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12 Notorious Nigerian English Intensifiers That Shouldn’t Creep Into Your Essay

12 Notorious Nigerian English Intensifiers That Shouldn’t Creep Into Your Essay

Ever observed how filled with superfluous, space-consuming and time-wasting exaggerative words the Nigerian version of the English Language is becoming? You wonder which words I’m talking about? They include “gaan,” “sef,” “shebi,” etc. Look around, and you’d see that expressions like “Wetin you want gaan?” (What do you want?), “Gimme my share of the ego nau” (Give me my share of the money please), etc. are fast on the increase.

Such unnecessary intensifiers have a notorious frequency in informal discourses where communication takes place through what is popularly called ‘broken English’ – the corrupted local adaptation of the Standard English. They are mostly words enlisted from the native Nigerian languages into the English Language with little or no consciousness about their impropriety. Experts call this ‘linguistic interference’.

‘What are the qualms I’ve got about that?’ you may be asking. Yes! There’s no problem with such usage within the confines of the marketplace, motor pack, Ajegunle city and Warri streets where the ‘broken English’ reigns supreme.

My preoccupation is the alarming rate at which these flamboyant, gibberish, emphasising words are creeping into the formal speeches and writings of even well-educated speakers of the Nigerian English. I’m not talking about the ‘broken English’ here…my focus is on the usage of these redundant words in official settings where widespread ignorance and neglect about their incorrectness seem to be gradually giving them legitimacy in the Nigerian English.

You probably have fallen into this trap yourself before or seen someone write such words in a grant proposal, a project report, an essay entry or even a newspaper article. Now, as an essayist who writes to win, you should know these grammatical infelicities that make your essays stink and the way to bypass them. Thank goodness many of them have apt Standard English equivalent.

Now let’s take some exercises, shall we?

  • Abi, ba, kothese are often misused after questions to achieve reinforcement.

The way out? Simply replace them with “right” when they end a question.

In your essay, don’t write:

You’d come to my wedding, ba? Your husband’s coming too, ko? Please say something, abi you won’t come at all?

In your winning essay, polish the above junk to read:

You’d come to my wedding, right? Your husband’s coming too, right? Please say something, or you won’t come at all?

  • Shei, shebi: these words are incorrectly used to mostly begin sentences, although they do appear at the      end too.

Evade gibberish sentences like:

I haven’t written for months. Shei I can get invaluable writing tips from Naija Writers’ Coach?” Shebi Abdullahi is the CEO of Naija Writers’ Coach?

Instead write stellar sentences like:

I haven’t written for months. Can’t I get invaluable writing tips from Naija Writers’ Coach?” Isn’t Abdullahi the CEO of Naija Writers’ Coach?

  • Nau, jor: these words  mostly appear where an appeal or a request is made. The latter may appear with a command or an outcry.

An example of such incorrect usage is:

Ibrahim, help me with this luggage nau! As for you Mary, get out of my sight jor!

The correct thing to say is:

Ibrahim, help me with this luggage please!As for you Mary, get out of my sight at once!

  • Fa, sha, o: often appearing after declarative expressions, these words are better discarded…of course without a replacement.

Never write:

My parents are Nigerians fa. I was born in London sha. Please when you’re filling my details, don’t forget I have dual citizenship o.

The above stinks right? So instead, write:

My parents are Nigerians. I was born in London though. Please when you’re filling my details, don’t forget I have dual citizenship.

  • Gaan, sef: these intensifiers wrongly find their way into interrogative sentences.

Except you must speak Ajegunle English, never say:

Who’s this Oxygen gaan?” What does he do sef?

What’s grammatical is to delete those gibberish words as in:

Who’s this Oxygen?” What does he do?

It’s been fun, abi? Oops! I’ve just used one of those foul-smelling intensifiers! You see how easy one can slip into the error? The lesson is: closely watch what you write; be on guard.

Do you know more of these intensifiers or you’ve been caught using them in formal settings? Let’s have your say in the comment section.

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About Muhammed Abdullahi Tosin

Writer. Difference Maker. Entrepreneur. Author, Your Right To Write & Vertical Writing. Winner, 11 Writing Prizes.

Comments

  1. To start with,i really want to aopreciate your efforts on bringing writers attention to this common indigenous intensifiers usage in essay writings.

    I would like you to understand that writing has various styles or approaches.For example, an essay topic about a local community (Jalala),to attract the readers attention,a writer that imports common words in d people’s(jalalans) language to drive home his point has not commit any error.Though,he has no freedom of words import like those poccessed by the poet(poetic license).

    Also, i want you to understand that we have Nigerian Variety of English or Standard Nigerian English.For a writer to style his work in the above manner is not a suicide in writing.Some incorrect usage in Standard British English(SBE) are acceptable in AE in official writings.

    Finally, the audience determines a speech writing, same thing also applies to essay writing.

    • Hello Nurudeen,
      Good to have your submissions. You’re right that using such words in appropriate settings isn’t a grammatical blunder. That’s why I said in the piece: “There’s no problem with such usage within the confines of the marketplace, motor pack, Ajegunle city and Warri streets where the ‘broken English’ reigns supreme.”
      But using them in formal writings would just not be impressive. Except of course if the writer shows the usage is deliberate, say by italicising it or placing it in inverted commas.

  2. oloso shukrah o says:

    I appreciate this write up of yours,more grease to your elbow Abdullah.
    I have also noticed some of what you have stated in my English,though I am very conscious when am writing not to include them but have actually seen someone write a formal letter like that and the CLO of where am serving rejected her letter after he informed her of the manner in which the letter was written,she apologised and said she was used to writing like that.
    My appeal to us is that,we should try as much as possible to shun the use of those “intensifiers” when writing and minimize their usage when speaking
    Thank you once again for this wonderful piece!

    • Wao! Thanks Shukrah. It’s awesome knowing you stopped to read this and seeing your comments. The additional first-hand insights you provided are much appreciated. That shows I’m not just fantasizing that such nasty intensifiers get wrongly used in formal writings. 🙂

  3. Adediran Oluwasegun says:

    You are really doing a good job, therefore, keep it up. God will continue to multiply ur wisdom & grant you a perfect health.The sky shall be your limit.BRAVO!

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