"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: How Nigerian English May Cause You To Be Mistaken for a 419 Email Scammer (III)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

How Nigerian English May Cause You To Be Mistaken for a 419 Email Scammer (III)

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
Twitter: @farooqkperogi


For the last two weeks, I have been highlighting some of the structural characteristics of Nigerian English that 419 email scams from Nigeria have popularized in the rest of the English-speaking world. I conclude the series this week with more examples.

7. Reclassification of parts of speech. One of the hallmarks of Nigerian English is a fondness for reclassifying the parts of speech of words. Adjectives and adverbs often tend to be made into verbs. For instance, the adjective “opportune,” which means suitable (as in: “that’s an opportune place to rest”) or timely (as in “the opportune arrival of the police saved him from mob lynching”) is often used as a verb in Nigerian English. That is why expressions like “I was not opportuned to see him,” “when I’m opportuned to serve my people,” etc. are common in Nigerian English. No other variety of English in the world uses “opportune” as a verb—a reason why it stands out in the narratives of 419 email scams.


 In a December 16, 2012 article titled Top 10 Outdated and/Or Made-up Words in Nigerian English,” I wrote: “Like ‘disvirgin,’ this word does not exist in any English dictionary. It is an entirely Nigerian English word…. What exists in English dictionaries is ‘opportune,’ without ‘d’ at the end. Opportune means ‘timely’ or ‘well-timed.’ E.g. ‘Wait for an opportune moment to tell him how you really feel.’ In Nigerian English we use ‘opportuned’ where ‘privileged’ is the appropriate word to use. Where we would say ‘I am opportuned to speak to this august gathering,’ other speakers of the English language would say ‘I am privileged to speak to this august gathering.’”

If you have ever had a reason to use “opportuned” in an email, there is a chance that your email ended up in someone’s spam folder.

Another adjective that Nigerian English speakers habitually turn into a verb is “tantamount.” It goes something like this: “it tantamounts to discrimination to treat all Nigerian English as 419 English.” In Standard English, that sentence would be “it IS tantamount to discrimination to treat all Nigerian English as 419 English.” Tantamount isn’t a verb.

The verb “suffer” also suffers a lot of misuse in Nigerian English. In one database of 419 emails that forensic linguistics kept, the phrase “he is out to suffer us” stood out like a sore thumb. These were emails from people who purported to be relatives of the late General Sani Abacha. They said they wanted to get out of Nigeria the stupendous wealth that the late Abacha bequeathed to them because then President Olusegun Obasanjo was “out to suffer us.” But to “suffer” somebody is to tolerate or put up with them even if you find them unpleasant. That’s why the Standard English idiom “(not) to suffer fools gladly” means (not) to tolerate or put up with the stupidity of people.

When the 419 emails said the Obasanjo government was “out to suffer us,” they meant his government wanted to make them suffer for the sins of the late head of state.

Other examples of the reclassification of the parts of speech of Standard English words can be found in such popular Nigerian English expressions as “horn before overtaking” and “it doesn’t worth it.” 

In Standard English “horn” is never used as a verb when reference is to the warning sounds that the horns of automobiles make. The preferred verb is “honk.” That means the popular Nigerian expression “horn before overtaking” would be rendered as “honk (your horn) before overtaking” in Standard English. When “horn” is used as a verb it usually means to stab with a horn, that is, the long, pointed outgrowth on the head of some animals. 

“It doesn’t worth it” should be “it is not worth it” since “worth” is not a verb.

Similarly, several 419 email scams contain Nigerianisms like “outrightly”—a redundant, non-existent adverbial inflection of the word “outright,” which is actually both an adjective and an adverb in Standard English and therefore doesn’t need the “ly”—and “installmentally,” which also doesn’t exist in English. (Native speakers say “in installments” where Nigerians would say “instalmentally”).  For more on this, see my December 16, 2009 article titled “Adverbial and Adjectival Abuse in Nigerian English.” 

8. Use of false titles. One of the dead giveaways that an email is of the Nigerian 419 scam variety is that the senders often prefix to their names occupational titles that are unknown in the rest of the English-speaking world. Examples are “Barrister,” “Engineer” (often abbreviated as “Engr.”), “Architect” (often abbreviated as “Arc.”), Pharmacist (often abbreviated to Pharm.), etc. Nobody but Nigerians prefixes these dumb titles to their names.

When the email scammers (and other honest Nigerians) don’t use unconventional occupational titles (such as Barrister, Engr., Arc., Pharm., Surveyor, etc.) they use courtesy titles like “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” and “Miss” in their self-introductions: “I am Miss Comfort Scammer and I wish to know you more.” This excessive formality strikes native English speakers as stilted and fake. 

Related to this is the obsession with stacking multiple courtesy, occupational, and academic titles for one individual, such as the use of “Dr. (Mrs.),” “Prof. (Mrs.),” “Alhaji (Dr.) Chief,” “Barrister Dr. Chief,” “Rt. Hon Dr.,” etc. before people’s name. The multiple titles are designed to bestow awe, social status, and authority on the bearers. To take the last example, the importance of the title “Hon.” (short for “honorable”) and “Dr.” after the name is to indicate that the author is a member of either the state or federal legislature in addition to being a Ph.D. Outside Nigeria people stick with just one title. The exception is in academic settings where university teachers in certain countries stack academic titles like “Prof. Dr.”

9. Irreverent informality. While the scam emails can be exaggeratedly formal in the tone of their language and in the use of courtesy titles where they are not necessary, they often can slip into informality that borders on the irreverent. Expressions like “he gave up the ghost” or “he kicked the bucket” to denote dying are inappropriate in an email communication, but they are not uncommon in Nigerian English even in formal contexts. 

10. The reclassification of uncountable nouns to countable nouns. There are certain nouns in English that are invariably uncountable and don’t admit of plural forms, but which Nigerians pluralize. Examples of nouns that are not pluralized and therefore shouldn’t have an “s” in Standard English are “information,” “ammunition,” “equipment,” “aircraft,” “cutlery,” “invective,” “luggage,” “offspring,” “advice,” “personnel,” “legislation,” “yesteryear,” “heyday,” “vermin,” etc. Many Nigerians pluralize these words (See my April 14, 2010 article titled “Common Errors of Pluralization in Nigerian English” for more on this). 

Because these unconventional pluralizations are unique to Nigerian English—and have been popularized to the Anglophone world by Nigerian 419 scammers— it is easy for email authorship identification programs to isolate email messages that contain them. An email message that says, for instance, “I have a good news for you,” which is typical in Nigerian English and in 419 emails, might end up in a spam folder. “News” is neither singular nor plural in Standard English. That means the sentence should be “I have good news for you.”

11. “I and my colleagues.” This is another prototypic trail of English usage in 419 emails. In Standard English “I” often comes last unless you’re the absolute ruler of a kingdom. Native speakers would say “my colleagues and I” instead of “I and my colleagues.”

Other dead stylistic giveaways of Nigerianisms in 419 email scams are “I cannot be able to” for “I can’t,” excessive religiosity, ending the subject line of an email with a period, that is, a full stop, writing in all caps, etc.

Concluded
Related Articles: How Nigerian English May Cause You To Be Mistaken for a 419 Email Scammer (I) Politics of Grammar Column Our Image as a Nation of Scammers I Our Image As a Nation of Scammers II The British Origins of Nigerian 419 Scams American Ponzi Schemes Versus Nigerian 419 Scams

Make Money at : http://bit.ly/best_tips

Related Articles:

Related Articles: How Nigerian English May Cause You To Be Mistaken for a 419 Email Scammer (I) Politics of Grammar Column Our Image as a Nation of Scammers I Our Image As a Nation of Scammers II The British Origins of Nigerian 419 Scams American Ponzi Schemes Versus Nigerian 419 Scams

Make Money at : http://bit.ly/best_tips
Related Articles: How Nigerian English May Cause You To Be Mistaken for a 419 Email Scammer (I) Politics of Grammar Column Our Image as a Nation of Scammers I Our Image As a Nation of Scammers II The British Origins of Nigerian 419 Scams American Ponzi Schemes Versus Nigerian 419 Scams

Make Money at : http://bit.ly/best_tips
Related Articles: How Nigerian English May Cause You To Be Mistaken for a 419 Email Scammer (I) Politics of Grammar Column Our Image as a Nation of Scammers I Our Image As a Nation of Scammers II The British Origins of Nigerian 419 Scams American Ponzi Schemes Versus Nigerian 419 Scams

Make Money at : http://bit.ly/best_tips
Post a Comment

LinkedIn

There was an error in this gadget

NewsShow

There was an error in this gadget