Friday, 15 March 2013

Nigerian students and use of slangs

Just look at those girls coming, those two are 'Titus,' as you can see, they are slim. That one is a 'shark' because she is loaded, and the other one is 'Cote' because she is plump. None of them are really 'endowed', we use endowed for a girl that is spotless and perfect to look at", Lekan Rabiu said, as his friends oohed, aahed nodded in agreement.

If it were a normal conversation among four undergraduate guys, there would have been no need for explanation of terms. But this was a lecture of some kind, and Lekan and his friends were the lecturers of slang 101, the student: A quadlife on a quest to permeate the slang-domof the Nigerian student.

From secondary schools especially with boarding systems, were 'bunkie' means 'bunk mate' and 'fap' means 'steal', teachers, parents and outsiders generally, can get lost in the lingua franca of students. But the slang situation borders beyond lack of understanding by external parties, some scholars believe that the use of slangs adversely affects students' use of the English language.

Martha Nguemo Terna-Abah, a lecturer at the Department Of English And Literacy Studies, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria is one of such. In her study, "The Prevalence Of Slang Use Among The Students Of Students of Basic Remedial Studies/Abu Funtua And Its Effects On The Teaching Of English As A Second Language."

She argues that "Slang words and expressions filter into students' write-ups thereby hampering meaning, hence, effective communication especially when such slang items are the same with those of the Standard English but of different meanings depending on whether they are used as slang or otherwise. These include slang items like dry (uninteresting), blast (defecate) crash (steep) shot gun (unexpected test) pepper (money) killer (glutton), joint (cigarette containing marijuana) tapping (okay) flash (lies) and many more."

However, Jibola Olubiyi, Bosun Anyankoha, and Ubaka Moore all undergraduates at the University of Lagos do not believe that the use of slangs affects their command of the English language, especially in writing. When asked about the rationale behind the use of slangs, they gave reasons ranging from the fact that it is an indirect way to make jest of someone, talk about people in a way that they won't understand, or simply "make someone vex." The last objective here must have been accomplished as the use of slangs recently 'vexed' one of lecturer out of class.

One of them narrated: "The lecturer was teaching and said 'first of all', all of a sudden everybody replied 'go down low', it happened twice, so the lecturer got upset and left." The song 'first of all' by artiste Olamide is not the first set of lyrics to find its way onto students' vocabulary. Everyone knows that words like Koko and Kokolette are the fault of Koko master 'D'banj.'

Song lyrics are just a tip of the iceberg; As words like 'sebi, abi and kai' stain the vocabulary of the average Nigerian, slangs used on campus continue to find their way to students' diction on the compass of indigenous languages. A common slang on campuses, especially in western Nigeria is the term, "Were re o!" Got from the Yoruba language, it is used to refer to an abnormal person.

Another term 'TeP' is what many will call a complex word. 'Te' is also got from the Yoruba dictionary and is used to refer to pressing something down for a long time. 'P' here implies the letter 'P' on the keyboard of a computer. Literally, it makes no sense, but in campus terms 'TeP' and its synonym 'Ctrl+P' is used for someone who takes things too personal.

As Remi Adelakun, a student of Geology put it, "there are some things that you can't properly express in English language, for such scenarios, you can use a slang that accurately expresses what you have in mind. It's much like speaking in tongues." Toyin Obalende, who is studying economics said that using slangs is the best way to communicate as it entails the use of short, explicit terms. She said: "Another thing is that when you use it at the right moment, you get approval from your friends.

This assertion of peer approval proved Terna-Abah right when she asserted that: "Unlike those days when students strived to attain a degree of mastery in the language, students see slang as providing a form of status and an easy way out for them where slang items are readily used to replace words which are unknown instead of consulting their dictionaries. It is unfortunate to see that these bad students ridicule other fellow students' effort attaining a certain mastery of the Standard English while they envy and copy those who are proficient in the use of slang."

Adverse effects or not, slangs are here to stay so you might as well learn them so you don't get lost. Culled from the campus section of here's a list of some slangs and their meanings:

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