commuter by name, Tunji, put a call through to his friend.

“Hello Olaniyi (glory is in wealth). Bawo ni (How are you)?

Another commuter by name Okey, burst out laughing and as soon as Tunji ended the call, he looked enquiringly at Okey who was still laughing for no apparent reason. “Why are you looking at me like that? I am laughing because of your friend’s name. I just remembered the incident that happened a long time ago in the Eastern part of the country,” whereupon, he launched into a very funny narrative.

“A Yoruba man named Olaniyi found a lady he wanted to marry and as tradition demands, he went to the girl’s home town to perform the traditional rites. Everything was going on smoothly until some elders of the lady’s family went to her and asked her the name of the bridegroom and she replied Olaniyi. You could have heard a pin drop.

The silence was so loud. Suddenly, they found their tongues and all chorused ‘tufia.’  One of the elders then asked the perplexed lady if she was crazy. ‘You want to marry a good-for-nothing, a vagabond, someone that will amount to nothing? Please, we do not want to be part of this madness.
If you want to commit suicide, count us out’.”

As the laughter was dying down, Steve said: “And bawo ni equally means something different in Hausa. It means ‘there is nobody’; so when a Yoruba man asks a Hausa man bawo ni, the mischievous ones will reply thus: ‘Ga weni, ga weni, wai ba woni, meaning: ‘Here is a person, and here is another person and you are saying there is nobody.”

“Oh, what about the Yoruba guy who went to visit his Igbira friend in Okene. On arrival, the Igbira guy ran and embraced his friend and in his excitement, he decided to call his father to come and share in his joy. He said: “Ota mi de, ada mi da? The visiting friend took to his heels and the friend could not understand what was wrong with his friend. In Igbira, it means ‘my friend has arrived, where is my father to help me welcome him’; while in Yoruba, it means, ‘My enemy is here, get me my cutlass.”

“Ha, this one pass Tower of Babel incident oo,” noted Janet.

“I heard about an Owerri lady that came on a visit to Lagos and went to an eatery to eat. She asked for garri and soup. She was served soup first because the garri was not ready. By the time the woman came with the garri, the hungry lady had eaten half of the soup and the eatery owner went ballistic. ‘O ni were ni (you must be mad),’ she screamed at the lady. The lady gave her a disarming smile and calmly replied: “O lee ekpa ishi mara shi awum onye Owerri? (How did you know I am from Owerri).” It was the turn of the eatery owner to be confused,” said Comfort.

“There is also the story of a Fulani man who went to a Yoruba food seller to ask where he could ease himself. ‘Arniya, ina zan tutu? (Female heathen, where can I defecate?) asked the Fulani man. The woman who did not understand a word of what was said replied: ‘Kilo nje be? (What is that?)’ Smiling happily, the Fulani man said: ‘O ho, nan ake japa miki shi? (Great! This is where they deposit it for you?),” narrated Mercy. “You can imagine the rest of the story.”

At this point, people were holding their sides as they laughed so hard.

“Oh, I love Naija,” declared Okey.


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