Farooq Kperogi: 20 Hausa Words in Everyday Nigerian English

Since 2015, every August 26 is celebrated as “Hausa Day” (or “Ranar Hausa” in the Hausa language) by Hausa-speaking people around the world. In honor of the day, I highlight 20 expressions of Nigerian English – and Nigerian Pidgin English – that owe debt to the Hausa language.

As with all languages ​​that leave their primordial shores, Hausa words that make it to Nigerian English are often distorted from their original forms and meanings.

1. “Jaara”. Most Nigerian English speakers recognize this word as an additional, often small, amount that a shopkeeper gives to a customer buying goods in the market as a token of appreciation for the customer’s business. It is derived from the Hausa “gyara”.

The corruption of the word to “jaara” in Nigerian English (pidgin) is a consequence of the absence of the Hausa phoneme “gy” in most Nigerian languages.

Interestingly, in the US state of Louisiana, when I lived for almost two years before moving to Georgia, people use the term “lagniappe” (pronounced Lan-Yap) to mean what the Hausa call “gyara ” and what Nigerian English speakers call ” jaara.

No other part of the United States has a culture of merchants offering a small gift to their customers after a transaction. I once speculated that Louisiana’s “lagniappe” culture might be traceable to the enslaved Hausa people in the state hundreds of years ago.

2. “Babban Riga”. The resplendent, wide-sleeved, flowing robe that has now become the attire of choice for Nigerian politicians of all ethnicities is often referred to as ‘babban riga’ in Nigerian English. It is a slight deformation of “babbar riga”, its Hausa name.

3. “Megad.” This Nigerian English word for what native English speakers call a gatekeeper, gatekeeper, uniformed doorman or hall porter came to us from a distortion of Hausa “maigadi”, itself a mixture of Hausa “mai ” and English. “guardian.”

The fact that most doormen in Nigerian urban centers were – and probably still are – Hausa or Hausa-speaking northerners helped admit “megad” into the pantheon of unique Nigerian English expressions.

4. “Buka”. This word now means a cheap, casual, run-down restaurant that sells pre-prepared food. It comes from the Hausa word “bukka”, which means a ruined temporary hut or tent.

Since most roadside or cheap restaurants in Nigeria used tents (many do not these days), Nigerians neologized the word “bukateria” from “bukka” modeled after cafeteria, it -even an American English word borrowed from Spanish.

5. “Burantashi”. Most Nigerians know this word to be the Hausa word for an aphrodisiac, i.e. the concoction of bitter herbs that stimulates sexual desire in men. “Bura” is the Hausa word for the male reproductive organ and “tashi” is the Hausa word for getting up, waking up, etc. Curiously, however, the word “buratashi” (which is probably how it would have been spelled in Hausa if it was a thing) is used more outside Hausa country than in Hausa country.

In everyday Hausa conversation, at least among Hausa Muslims, “bura” is rarely used except in vulgar slurs such as “bura uban ka/ki” (which is now rendered as “borobanka” in some varieties of Nigerian Pidgin English).

I’m really curious how ‘burantashi’ came to be if it’s almost absent from the demotic repertoire of native Hausa speakers. The Hausa call them aphrodisiacs “shop karfin maza” Where “giggled.

6. “Fadama”. This Hausa word for a fertile wetland is now widely used terminology in agriculture in Nigeria and beyond.

7. “Do it man.” “Do guy” in Nigerian English is to preen, show off with elaborate sartorial care. This expression owes its origin to the Hausa “gayu”, where it means the same thing. A dandy is called “dan gaye” or “dan danyu” in Hausa.

But there seems to be a circular sociolinguistic loop in the emergence of this expression from Hausa to Nigerian English. Since “gayu” itself does not appear to be native to Hausa, it is reasonable to assume that it is a loanword from the English “guy” language.

Guy means a grown man in English, and men who wore shirts and pants (as opposed to the more common Hausa attire of kaftans and babbar riga) were referred to as “guys”. Thus, “guy” could have changed meaning from just being men dressed in western clothes to dandies, from where it made its way to Nigerian Pidgin English and later Nigerian English to simply mean to preen.

8. “Long Leg” the Nigerian English idiom for connections (which even Wole Soyinka used in one of those iconic pieces) is said to be the direct translation of Hausa dogon-kafa. Dogon-kafa can mean long-established, and colloquially it can mean (unfair) advantages that come with knowing people in high places.

9. “Kaya mata” or “kayamata” (which native Hausa speakers would write as “kayan mata”) became a sexual enhancer for women and is now widely known by this name in southern Nigeria.

10. “Mudu“, the unit of measurement that most Nigerians use in the market, is a Hausa word.

11. To “see gobble” in southern Nigeria is to get into trouble, sometimes good trouble. It’s the title of Davido’s 2013 hit song. It may be derived from the Hausa ‘sai gobe’, which literally translates to ‘until tomorrow’. I’m also curious to know how the semantic transition from “until tomorrow” to “get in trouble” took place.

12. “Suya” literally means frying in Hausa, but it has become the name for grilled meat in Nigeria, which the Hausa people call “tsire”. Since most non-Hausa Nigerians cannot accurately pronounce the phoneme “ts” in Hausa, it is entirely possible that Hausa tsire vendors have encouraged the popularization of suya, a word that is easier to pronounce among non-Hausas. -hausa.

13. “Dogon Yaro” (which literally means big child) is the Hausa word for the neem tree, but it is almost universally known by this name in Nigeria.

14. “Wahala.” Although “wahala” is an Arabic word, it came to Nigerian English (pidgin) most likely via Hausa. It is derived from the Arabic “wahla”, which means fear or dread, and is now firmly established in most Nigerian languages ​​- and in the West African Pidgin English spoken in Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon.

15. “Waka”. In Nigerian Pidgin English, “waaka” is a popular slur often uttered in moments of extreme exasperation with all five fingers outstretched. It is a deformation of Hausa “uwar ka” (masculine) “uwar ki” (feminine). Uwa means “mother” in Hausa, so “uwar ka” is “your mother!”

16. “Mugu.” Nigerian 419 email scammers have popularized this phrase in Nigeria and beyond. It is understood to mean an idiot, i.e. a fool who can easily be tricked into parting with his prized possessions under false pretenses. But this meaning of the word deviates from its original Hausa meaning of “sadistic”. Now mugu has other variants such as “maga”.

17. “Haba! » This exclamation of astonishment or disappointment that has crept into standard Nigerian English originated in the Hausa language. But a British linguist named Roger Blench observed that “Habababa! was a common expression of joking amazement in the United States in the 1940s”, and wonders if there is a relationship between the “haba! » Nigerian. and the obsolete American English “habahaba!” in light of the phono-semantic similarities between the two expressions. I doubt there are.

18. “Shikenan” (often rendered as “shikena” in southern Nigeria), the Hausa term for “this is it” is now almost universally used in Nigerian (pidgin) English.

19. “Shege”. It means bastard in Hausa, although it can also be used as an intensifier. It is now widely understood and used in the same context in Nigerian Pidgin English.

20. “Zoobo” (short for zoborodo), a kind of drink originally restricted to Hausa land is now probably the most pan-Nigerian drink produced locally. It is sold in African shops in Europe and North America.

Prime: Turenchiusually Dogo Turenchi(what would be turanci, dogon turanci in Hausa), is now widely used in Nigerian Pidgin English and informal Standard Nigerian English to mean long, boring and ineffective harangue in English by politicians and academics.