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“Barbing Salon” or “Barbing Saloon”? Q and A on Nigerian English Usage

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D. Twitter: @farooqkperogi It is “barbing salon,” “barbing saloon” or none of the two? Is the expression “n...

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

It is “barbing salon,” “barbing saloon” or none of the two? Is the expression “next tomorrow” Standard English? What of the expression “An ABU graduate is ahead of you naturally”? Is it grammatically correct? For answers to these and other usage questions, read on.

Is it “barbing saloon” or “barbing salon”? Which one is correct and why?

Neither of the two is correct. The conventional expression among native English speakers is “barbershop” or “barber shop” or simply “barber’s,” as in, “I went to the barber’s to get a haircut.”  “Barbing salon” or “barbing saloon” are peculiarly Nigerian English expressions that no one outside Nigeria understands.

Two years ago, a recently arrived Nigerian immigrant in America by the name of Deji asked on a website where he could get a “good barbing salon.” “Does anyone know where i can get a good barbing salon?” he wrote. “I am a black guy and would like the best place around.” The responses were hilarious. “What the hell is a barbing salon?” someone asked. To which the Nigerian responded: “Well, you know what a Salon is if you haven't had [sic] about barbing right? It's Simple!!” Well, it’s not that simple, as another poster pointed out: “I do not think that word means what you think it means.”

Yes, “barbing salon” doesn’t mean a place where you get a haircut. In fact, as I will show shortly, it really doesn’t mean anything in Standard English. So when you are outside Nigeria don’t ever tell anyone you are looking for a “barbing salon” or, worse, “barbing saloon.” You won’t be understood, and here is why.

In Standard English, the verb “barbing” is never used in relation to the act of cutting the hair. “Barbing” means to provide with barbed wires, as the gates and fences of many homes in Nigerian urban areas usually are. In other words, “barb” doesn’t mean to have a haircut; it means to fit with barbed wires, as in “I barbed my house to prevent thieves from climbing over my fence.”

The verb used for cutting hair is “barber,” as in, “he barbers for a living.”

You are probably more concerned about the difference between a “saloon” and a “salon.” Well, a saloon is a place where alcoholic drinks are sold and served, what Nigerians call a “beer parlour.” Saloon is also the name of a kind of car. As you can see, combining “barbing” and “saloon” in the same sentence is one of the most meaningless expressions anyone can ever make in the English language.

A salon, on the other hand, is a place where women make their hair, do their nails, wax their bodies, etc. It’s also called a beauty shop, a beauty salon, or a beauty parlor. Of course, “salon” has other meanings, such as a place where works of art are displayed, a large sitting room for guests, etc., but it is most commonly used to refer to a place where hairdressers and beauticians work.

If you say “barbing salon” in any country where English is a native language, you might be understood to mean “a barbed salon,” that is, a salon that is fitted with barbed wires. That would be hard to even conceive of because salons are some of the safest places in the West; they don’t need barbed wires to protect them from criminals. So “barbing salon” is also a meaningless expression in Standard English.

Note that although salons cater mostly to women’s beauty needs, some of them also double as places where men can have a haircut. That doesn’t mean, of course, that you can call such places a “barber salon.” That would sound ridiculous.

In sum, it’s OK to say “barbing salon” in Nigeria because that’s what everybody else says, but be careful not to say that outside Nigeria if you want to be understood. Say “barber shop” instead.

Recently, Adamawa State Governor Bindo Umaru Jibrilla said “next tomorrow” during a speech when President Buhari visited Yola. Is that Standard English?

No, it is not. “Next tomorrow” is a uniquely Nigerian English expression. The usual expression in other English-speaking countries is “the day after tomorrow.”

"An ABU graduate is ahead of you naturally." What is wrong with this statement? Someone said the word "naturally" renders it less meaningful.

There is nothing wrong with the statement as far as I can tell. I think the person who told you the appearance of “naturally” renders the statement meaningless has a limited understanding of the range of meanings “naturally” encapsulates. “Naturally” can mean “of course” or “as might be expected,” and this meaning fits well with the intent of the quoted statement. “Naturally” doesn’t only mean “according to nature.”

 But as a graduate of Bayero University Kano, I would recast that sentence to “A BUK graduate is ahead of you naturally”! Seriously, though, it is a creative, punny bumper-sticker slogan that both implies that the car whose sticker you’re reading is ahead of you of course (that is, “naturally,” or “goes without saying” because you have to be behind the car to read the sticker) and that its owner is an ABU or BUK or UI, etc. graduate. “Ahead” here can be understood both literally (that is, his car has sped past you) and figuratively, that is, the quality of his or her education is worth more than yours. It’s just cheeky, good-natured humor.

I have a question about the usage of a particular expression. Which is the correct expression between “12 noon” and “12 p.m.”? And is there any rule binding its the usage? I am a graduate of linguistics and it has caused argument between my friends and me because I chose 12 noon.

Both “12 noon” and “12 p.m.” are grammatically defensible, but saying or writing “12 noon” is preferred to “12 p.m.” because it helps to avoid confusion. That is why many style guides discourage the use of 12 p.m. 

Technically, 12 p.m. can be understood to mean either the middle of the day or the middle of the night. If, for instance, you stay up at night until 11:59 p.m. and you get a call from your friend a minute later, would you say the call came at “12 p.m.” since it’s just a minute away from 11: 59 p.m.? Some people might say “well, that’s 12 a.m.” OK, how about if the call came a minute after 11: 59 a.m.? How can one defend insisting that 12 hours separate 11:59 a.m. from 12 a.m. even though they are both “a.m.”?

It’s in a bid to avoid this semantic confusion that style guides advise that we use “12 noon” or “12 midday,” instead of “12 p.m.,” for the 12 that comes in the middle of the day and “12 midnight,” instead of “12 a.m.,” for the 12 that comes at night.

Avoid the tautological “12 a.m. in the morning” or “12 p.m. at night” at least in writing.

I want to know the meaning of these terms: kindergarten, daycare, and nursery in relation to school. Is it true that lecturers are regarded as professors in America?

In America, a daycare is a place where working parents take their children who between the ages of 1 and 3. At age 4, children attend what is called pre-kindergarten, usually called “Pre-K.” At age 5, they attend kindergarten.

“Nursery school” is a chiefly British English term for what American English speakers recognize as pre-K and kindergarten. Note that the British “nursery school” and the American pre-K and kindergarten are collectively called “preschool” in both British and American English. Children who go to preschool are called preschoolers.

To your second question, yes, it’s true that in American English anybody who teaches in a university is called a professor. “Professor” is used in the same generic sense that “lecturer” is used in British and Nigerian English. For instance, where a British or Nigerian English speaker would say “I have great lecturers in my university,” an American English speaker would say “I have great professors in my university.” I have written several articles on this. Search the archives on this blog.

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