One cannot afford to ignore the impact of Nigerians when it comes to the English language in this world. It takes unique forms that are shaped by the legacies of British colonialism, just like any other British language. Nigerians have taken control of the English language and such an impact has now been taken into account by the Oxford English Dictionary.
In describing how she has taken control of the English language, renowned Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie once said, "My English-speaking is rooted in a Nigerian experience and not in a British or American or Australian one. I have taken ownership of English." The relationship between English and Nigerians is now more intricate than ever, and they have now owned it as their own language.
The Oxford English Dictionary added 29 new Nigerian words and phrases to its new edition, acknowledging the gigantic impact that Nigerians have had to the English language. The words are derived from the Hausa and Yoruba languages, as well as other unique Nigerian coinages in use since the second half of the twentieth century, mostly in the 1970s and 1980s. The Oxford English Dictionary said that English is a language used by millions of Nigerians on a daily basis and they found it imperative to add some of the words to their latest edition.
The word "buka" relating to Nigerian street food finds its way to the latest edition, and it is borrowed from Hausa and Yoruba as first attested in 1972. It refers to a roadside restaurant or street stall that sells local fare at low prices. "Kannywood," the word articulating the Nigerian Hausa-language film industry, based in the city of Kano is also a new entry. The shortening of existing English words as evidenced by "guber" is also a way some of these Nigerian words came into being. It is the shortened form of "gubernatorial" - so Nigerians, for example, would call a person running for governor a "guber candidate". The earliest quotation of this word is dated 1989.
Other new entries include "Ember months" which refer to the last months of the year; September to December. "To rub minds" which implies consulting and working together and "barbing salon," a place where one gets a haircut are also the new entries. "Chop" - a colloquial from Ghana and Nigeria which means to eat is another word featuring in the new lexicon.
The Oxford English Dictionary's World English Editor, Danica Salazar mentioned that the words were added as part of a design ensuring that the dictionary mirrored the full spectrum of the English language.
"The Oxford English Dictionary is a historical dictionary and its job is to tell the story of the development of the English vocabulary," she said.
"A very important part of this is how English has become a global language used in different parts of the world by people from different backgrounds. And these people are creating new words that give different flavors of the language.
"So we are recognizing there are now many different centers of English around the world - and that one of these happens to be Nigeria, which is in fact one of the largest English-speaking countries in the world."
Header image credit - CNN