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Why Only Nigerian Women Are "Pregnant For" Men

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D. Twitter: @farooqkperogi It is only in Nigerian English (and perhaps in Ghanaian English since both varieties sha...

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

It is only in Nigerian English (and perhaps in Ghanaian English since both varieties share a lot in common) that woman say they are "pregnant for" a man.

Native English speakers usually say they are "pregnant by a man" to show that the "man" is responsible for the pregnancy. Americans (both wife and husband) now say "we are pregnant!"

It seems to me that the tendency for Nigerian women to say they are “pregnant for” a man is a reflection of their internalization of and capitulation to the dominant patriarchal arrogance in the Nigerian society.

There is also evidence that it is a direct translation of many Nigerian languages. For example, in the Edo language,  o ranmwan mẹ  (or o ranmwan nẹ imẹ) translates as, "She is pregnant for me." In Yoruba, moloyun fun e translates as, "I'm pregnant for you."
Translated into English, however, the phrase gives ownership of the child to the man— to the exclusion of the woman. Since a child is biologically half of both its father and its mother, it is illogical to say you’re pregnant “for” a man. 

In fact, only the mother can logically claim ownership of a pregnancy. As my Anglo-Cameroonian friend Samira Edi once said, “A woman cannot be pregnant for somebody else except for herself!” 

Being responsible for a pregnancy doesn’t give a man exclusive ownership of it; at best it gives him part ownership. Maybe a surrogate mother can correctly say she’s “pregnant for” another woman-- or for a couple--since the woman or the couple takes ownership of the child after delivery.

Saying you’re “pregnant for” a man is especially problematic because while a child’s maternal connection is often never in contention (except in rare cases of child swapping in hospitals), its paternity is never always indisputably self-evident except through DNA testing or noticeably striking resemblance. 

That’s why Americans humorously say, “Mommy’s baby, daddy’s maybe.” 

This isn't so much about grammar as it is about the intersection of culture and usage. Being "pregnant for" somebody shows the pregnancy isn't yours, but the person whom it is "for." Being "pregnant by" somebody shows who "caused" it, not who owns it.

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  1. Sir, I hope you change your mind and bring back the grammar column. Thanks for this information, even though I've learnt the right expression from reading something you wrote in the past. I believe you've pointed this out in one of your many articles.

  2. Professor you just contradicted yourself by agreeing that it's ok to be pregnant for someone in case of surrogate parents. So what point are you making except to let us know when it's proper to say when it applies


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