"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: July 2011

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Why Africans in America Lie about Being “Princes” and “Princesses”

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

A discussion I had with an American friend of mine a couple of days ago inspired this column. One of the enduring stereotypes about Africans living in America is that they tend to have a supernormal fondness for claiming to be descended from distinguished royal lineages. It’s the basis of a widespread sneer among Americans that every African in America is either a “prince” or a “princess.”

Of course, this is an over-generalization. Many Africans who are not descended from royal families don’t claim royal bloodline, and many Africans who claim to be princes and princesses are indeed what they claim to be. But this does not detract from the fact that there is an inordinately large number of Africans in America who claim to be scions of royal stocks both to compensate for their low station here and to impress their American hosts.

I had a particularly hilarious encounter with this phenomenon in my very first week in the United States. A group of Americans who welcomed me in the city I first lived when I came here asked if I knew a certain Nigerian man whose name I shall conceal here. Except for the fact that the name sounded distinctly Nigerian, I had no earthly clue who he was. Then one of them, a lady, asked if I was really Nigerian. “Are you perhaps from Niger Republic or something?” she asked. I assured her I was Nigerian.

She later explained that she wanted to be doubly sure of my Nigerianness because the man they were talking about had assured them that everybody in Nigeria knew him. Since I said I was a journalist, she thought I had even more reasons to know him.

Nigeria is a country of  over150 million people: how could one person, who isn’t the president of the country, make such an insanely exaggerated claim to fame? I wondered aloud.  Well, my American acquaintances told me the man said the source of his wild popularity was that he was a “triple high chief” and was the “king in absentia” of three different Nigerian communities. He said the attainment of such a distinguished status had no parallel in Nigeria’s history. Because of the unusualness of his achievement, he was reported to have said, his renown had traveled the length and breadth of Nigeria. Hard as I tried, I couldn’t suppress the burst of deep, loud, hearty laughter that escaped from my mouth.

When the Americans told the “triple high chief” about me, he invited me to his house. After a light, informal conversation, he asked me in a hushed voice what I stood to gain from ridiculing him before Americans. “Everybody is a prince or princess here,” he said. “But in my case, I actually got three chieftaincy titles from three communities in my state. The part about my being a king in absentia for three communities is their own interpretation of my being a high chief in three communities.”
After only a few minutes of discussing with this “triple high chief,” I knew he was a double-dyed crook. He seemed to be luxuriating in plentiful wealth, but no one knew for sure what he did for a living. They just assumed that he inherited his wealth from his Nigerian royal ancestors.

When the man offered to pay me $500 every month for just being his “Nigerian brother” I rejected his magnanimity and became even more suspicious of him. I never visited him a second time.

The story of the “triple high chief” is an extreme example of the kinds of off-the-wall claims to royalty that some of our people make here. Many local news magazines actually did personality profiles on this man. I used to fall off my chair each time I read the wildly over-inflated and patently false claims he made in the interviews.

But why do Americans believe people like that? Why do claims of association with royalty tickle the fancy of Americans? I have three theories.

First, Americans have an ambivalent relationship with royalty: they are simultaneously repulsed and fascinated by it. The country prides itself on being the world’s first modern, truly republican government where ascent to leadership is not based on the often unearned privilege of bloodline but on popular assent. At the same time, American youth popular culture glamorizes royalty with unnerving obsessiveness. Disney stories, for instance, are almost always about princes and princesses. Therefore, little girls and boys grow up fantasizing about finding their "prince charming" or saving their "princesses in distress."

So Americans grow up with a subconscious reverence for the privileges and cultural capital of royalty. That’s also why British royal weddings are such a huge deal in this country that otherwise despises inherited authority.

Second, black Americans, who are great suckers of stories of African "princes" and "princesses" in America, cherish the narrative about their ancestors being princes and princesses before they were captured by rival royal families and sold into slavery. This is, of course, not entirely true. But this self-serving, historically suspect narrative helps some of them to cultivate a sense of self-worth in a society where they have been dehumanized for hundreds of years. So claims of regal descent by some Africans in America resonate with some of them on a vicarious level.

Thirdly, many Americans have unquestioningly accepted the racialized fantasies of Africans as invariably poor and deprived people. These fantasies dispose them to imagine that only the few Africans that are privileged to be descended from royalty can afford to travel to and live in America.

However, thanks to the ubiquity of 419 scams, the narrative of the African prince or princess in America is crumbling. Now, claims to being an African prince or princess invite loud or suppressed guffaw at best and quiet suspicion at worst. When I discussed the topic with my American friend, we both had a great laugh.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Most Popular Mangled Expressions in Nigerian English

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Let me start by pointing out that mangled expressions (as some people derisively call expressions that are distorted from their “original” idiomatic forms) abide in every variety of the English language. They aren’t exclusive to Nigerian English.

In native varieties of the English language, some mangled expressions have become so popular and so widely used that they have acquired sufficient social prestige to constitute new standards. Examples are “first off” (which is the mangled form of “first of all”), “most everyone” (which is the distorted form of “almost everyone”), “out the window” (where the preposition “of” is dispensed with), etc.

It’s not only the lexical properties of expressions that are often the victims of mangling; popular sayings and aphorisms are also routinely distorted by native speakers. For instance, the popular expression “blood, sweat and tears” is actually a distortion of Winston Churchill's famous wartime speech to the British nation. His exact words are: “blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” The expression “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” is a distortion of “a little learning is a dangerous thing.”

Similarly, the expression “there is method in my madness” is a misquotation of a passage from Shakespeare's Hamlet where Polonius observes: “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.” Likewise, the expression “Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink” is a misquotation of British Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge's line in Ancient Mariner. In it he writes: “Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.”

But we have all got used to these misquotations—or are not even conscious of them as distortions in the first place—because they are repeated by the most educated people in the English-speaking world, and have been passed down to us. So we in Nigeria are only adding to a list that is already too long, except that we do not enjoy the same privilege as native speakers of the English in having our own mutilations conferred respectability over time. 

Our deviations are forever condemned to being socially stigmatized as aberrant because we lack the cultural and social capital of native speakers of the language. My object in pointing out the following popular mangled expressions in Nigerian English is not to ridicule them but to simply call attention to them.

1. “Be rest assured.” The fixed English idiom that this Nigerian English expression apes is “rest assured.” It means to be certain. But it is rare in Nigerian English for the expression to be rendered without the pointless and intrusive “be.” The following sentence is an example of how this phrase regularly occurs in popular Nigerian English: “You should BE rest assured that I will not disappoint you.” The “be” in the phrase is superfluous. Native speakers of the English language don’t include it.

I can’t locate the source of this distortion, except to point out that what grammarians call the habitual, uninflected “be” (that is, where the verb “to be” doesn’t change form under any circumstance) occurs a lot in Nigerian Pidgin English (such as in the expression “I be don see am today,” i.e., “I have seen him today”), in African-American Vernacular English (such as in the expression “she be mean to me,” i.e., “she is mean to me”) and in many English-based pidgins and creoles. I am tempted to argue that the addition of “be” before the idiom “rest assured” in Nigerian English is attributable to the influence of Nigerian Pidgin English. Or, perhaps, it is inspired by a false analogy from expressions like "be careful," "be nice," etc.

2. “I appreciate.” When I lived in Nigeria, this expression was not part of the repertoire of popular speech. Its widespread use in contemporary Nigerian English must be the result of the relentless cross-border linguistic flows that the Internet has enabled. The phrase is clearly a poor mimicry of “I appreciate it,” the alternative expression for “thank you” in America, Canada, Britain, and other native-speaker linguistic climes. Without the addition of “it,” “this,” or “that,” the phrase can only mean that the speaker or writer habitually shows appreciation but for nothing in particular; it does not convey the sense that he or she is thankful or grateful for a specific thing. The first time someone said “I appreciate” to me in Nigeria, I couldn’t resist asking: “you appreciate what?” As you can probably tell, that expression drives me crazy!

3. “To be at the safer side.” The Standard English idiom that this expression distorts is “to be on the safe side.”  It means to be cautious or safe—or to err on the side of safety or caution.  This seems to me like a sloppy distortion because it violates two basic grammatical rules. First, “on” is the preposition that almost always co-occurs with the noun “side” when it signifies location (e.g. "he is on my side"). Second, the word “safer” is a comparative adjective and comparative adjectives are used only when two things are being compared. Plus, comparative adjectives always co-occur with the conjunction “than,” except in situations where the comparison is apparent.

4. “He is in soup.” The standard rendering of this idiom is “in the soup.” Without the definite article “the,” the expression would mean something other than its conventional idiomatic meaning, that is, in trouble or experiencing difficulty. “He is in soup” could mean that someone has literally fallen into a pot of soup. One of the characteristics of idioms is that their grammatical properties are often fixed and unchangeable. This quality is called grammatical fixity, as I’ve pointed out many times here.

 Nigerian newspapers are clearly to blame for the mangling of this idiom. One of the rules of (daily) newspaper headline writing is that articles (i.e., the words “the,” “a,” and “an”) should always be dispensed with. In line with this rule, copyeditors in Nigerian newspapers cast headlines about people being “in soup,” which is perfectly legitimate. The problem is that the general populace has now adopted and internalized this “headlinese” as if it were conventional, everyday English.

5. “You cannot eat your cake and have it.” Native speakers of the English language usually render this expression as “you cannot HAVE your cake and EAT it.” The sense the expression conveys is that once you’ve eaten your cake, you can’t have it again. I am the first to admit that this sounds rather illogical. I can have my cake and then eat it afterwards. But language, especially the English language, is not often governed by logic. The history of this idiomatic proverb particularly proves this point.

When the expression first appeared in the English language in 1564 in John Heywood’s collection of English proverbs titled “A dialogue Conteinyng the Nomber in Effect of All the Prouerbes in the Englishe Tongue,” it was rendered as “wolde you bothe eate your cake, and have your cake?” The modern form of the expression, where the “having” of the cake precedes the “eating” of the cake, started only in 1812, according to linguistic historians. So, in a way, Nigerians are more faithful to the original rendering of the expression than modern native English speakers. I call this the mangling of a mangled expression!

However, Nigerians also tend to substitute “cannot” in the expression with “can never.” I hold Evi Edna Ogoli’s 1980s hit song “You Can Never Eat Your Cake and Have It” responsible for this.

6. “More grease to your elbow.” The correct form of this peculiarly British English expression is “more power to your elbow.” It is used to praise people and wish them continued success in what they do. The expression came into British English by way of Irish English. Although it has lost currency in contemporary British English, it is still actively used in Australian, Indian, and Pakistani English. The usual form of the expression in American (and increasingly British) English is “more power to you!”

It is still a mystery to me why Nigerians have chosen to delete the word “power” from the expression and replace it with “grease.” No other variety of the English language (except, perhaps, Ghanaian English, which shares so many similarities with Nigerian English) lubricates the expression with “grease”! I once speculated that the mangling arose out of a false attraction to the expression “elbow grease,” which means “hard work.” But, upon deeper reflection, I am dubious of the plausibility of my own speculation particularly because the expression “elbow grease” is completely absent in Nigerians’ everyday English. That leaves me to think that it’s probably derived from the profusion of oil metaphors in our everyday speech as a consequence of our status as an oil-producing country. But why is the idiom not rendered as “more oil to your elbow” since oil is a more usual word than grease? Well, I don’t know.

7. “In affirmative.” The definite article “the” is an integral part of the lexical properties of the expression that signifies a “yes” reply. So it should read “in THE affirmative.” In Nigerian English, especially in Nigerian media English, the article is almost always omitted.

8. “Benefit of doubt.” The proper rendering of this expression in native varieties of the English language is “THE benefit of THE doubt.” Notice that there is the article “the” before “benefit” and another before “doubt.” Of course, the omission of the articles is not sufficient to confuse native speakers of English, but it does indicate insufficient proficiency in the language.

9. “Bite more than you can chew.” The appropriate idiomatic form of this expression is “bite OFF more than you can chew.” It means taking a challenge that is far greater than one’s capabilities. However, I will admit that the omission of the “off” in the idiom is not peculiarly Nigerian. Many non-native speakers and writers also omit it.

10. “It doesn’t worth it.” This is a distinctly Nigerian mangling of the expression “it’s not worth it.” The error arises, I suspect, from misrecognizing the word “worth” as a verb when, in fact, it is an adjective in the sentence. If you won’t say “she doesn’t nice” because “nice” is an adjective, not a verb, you also can’t say “it doesn’t worth it” because “worth,” like “nice,” is functioning as an adjective in this expression.

11. “One hell of trouble.” The fixed English phrase that this Nigerian expression derives from is “hell of a” (also informally rendered as “helluva” in creative mimicry of how the phrase is pronounced in informal spoken English). The indefinite article “a” always appears after the preposition “of” in the expression. So if a native speaker of the English language were to describe someone as troublesome using that expression, she would say “he is one hell of a lot of trouble,” not “he is one hell of trouble.”

12. “Complimentary card.” This is the default expression in Nigerian English for what speakers of other varieties of English call “business card.” As I noted elsewhere, this phrase has to be the most senseless usage error we have normalized, one that will leave even the most perceptive non-Nigerian English speaker irredeemably clueless.

The word “complimentary” simply means "free," that is, costing nothing (example: "the author gave me a complimentary copy of his new book"). So a "complimentary card" simply means a "free card." There is nothing in the phrase to suggest that it is signifying a card on which are printed a person's name, contact details, and business affiliation. I once thought that the phrase emerged probably out of a shortening of "complimentary business card." But this doesn't seem a reasonable assumption to make because the phrase will be superfluous since no one ever sells business cards in the first place. It only makes sense to describe something as complimentary if it is normally sold.


Related Articles:
1. A Comparison of Nigerian, American and British English
2. Why is "Sentiment" Such a Bad Word in Nigeria?
3. Ambassador Aminchi's Impossible Grammatical Logic
4. 10 Most Annoying Nigerian Media English Expressions
5. Sambawa and "Peasant Attitude to Governance"
6. Adverbial and Adjectival Abuse in Nigerian English
7. In Defense of "Flashing" and Other Nigerianisms
8. Weird Words We're Wedded to in Nigerian English
9. American English or British English?
10. Hypercorrection in Nigerian English
11. Nigerianisms, Americanisms, Briticisms and Communication Breakdown
12. Top 10 Irritating Errors in American English
13. Nigerian Editors Killing Macebuh Twice with Bad Grammar
14. On "Metaphors" and "Puns" in Nigerian English
15. Common Errors of Pluralization in Nigerian English
16. Q & A About Common Grammatical Problems
17. Semantic Change and the Politics of English Pronunciation

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Nigerian-Americans in America’s News Media

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

America’s mainline news media deploy a really curious reportorial technique to narrativize Nigerians: They amplify our national identity in negative, unflattering news stories and suppress—sometimes even outright erase—it when stories cast us in a positive light.

Three events in the past few weeks instantiate this invidious reportorial temperament. First, on June 11, CNN and other American news media excitedly went to town with the story of two American “Marines [who] showed extraordinary bravery 'when the world became fire'.” It’s about two military men who were honored with the American military’s second highest honor for their uncommon valiance while on a mission in Afghanistan. The honor, called the Navy Cross, is second in prestige only to the “Medal of Honor,” the highest U.S. military decoration awarded for bravery and valor in action.

It turned out that one these two brave Americans is a man named Capt. Ademola Fabayo. Although his name is noticeably Nigerian—or at least “non-American”—CNN didn’t disclose his natal nationality until toward the end of the story. Even so, his association with Nigeria was undermined with the tidbit that he regards himself as more American than Nigerian. “Fabayo was born in Nigeria,” CNN writes, “but considers himself a New Yorker.” Would CNN have respected his preference to be considered more American than Nigerian if he were a criminal?
Capt. Fabayo and Rodriguez
Two issues are worthy of note here. Americans celebrate, even worship, their military in more ways than I have seen anywhere in the world. It is one institution that is practically immune from criticism in American popular discourse. Association with the military confers not just social prestige but also profound acceptance and reverence. As you can imagine, an award for valor by the military bestows even greater esteem and veneration on people. So if the news media had cast headlines that called attention to the national origins of the two brave American marines, the story would probably have inspired warm feelings toward Nigeria (and Mexico, the country of the second marine) in the minds of Americans who otherwise hear about these countries only in negative circumstances.

It is telling that all the American news media that reported on this award mentioned the original nationality of the marines only in the last paragraphs of their stories. As media scholars and practitioners know only too well, we live in an “age of skimming” where people only read the first few paragraphs of a story and then jump to the next story. I can bet my bottom dollar that more than 80 percent of Americans who read the story didn’t get to the point where the original national identities of the marines were revealed.

This seems like petty griping until you contrast this with what happened to another Nigerian-American exactly 19 days later. On June 30, the American news media overflowed with the story of a “Nigerian man,” identified as Olajide Oluwaseun Noibi, who boarded a flight from New York to Los Angeles with expired and stolen boarding passes.

The first sentence in The Associated Press’ reporting on the story reads: “A Nigerian man boarded a Virgin Atlantic airplane last week with an invalid boarding pass, according to the FBI.” For those who didn’t know, The Associated Press is America’s (and the world’s) biggest news agency. More than 50 percent of the editorial content of America’s news media is derived from the agency’s stories. As you would expect, most of the American news media coverage of the Noibi incident merely reproduced the AP story. Many headlines—in online, print, and broadcast media—identified Noibi as a “Nigerian man.”
Olajide Oluwaseun Noibi
However, Noibi is actually an American citizen born to parents who are originally from Nigeria. He was born in the city of Ames in Iowa, a state in Midwestern United States. That means he enjoys what is called birthright citizenship. The Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution states that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

So, Noibi, an American by birth, was identified as a Nigerian on account of the nationality of his parents, but Fabayo who was actually born and brought up in Nigeria was identified merely as a brave (immigrant) American marine. His association with Nigeria had to wait until the last paragraphs. Even then, he was described as more American than Nigerian. I find this contrast intriguing.

But, most importantly, from all indications, Noibi is clearly mentally disturbed. A Nigerian blogger has chronicled Noibi’s awkward Facebook status updates and incoherent rants on YouTube. He clearly cuts the picture of a brainsick loony, but the American media haven’t even pursued this angle. The media were, instead, initially interested in linking the man’s freaky behavior with Umar Farouk AbdulMuttalab’s 2009 attempted “underwear bomb” plot. But the realization that Noibi is a self-professed Christian evangelist destroyed this potentially sensational media narrative.

 Nevertheless, the name Noibi is clearly a Yoruba rendering of the Arabic name Naib, which means substitute, delegate, or deputy. In Muslim societies, the second person in hierarchy to the Chief Imam is called the Naib. Most African languages add “i” after the “b” to have Naibi. And Yoruba people almost always change the “a” sound to an “o” sound when they borrow words from other languages. It seems probable that the man’s parents were originally Muslims who converted to Christianity. Thank God for small mercies! Had that not been the case, the man’s demented act would have been linked with “Islamic terrorism.”

Finally, on July 7, another stunning story involving a Nigerian by the name of Ikenna Njoku, who was unfairly racially profiled by a bank, came to the open. Njoku was arrested, sent to jail for four days, and had his car auctioned off when he went to cash a check. Njoku, a construction worker, worked hard to buy a home. The American government has a program called first-time home-buyer rebate, which gives back a large chunk of taxes to anybody who buys a new home. Njoku qualified to receive $8,463.21 (about 1.3 million naira) and got a check worth that amount, which was issued by Chase Bank, the very bank that caused him to be arrested!

When he went to cash the check, the cashier looked at his foreign-sounding name. She didn’t believe a black man with a funny name could own a home much less qualify for a home-buyer rebate worth that amount. Instead of honoring his check, the cashier called the police on him. He was arrested and jailed for days until the bank realized that he was genuine. Meanwhile, he lost his job, his car, and never received an apology from the bank. He will certainly get millions of dollars in compensatory damages from the bank, especially because the national media are sympathetic to his travails.

For some reason, however, the man has never been identified, even for once, in the mainline U.S. media as a Nigerian. He is simply called “an Auburn man.” (Auburn is a city in the northwestern U.S. state of Washington).

Why is he not identified as a Nigerian? Is it because he cuts the image of a hardworking, honest immigrant who is the victim of an odious racial profiling, an image that doesn’t sit well with the media stereotypes of Nigerians? Had he been found guilty of check fraud, would the headlines still have referred to him merely as an “Auburn man”? I bet he would have been called a “Nigerian man” at best and a “Nigerian scammer” at worst. And he would have been linked with 419 scams.

The truth, in the final analysis, is that every media formation is guilty of cultivating a set of narratives and imageries that it then tries hard to nurture and defend at all costs. The Nigerian media has its own peculiar sets of ethical infractions. But as a Nigerian living in America, I can’t help being miffed by the hypocritical portrayal of Nigerians in the American media.



Sunday, July 3, 2011

Americanisms I Can Do Without

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

There is no doubt that, over the past few years, my expressions have become more Americanized than I ever thought they would be. It’s inevitable that when you live in a place for a long time you will eventually come to adopt, reflect, and even inflect the place’s linguistic idiosyncrasies. Plus, I actually genuinely think American English is admirably colorful and rich. However, there are certain Americanisms I simply can’t bring myself to embrace, however hard I try. I identify them below:

1.      “Shower” or “shower bath.” American (men) don’t bathe or have baths; they just “shower” or have a “shower.” A bath in American English involves cleaning of the body by elaborate immersion into a relatively large open container of water or into a bathtub. So only women and babies have baths. When I told my friends in Louisiana many years ago that I was going to “have my bath,” they all looked at me quizzically. “A bath? Are you a woman?” one of them asked.

The exchange that ensued in response to his question taught me that in America “shower” is the usual word for what we call a “bath” in British and Nigerian English. I am uncomfortable with the word “shower” because it’s not all the time that I use the plumbing fixture that prays water all over one’s body when I go to the bathroom. What if I just manually spray water all over my body from a pail of water? Is that still a shower? In American English, the answer is yes.

 In America, you have a “bath” only when you fill up the bathtub with water and add something to foam and scent the bath water. This is also called a bubble bath. Men hardly do this. But my own understanding of the difference between a shower and a bath, which I am reluctant to give up even at the expense of being misunderstood here, is that a shower is a quick cleaning of the body, usually without soap and sponge, with or without water sprayed from a nozzle, while a bath is the cleaning of the body with soap and sponge. It is immaterial if you use a bucket or a projecting spout to discharge water to the body.

I should point out that “shower” has another meaning in American English: It can mean a party of friends or colleagues gathered to present gifts (usually to celebrate a wedding or the birth of a baby) to a person. A “bridal shower” is a gathering of friends to give gifts to a friend who has just wedded, and a “baby shower” is organized to give gifts to a friend or a colleague who is expecting a baby.

2.      “Proctor an exam.” This is the American English expression for “invigilate an exam,” that is, to watch over students taking an exam. A proctor is also an invigilator. When a colleague of mine in graduate school sent me an email requesting that I help him “proctor an exam” because he would be away from school, I shot back a request for clarification: “By ‘proctor an exam’ do you by any chance mean ‘invigilate an exam’?” He was as clueless about the meaning of “invigilate” as I was about “proctor.” That day we both learned something new. Seven years after, my teeth still itch when I say “proctor an exam.”

3.      “We are pregnant.” American husbands say “we are pregnant” when their wives are pregnant. I don’t think I can ever bring myself to say that. First, it’s a biological impossibility for a husband to be pregnant. But I understand the sociological basis for the expression. The modern American husband is often deeply involved in the pregnancy of his wife. But while it is socially defensible for a husband to claim to be “pregnant,” the expression is biologically absurd. I also think it’s an extreme dramatization of the famed feminization of the American husband. I can be involved with my wife’s pregnancy without being “pregnant”!

4.      “Pants.”  Almost everyone who speaks English knows that Americans call trousers pants. Because I grew up referring to the undergarment that covers the body from the waist to no further than the thighs “pants,” I have a hard time giving up the name “trousers.” But the American “pants” is actually the short form of pantaloon, which is an archaic word for trousers. In American English, undergarments (i.e., “pants” in British English) for adults are called “underpants” or “undershorts.” Undergarments specifically for women or children are called “panties.”

5.      “Gas,” “gas station.” I can’t get used to calling petrol “gas” and petrol station “gas station,” especially because I have been brought up to think of gas as a state of matter that is different from liquid or solid matter. In fairness to Americans, however, gas is only the short form of gasoline, an older name for petrol.

6.      “Uh-huh.” Increasingly in American English, the default response to the expression “thank you” is an irritating grunt that sounds like “uh-huh.” Conventional responses like “you are welcome,” “not a problem,” “you bet,” “sure” are declining in currency. Of course, older forms like “don’t mention it” and “think nothing of it” have been dead long ago. I am often reluctant to say “thank you” to people who respond to my expression of gratitude with the rude grunt “uh-huh.”

7.      “I could have went.” The past participle is dying in American English. But I have vowed never to participate in its burial. Clearly grammatically inaccurate expressions like “she should have saw [seen] him,” “they could have went [gone] there,” "he was beat [beaten] to death," etc are commonplace in modern American English. They grate on my nerves to no end.

8.      “Wait on somebody or something.” In British English (and American English until the last few years), it is customary to differentiate between “wait on” and “wait for.” To “wait on” somebody or something is to work for or be a servant to that person or thing, and to “wait for” somebody or something is to stay in one place and anticipate or expect somebody or something. That distinction still makes sense to me. That is why I will never be caught saying “wait on” when I mean “wait for.”

Related Articles:
1. A Comparison of Nigerian, American and British English
2. Why is "Sentiment" Such a Bad Word in Nigeria?
3. Ambassador Aminchi's Impossible Grammatical Logic
4. 10 Most Annoying Nigerian Media English Expressions
5. Sambawa and "Peasant Attitude to Governance"
6. Adverbial and Adjectival Abuse in Nigerian English
7. In Defense of "Flashing" and Other Nigerianisms
8. Weird Words We're Wedded to in Nigerian English
9. American English or British English?
10. Hypercorrection in Nigerian English
11. Nigerianisms, Americanisms, Briticisms and Communication Breakdown
12. Top 10 Irritating Errors in American English
13. Nigerian Editors Killing Macebuh Twice with Bad Grammar
14. On "Metaphors" and "Puns" in Nigerian English
15. Common Errors of Pluralization in Nigerian English
16. Q & A About Common Grammatical Problems
17. Semantic Change and the Politics of English Pronunciation


Re: Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke’s fake doctorate and professorship


As you would expect with subject-matters such as my last week’s column, I received tons of responses from readers, some of which I have decided to publish below. 

Dr. Farooq, thanks for this revelation. Nsukka must investigate this thoroughly. In the same university, students are known to obtain PhDs within 2 years. The forgery reminds me of one "Prof" of scam who got appointed as DG of NIPSS in Jos! You have also raised a timely comment on the poverty of scholarship in our universities. At times I really feel ashamed of being called a professor because of how it has been bastardized. A friend of mine jokes that professorships in our universities are now more like traditional titles. What campaign can be mounted through the NUC to sanitise the system? The future of the country certainly rests on this.
Prof. Jacob Kwaga 

In Nigeria 90% of us are busy looking for food. Our journalists have gotten their meal tickets by keeping quiet. You are talking of people who can pay. Please continue to expose them as you are out of their reach being that you are up there in the USA.
Salihu Elugi

I want to say that your argument has no basis. You are one of those that is out to assassinate characters of noble men and women of south East , who has [sic] added positively to our country. I am yet to see a Northerner of Islamic background that you will dig there [sic] profiles....There are so many of them there parading themselves. You are an Extremist.
I pray that God will make the Biafrans to be there [sic] Independent state. We do not want such religious bigotry [sic] like you!!!
Ugo Richie, Australia

Imagine the Real McCoys that were denied the opportunity to put their knowledge into practice for lack of godfathers and skills to kowtow. With young Nigerians reading these revelations and nothing is being heard from official quarters, do you need to go further asking questions on why and how Boko Haram may be spreading fast in Nigeria?
Abubakar Umar

I like it when fraudsters (irrespective of who they are) are thrust forward and shamed! This stinks to high heavens. And you hit the nail right on the head: it is debatable that there is any individual hired at any level of government in Nigeria who has got to that position on merit. And if merit is not the deciding factor, why would any one bother crosschecking credentials and certificates? I am ashamed to say the least.
Basil Ugochukwu

I read the article in today's WEELY TRUST. I just don't know what to say or even how to think of it. How could all these be happening in our Naija even with “Madam rebrander”? No wonder nothing got rebranded under her. How could it, with all the details you highlighted? I don't know what you think, but isn't the future bleak? Allah ya kwauta!
Is’haq Zango

Shakespeare it was, who said, do not be afraid of greatness; some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness bestowed upon them. But as a Nigerian I would add, some others forge or fake to greatness.

Criminals exist everywhere. In other sane climes, once caught, justice is carried out in the interest of the common good, but in Nigeria what do we do? At most, a pat on the back, 'go in peace son or daughter and sin no more.' I remember the case of Salisu Buhari of the Toronto fame and many others that followed. I'm happy that the writer also mentioned Mrs Dora Akunyili. The most annoying part is that these are individuals we worship and lavish praises and all kinds of honor on. I am terribly embarrassed.
Kalu Akaraka Friday

Hmmm! This is what one journalist wrote about her: "Her entry into the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) was hailed by industry players in the country and abroad. She came in with intimidating credentials having studied in the United States of America and worked with the prestigious New York Stock Exchange where she reportedly excelled…” Unknown to the gentleman, that intimidating CV was fake! In a serious country she would be made to refund all the entitlements she collected and jailed.
Bala Aminu

What an interesting piece. Was she not the same lady that organized a fund-raising dinner for the Obama campaign here in Nigeria until EFCC made her to return over N100 million donor's monies? Obama at that time also disassociated himself from her. Honestly, from the way she talked and acted when she was at the Nigerian Stock Exchange (Oh la la, did someone say she was never at the New York Stock Exchange as she had claimed?), I have always doubted if she's truly a professor? Obasanjo must have known something about this and kept quiet, while poor chaps like Speaker Salisu Buhari were given national humiliation for certificate forgery in this country? Now, the second chicken has finally come home to roost. Who will be the third chicken?
Christopher Godwin Akaba

Dr. Farooq, you have done a great service to Nigeria. You are commended. Our President needs to make all federal civil servants, ministers, advisers and consultants to show their certificates for verification! So, all along, she was using native intelligence, and possibly corruption, to run her organisation! No wonder that the whole market is now in shambles! Garbage in garbage out. Thank You Dr. Farooq. More exposure of the undeserving people, wherever they are in Nigeria.
Sani Mustapha

I am going through your very shocking article. Are we all fake in Nigeria now? My brother, I thank you for this exposure.
Ewoma Taigbenu

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