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Saturday, 10 March 2018

You should know how these 5 terms became part of Pidgin English

Words like Troway are an amalgam of "Throw" and Away", but how did we come about "Dormot"?


Over 75 million NIgerians speak pidgin.  (The Economist/Claudio Munoz )

Nobody really knows where or when pidgin started or how it became a thing.

The obvious explanation would be that when confronted with the overwhelming presence of English-speaking whites, the local people had to try their best to pick up bits of the language too so they could communicate.

But you can only learn so much at a time so English met local languages and euphemisms. The product was Pidgin English.

Nigerian Pidgin is only one of a family of creole languages, which are basically stable languages that are developed from a mixture of different languages.

Save for Jamaican Patios though, Nigerian pidgin and its slangs have spread far and wide to become the most widely spoken variation of pidgin on the continent, and even influenced the slang of other forms of creole.


This woman, Helen Parker-Jayne Isibor is on a quest to champion Nigerian vernacular and has launched the first ever Pidgin Opera.  (Mail & Guardian)

Sometimes, it is easy to see how some of these slangs came together.  The merger of the two English words, “throw” and “away” gave us “Troway”, a word that means discarding or getting rid of something.

In other cases like dormot or mud, it’s not that easy.

The origin of your favourite Nigerian slangs is often as interesting as the words themselves, so here are 10 of those slangs and how they came into being.

(1)Yarn:

In its most commonly used form, Yarn means to tell a story, have a conversation or spin an elaborate tale with such exaggeration that it is became larger than life.

That last explanation may have given you a clue as to where it comes from. In English, yarn refers to a long continuous stretch of interlocked fibres that is used to make textiles.


Nigerians love to yarn when we can, and pur stories are elaborate and vivid.  (Naija gist)

To spin a yarn, in English slang, means to create a wild story. Naturally, Nigerians looked at the less useful parts of that phrase and left the only part that truly matters.

(2) Fabu:

To tell someone “not to give you fabu” means to ask them to stop spinning lies or telling you something that never happened.

Fabu means a made-up story or an elaborate web of lies. The origin of this word is to be found in the English term, “fable”, which refers to a literary genre built around fantasy and features stories of animals, fantastic creatures, fairies, ogres etc.

It is easy to see why such unreal stories could be equated with lies, although how we exchanged the “le” at the end of “fable” for a “u” is something so Nigerian that it’s not worth explaining.

(3) Domot or Dormot:

When a person says “siddon for the dormot”, it means to sit down by the door, at the entrance to a place. This particular slang is a testament to Nigerian ingenuity.


Here we see a very beautiful front door or "domot", as you may prefer to call it. Good-looking "domots" hardly every get burdened by any trouble.  (Sarah Jacobs)

“Dormot” is an amalgam of two words, “Door” and “Mouth” which basically means the mouth of the door, or if you want to be sophisticated, one’s front porch.

The term can also be used to mean a person's personal space. In that sense, one could say "Why you come drop trouble for my domot?", meaning " Why are you bringing trouble into my space? ".

We really don’t give ourselves enough credit in this country.

(4) Siddon:

Anyone who's done something as basic as watching a Nigerian movie and thought about speaking pidgin before must have muttered the term “siddon’ to themselves once or twice.

Siddon is one of the most common terms in the language, meaning to “take a seat” or simply just “sit”. Which is why it makes sense that it is the baby of two words that explain its meaning, “sit” and “down”.

While everyone else is satisfied to say sit down, our pidgin combines the two into one to produce “siddon”. Legends, that’s what we are.

(5) Waka:

Nigerians are a mobile people so I imagine somewhere between moving around and trying to describe it in a term that could be understood by anyone with a fair understanding of English, we came up with the term “waka”.


Waka around the streets of Lagos on a fine Sunday afternoon and understand the real meaning of the word.  (Buzz Nigeria)

Waka is a bastardized version of the term “walk” which basically means to “walk”, as in, move around on your own two feet.

 As a testament to our ingenuity, the term “waka” has been inserted into other hybrids to create terms like “waka-pass”, “waka-about” etc.

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