Things you have to be born and raised in Nigeria to know

As some of you know, I’m Nigerian (born to Nigerian parents) but have grown up mostly in North America. My parents spoke Yoruba to each other but not really to us children, although in the way that children are able to, I picked up a few words. Five years ago, I suddenly really wanted to improve my understanding of the language, and learn the basics too, like the alphabet and my numbers. I had heard the alphabet and the numbers before, of course, told to me in that sing-song way that we learn the alphabet, but I had never sat down and wrote out all the letters and made sure I learned them. I ended up doing that.

So, I can now speak Yoruba at a level that most people would understand what I’m saying if I talk to them, as long as we’re speaking generally, without too much slang or pidgin (although I’m learning!). When it comes to absorbing those things that were or are a part of every day life in Nigeria, I think my ability to get that side of things is pretty much impossible…unless there is a dictionary out there, a picture dictionary that can explain those things I keep coming across on blogs and forums, but have no idea what they are. I have a general idea, naturally, but don’t really know.

What am I talking about? I’m talking mostly about things that you’d find in Nigeria, material things, like Omo detergent, things that you wouldn’t have to explain to a fellow native. Here are a few that I’ve figured out in the last week.

Mills and Boon for one. That’s right, until two days ago all I knew is that it was the name of a book publisher, and I very cleverly (*ahem*) deduced that because the people discussing Mills and Boon would often use the words “read” and “books” (plural, so I knew it wasn’t just one book…really, I’m brilliant). I am in the midst of looking for a new design for this blog so I was checking out other blogs, and I came across the blog of a woman who writes novels and has written for Mills and Boon so I googled Mills and Boon finally and voila! It’s like Harlequin! And Mills and Boon was actually purchased by the Canada branch of Harlequin in 1971! (You didn’t know you came here for a history lesson abi?)

Another word or phrase I didn’t know the meaning of was JJC. I had deduced that it meant someone who’s a novice or an amateur, because in a lot of forums when you first join your “title” is JJC. But it wasn’t until I was reading Abbie’s blog that I saw that JJC stands for Johnny Just Come! I would never have guessed.

Other terminology that I faked complete knowledge of was indomie noodles. Again, I had figured they must be like Ramen noodles, but then I read someone’s blog entry and she was telling her boo that they were nothing like Ramen. Well google came to my rescue again and I have to say, they look just like Ramen. Oya someone explain the difference to me.

What other words or phrases might a non-Native Nigerian have trouble understanding?

12 thoughts on “Things you have to be born and raised in Nigeria to know

  1. Meeen i am getting good at this…as in commenting first on people's blog!

    gal you funny o! so you no sabi all the things and things wey you list for there!(lol ok sorry just trying to be cheeky!)

    Okay do you know what tom-tom is?it is this minty…more like menthol infested,black coloured sweet manufactured by cadbury Nigeria…ok i actually remember that cos i just offered a colleague of mine(oyinbo…she's loving it sha o!).

    you know what,why not run a list of the things you don't know by me or put it on your blog…and the "pros" will break it down for you!(lol)

  2. Na Wa is a multi purpose exclamation that can mean different things depending on the context.

    Wahala- trouble

    puctuating every sentence with oh. All naija speak. I love it especially when my expatraite freinds learn them and use them apprpraitely.

  3. @No Limit – tom-tom is a perfect example! I remember this girl on one forum going on about it and yup, I had no idea it was candy…I thought it was a biscuit

    I don't know what I don't know! I need you guys to tell me what I'm missing out on!

    @naturesgentletouch – thanks o! I'm happy to say I know all of those. That would be cute to get your expat friends to be adding oh/o to everything.

  4. My lil sister loves indomie (she is the only one of us that was born in Nigeria and went to college there) and for the life of me I can't figure out why.

    See I've been to nigeria and I still have difficulty with yoruba. Reason is because my parents are Ondo, they speak Ondo to each other, Dad always spoke English to us kids while my mom always talked to us in Ondo, so much so she talks to my son in Ondo and I have to remind her he is Nigerian in name only lol. But we never respond to mom in Ondo, always English. And like you, as long as we don't go too deep into the yoruba language, I can usually decipher the gist of what's going on. I understand Ondo much better than I undertsand yoruba and sometimes mistake Ondo words for yoruba. It's so complicated.

    About the JJC, I laughed so hard when you commented about that. I thought everyone knew what that was. lol

  5. @ Abbie: Ondo is a Yoruba dialect. It helps to think of Yoruba as a central language with many dialects/accents… just as you have the English language with American, Australian, New Zealand, scottish, London, and Northern British accents/versions/usage etc.

    I've been thinking of doing a post on naija slangs for non-native speakers/readers in blogville. Don't know when I'd do it but someone might beat me to it, of course. Mills and Boon is another one that's been in my head for a while.

    Don't understand the thing with indomie noodles either. But my son who's raised in the UK loves them too. Maybe it's a genetic thing! Lol.

  6. lol…speakin of 'tom tom', there's 'chocomilo', its this cube-shaped sweet-like thing, i remember it being so hard but sweet all the same..

    um…dang, y cant i think of anythin else??

    when i do, i'll def come back!

  7. Indomie for some reason looks like every other noodle but tastes different, not better, just more like a coming home quick dish for those of us otherside home….guess it would be like saying MC D's burgers taste like KFC's??? see the logic?

    Mills and boons..for some reason those romance novels were sent probably by ship to nigeria and it was our female playboy….without the pictures..

  8. LOL. I had to laugh at the mills and boon one. I grew up reading mills and boon. Way b4 i was old enough to be reading those types of books. They were my bread at butter.

    Ah, JJC…….. what can i say. You can't go to a naija bording school and not know what jjc means.

    I don't think there's a difference between ramen and indomie noodles. Na the same thing to me. I can't remember if indomie are thicker noodles cos i've always hated the thing and never really ate it back in nigeria. But in boarding school, my friends loved it cos u could make it with cold water. Anyway, long story short, it's essentially the same thing.

    If u come across any word or phrase u don't understand on my blog, i will be happy to explain it. Although, u did a pretty good job with these ones.

  9. LOL! Read lots of blogs and forums by Nigerians babe, I'm sure you'll keep coming up with "strange" words and expressions. Don't worry we are here to help you break them down.

    Hope you are good?

  10. 'I'm coming' while walking away

    'ebe ano' – the place to be

    'wetin' – what?

    'Wetin dey happen' – what's going on?

    'Danfo' – public transport bus

    'Molue' – bigger public transpport bus

    'of winches na?' – whats happening?

    'show' – come here

    'I don tire' – I'm tired

  11. Hi

    once I had a book on Naija slangs, well, language changes, what was used 20 years ago is no longer actual, and some people reading to book today told me every much of in is no longer in use, so, if you live abroad for many years and you go back to Nigeria now. you might see all what u have learned useless.

    Where are you going to in Nigeria this winter?


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