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Literary Usage in English as a Second Language in Nigeria: A Study of Icheoku and

Author(s): Diri I. Teilanyo
Source: Africa Today, Vol. 55, No. 4 (Summer 2009), pp. 72-121
Published by: Indiana University Press
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2979/aft.2009.55.4.72
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. . . the daring user may
take liberty to impose
certain modifications to
the standard lexical and
grammatical forms of such
expressions, either out of
ignorance or out of the
desire to “domesticate” the
expressions into his local
culture and environment,
even simply out of linguistic
experimentation . . .

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Literary Usage in English as a Second
Language in Nigeria: A Study of
Icheoku and Masquerade
Diri I. Teilanyo

This paper studies the challenges involved in the nonlit-

eral use of English in nonnative settings as exemplified and
parodied in two Nigerian mass-media comedies, Icheoku and
Masquerade. It draws attention, first to the nonstandardness
observed in the use of English idiomatic expressions, tropes,
maxims, and African proverbs, and second, to the problems
involved in comprehending and interpreting the contextual
imports of these metaphorical uses by incompetent (but pre-
tentious) users of English in Nigeria and probably other soci-
eties in which English is a second language. It underlines
the fact that literary use of language in nonnative settings in
everyday communication, either among nonnative speakers
of English or between native users and nonnative users of
English, is often fraught with misunderstanding, difficulty
in communication, and dislocation of the structure of figura-
tive expressions, either out of ignorance of the structure and
meaning of the expressions, or out of sheer linguistic audacity.

A little learning is a dangerous thing;

Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
(Alexander Pope 1973:1863–1864)


This paper studies the problems and creative potential in the literary use
of a target language in nonnative settings as parodied in two Nigerian mass
media comedies, Icheoku and Masquerade. The main arguments are two.
One is in terms of expression: the incompetent nonnative speaker of a lan-
guage—in this case, English—might use the wrong (or nonstandard) forms

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of fixed expressions, or employ his/her linguistic creativity in adapting the
forms of such fixed idiomatic expressions in the target language to suit his/
her native language structure and local environment. The other side of it
is in comprehension: the nonnative speaker often manifests inadequate
comprehension of nonliteral usage, in that he/she tends to give literal
interpretations to nonliteral expressions.
The term literary usage is employed in the title of this paper in the
africa today 55(4)

broad sense of any use of language that departs from normal, “literal” use.
It is used to include what are traditionally classified and distinguished from
one another as idioms, figures of speech (more technically “tropes”), prov-
erbs, and aphorisms (which relate to axioms and maxims). The rationale
is that all these manners of expression involve some departure from the
basic code of language. In this sense, literariness is any use of language that
involves some semantic or contextual negation or violation of, or addition

to, the norms of language use.

The use of nonstandard language for creative or artistic purposes in
Literary Usage in English as a Second Language in Nigeria

second-language contexts has until recently suffered significant neglect

among sociolinguists and stylisticians. Braj B. Kachru, discussing four func-
tional aspects of nonnative “Englishes,” laments the lack of research into
the “imaginative / innovative” function of the “pidginized or ‘broken’ vari-
ety”; he adds that “this [creative] aspect of nonnative English has unfortu-
nately not attracted much attention from linguists, but has now been taken
seriously by literary scholars” (Kachru 1983:41).
With specific reference to the language of Chief Zebrudaya in Mas-
querade, Ayo Banjo has suggested that this neglect—or oversight—is prob-
ably because some regard this variety as “aesthetically inferior” to World
Standard English (Banjo 1979:11), especially in the face of much concern
with “literary language.” Thus, the use of nonstandard language in Icheoku
and Masquerade has received little critical attention. Nengi Ilagha (1985)
mentions it in relation to Masquerade and other Nigerian soap operas.
Banjo has specifically called attention to the English spoken by Zebrudaya,
especially in terms of “aesthetic considerations” (Banjo 1979:11). David
Jowitt (1991:37) has made reference to the language of Chief Zebrudaya in
his discussion of varieties of “Nigerian English,” noting it as “severely sub-
standard English” (1991:51). Elugbe (1995:297) has cited it as an instance of
“deliberately and exaggeratedly incorrect English” as distinguished from
“Broken English.” Ben Ohi Elugbe and Augusta Phil Omamor (1991:61–66)
have compared its structure to those of standard English and Nigerian Pidgin,
concluding that “Zebrudaya’s speech is in fact characteristic of the sub-
standard attempts of a large proportion of ill-equipped, illiterate Nigerians
to manipulate the English language . . . obviously deliberately exaggerated
for comic effect” (1991:66). They cite a few utterances from the texts, but
stop short of engaging in any exercise that could be considered analytical,
rigorous, or systematic.
Ilagha (1985) suggests that Zebrudaya’s variety may serve the purpose
of linguistic nationalism, that is, to prompt Nigerians to jettison English in

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favor of a local language: “Zebrudayans may merely be twisting the poor
language so grotesquely so as to make us feel ashamed of it. Just so that in
the end, we might decide to vote for an indigenous national language, pos-
sibly by the year 2000.” Ilagha associates “the falling standard of education”
in Nigeria with Zebrudaism, which “does violence to English grammar.” He
observes that “a terrible Zebrudaya plague has been footloose on the coun-
try.” While the language used by the two speakers in the texts studied (the

africa today 55(4)

Court Clerk in Icheoku and Chief Zebrudaya in Masquerade) may appear
idiolectal (even idiosyncratic—for Zebrudaya), it must be emphasized that
they are sociolinguistic “types”; hence “the variety of English which is being
parodied does exist outside the NTV studios, and in many cases is the only
variety its speakers are capable of” (Banjo 1979:11).1 Elugbe and Omamor
(1991:66) say it is “in fact characteristic” of a significant section of Nigeri-
ans. These works, however, have more recently received serious academic

attention (Teilanyo 2003a, 2003b).
The creative use of nonstandard English in second-language settings

Diri I. Teilanyo
has yet to receive enough attention, but the history and the linguistic or
sociolinguistic character of English in Nigeria and other societies where it is
a nonnative language have been studied over time. In the Nigerian case, the
contributions of British trade, exploration, missionaries, and colonialists in
implanting and promoting English and the role of other historical and social
factors in making English the “most important” language in the country
have been thoroughly documented (Omolewa 1975). The study has evolved
to the point that it has been largely established that a distinct variety,
“Nigerian English,” exists. Its different functions and its linguistic features
at the different levels of linguistic organization (phonological, grammatical,
lexical, semantic, and discourse) have been amply documented in books (e.g.,
Awonusi and Babalola 2004; Banjo 1996; Jowitt 1991; Kujore 1985; Igboanusi
2002a; Ubahakwe 1979) and journals (local and international), such that
some journals—e.g., Journal of the Nigerian English Studies Association,
Journal of Nigerian English and Literature—have been largely dedicated to
studying the variety.
Some linguists are still documenting its character, but others have
gone beyond this to identify “varieties” of this variety. Different param-
eters have been used to identify the subvarieties of English in Nigeria. They
include the ethnolinguistic background, the level of attainment of formal
education, and a blend of linguistic and sociolinguistic yardsticks. The eth-
nolinguistic criterion is used to identify varieties of Nigerian English accord-
ing to the indigenous mother tongues of the users which interfere with their
use of English, leading to such labels as “Hausa English,” “Igbo English,”
“Yoruba English,” etc. L. F. Brosnahan (1958) and Ayo Bamgbose (1983:99)
use the level of educational attainment to identify four varieties of Nigerian
English, the lowest being Nigerian Pidgin and the highest being a near-native
variety, with two intermediate versions. Ayo Banjo (1971:169–170) adopted
the criteria of education, career, grammaticality, intelligibility, and accept-
ability to identify four varieties of “Spoken Nigerian English”: a basilectal

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category marked by Pidgin and Broken English, a mesolectal category spoken
by the majority of Nigerians, an acrolectal variety (which he proposes to be
the one that was most likely to evolve to become “Standard Nigerian Eng-
lish”), and a variety that is identical with British or American pronunciation
and usage. Festus Adesanoye (1973) followed in his footsteps and adopted the
same criteria to identify three varieties of written Nigerian English.
Bamgbose (1995:11–20) has gone beyond this work to align the features
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of these varieties with certain historical phases in Nigeria in what he has

called “strands in the evolution of Nigerian English,” namely “Contact
English,” acquired during the earliest trade contacts with the British (fea-
turing Pidgin and Broken English), “Victorian English,” acquired through
Nigerians’ visit to Europe and America, either for study or as soldiers in the
World Wars (embodying carryovers from Victorian literature and bombast),
and “School English” which was learned formally in the missionary and

colonial schools (marked by simplicity, nativization, and the influence of

Biblical English). On his part, Banjo (1993, 1995:230) has proposed that the
Literary Usage in English as a Second Language in Nigeria

“endonormative model” (which consists largely of the features of his third

variety of “Spoken Nigerian English”) be adopted for teaching purposes in
place of the idealistic but impracticable British standard, currently being
propagated unrealistically in Nigeria.
The use of Nigerian English in literary creation has received quite
some treatment. It is in this area that Bamgbose (1993:103–104) discusses
the creative use of English in nonnative settings. W. R. O’Donnel and Loreto
Todd (1991:137–142) as well as Banjo (1996:121–147) have devoted space to
the linguistic and sociological issues involved in the use of nonstandard
forms of English in literary creation in Nigeria. In another bold effort, Igboa-
nusi (2002b) has combined the discussion of ethnolinguistic variety with
literary use as he studies “Igbo English” in Nigerian novels. The area where
these studies fall short is that they are all concerned with written literary
texts, not audioaural or audiovisual texts, like the ones being studied here.
The English of the Court Clerk and Chief Zebrudaya may be situ-
ated somewhere between Variety I and Variety II (but more of the former)
of Brosnahan’s, Banjo’s, and Adesanoye’s models of variety differentiation
in Nigerian English. In grammar, they are obviously basilectal, but they
appear to have acquired some high-falutin but often contextually inappro-
priate vocabulary, which they parade with gusto, having acquired it from
white people as domestic workers, colonial civil servants, or veterans of
the world wars through the West African Volunteer Force. It is the variety
whose users can express themselves somewhat intelligibly, but with abun-
dance of ungrammaticalities. Its speakers are unable to distinguish between
English-based pidgin and English proper, as they swerve between the two,
producing basically Broken English. Its users also have some impairment of
comprehension with utterances that go beyond the basics of literal usage.
This study sheds light on these features.

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Icheoku and Masquerade: Texts and Methods

The primary texts are selected episodes of the two electronic media comedy
series Icheoku and Masquerade. Neither series is in print (in their published
forms); both are available only in electronic forms. Icheoku is a television
series produced by the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), most of the
episodes coming from the Lagos national headquarters, and a few from the

africa today 55(4)

Enugu national station. Therefore, the texts are in an audiovisual medium—
videotapes. Copies of these videotapes have been secured from the relevant
authorities in Lagos, Enugu, and Abuja for this research. Masquerade is avail-
able in both audiovisual and audio media—as videotapes and as long-playing
records or audiocassettes. These are commercially available.
For the study of Masquerade, I have chosen the episodes in the audio
medium because this medium presents linguistic and paralinguistic features

that are not so conspicuous or significant in the audiovisual medium, where
pictorial props tend to reduce their prominence through visual compensa-

Diri I. Teilanyo
tion. The combination of the purely oral–aural in Masquerade with the
visual in Icheoku brings a fuller picture of the patterns and issues in second-
language use. Fifteen episodes have been chosen from each series (video
episodes and LPs or audiocassettes) and faithfully transcribed for the analysis
of the different patterns of nonstandardness in the language.
The choice of the two series is significant from the point of their
cultural and temporal setting. The main characters in both comedies are
subordinate Igbo-English bilinguals, Igbo being their mother tongue. This
gives ground for the identification and analysis of similar features in their
language use, particularly from the angle of language transfer. But there is a
historical angle in the choice. Icheoku is set in the early and middle stages of
British colonialism in Nigeria. Thus, we have an advantage of having a feel
of the dynamics of the English language at that time when it was essentially
a foreign language, serving an instrumental function between a few native
bilinguals and an external audience, the British nationals in Nigeria. The
show captures the entire gamut of communication—speaking, comprehend-
ing, reading, writing, and translating—in a foreign language. Hence the name
Icheoku, meaning “Parrot,” the bird that is best associated with verbatim,
stereotyped reproduction of speech—which is what the Court Clerk does in
parroting, that is relating, the utterances of the District Commissioner (Nwa
Dishi) or District Officer (henceforth “D.O.”) and the local Igbo community,
one to the other. Masquerade is set in contemporary Nigeria where English is
a second, language serving an integrative function in a multilingual setting,
but it casts a shadow back on the colonial period. Chief Zebrudaya, the hero
and main user of the language variety under study, has been to the world
wars and has worked as a security guard in a colonial hospital. Thus, the
combination of the two comedies gives us diachronic and synchronic dimen-
sions of the dialectics and fortunes of the English language as it developed
from the status of a foreign language to that of a second language in Nigeria.

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A word needs to be said about the authorship of these texts. The scripts
of episodes produced as films and radio-television drama are written by indi-
viduals, but their authorship would best be ascribed to the body producing
and presenting them, since the text as produced normally involves much
more than what is found in the written script. Accordingly, it is the produc-
ing and presenting body that owns the copyright. Out of the fifteen studied
episodes of Icheoku, all eleven produced by the NTA headquarters in Lagos
africa today 55(4)

were written by Peter Eneh. Two of the four produced by the NTA Enugu
were written by Emeka Nwagwu and one by Sarah Ezeudoye, while one has
no script writer identified. Therefore, authorship is ascribed to NTA Lagos
and NTA Enugu, respectively.
Second, all the episodes produced by the Lagos headquarters have
titles, but those produced by Enugu NTA have no titles. I cite the titles of
those produced by the Lagos NTA. For ease of reference to those by the Enugu

NTA, I suggest my own titles (enclosed in square brackets in the References

Cited), based on the issues treated in them.
Literary Usage in English as a Second Language in Nigeria

For Masquerade, all the texts are named. The LPs and audiocassettes
are produced under two troupe names, to which their authorship is ascribed:
“James Iroha and the Masquerades” (henceforth “Iroha”) and “Zebrudaya
and His Concert Party” (henceforth “Zebrudaya”).
The episodes cited in this paper in alphabetical order, are as follows:

“Bride of War”
“Bush Burning”
“Hungry and Thirsty”
“One Man’s Meat”
“Push Me: I Push You”
“The Missing Entrail”
“The Trial of Omenka”
“Aba Market Fire Disaster”
“Death for Jegede”
“Governor for Sale”
“Licence Your Gun”
“Stop the Wedding”
“The Teeth of a Goat”
“Unholy Baptism”
“The Visit of Mr. Bewitch Bankrovitch”
“War against Indiscipline”
“Woman Contractor”

For Icheoku, the analysis is sometimes aided by English subtitles pro-

vided in the videotapes for utterances rendered in Igbo by the Court Clerk,

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other court officials (the Court Messenger, CM, and the Police Sergeant),
parties in dispute, and members of the audience. In a few cases, the English
subtitles have been edited, mainly to correct spelling errors. Where an utter-
ance was produced in Igbo and an English subtitle is supplied, the English
subtitle is cited. These subtitle renderings are enclosed in square brackets to
indicate that the original utterance had not been in English. (Stage descrip-
tions are also in square brackets, but these are italicized, as is the conven-

africa today 55(4)

tion with most drama in print.) Giving only the English version serves for
economy and the interest of the non-Igbo reader, who may find the Igbo
unduly distracting. The analysis benefits from three bilingual dictionaries:
Kay Williamson’s Igbo-English Dictionary (1972), H. I. Nnaji’s Modern Igbo-
English Dictionary (1995), and Michael Echeruo’s Igbo-English Dictionary
(2001). In addition, Igbo native speakers have been consulted as informants
and resource persons about the meanings and stylistic nuances of unfamiliar

lexical items or expressions, including those that involve a fusion of English
and non-English items.

Diri I. Teilanyo
In the primary texts, the main characters involved in the dislocations
of language are the two principal characters in the two comedies: Chief
Zebrudaya Okoroigwe Nwogbo, alias 4.30 (“Zebi” hereafter) in Masquerade,
and the Court Clerk (“the C.C.” hereafter) in Icheoku.2 These characters use
English distinctively in their societies. The C.C. is the only individual in
the fictional preindependent Igbo (Nigerian) society who has any knowledge
of English; he is the interpreter to the colonial district officer (D.O.), who
acts as a judge among the native population. Similarly, Zebi is one of the
few who have been to Europe, during the Second World War, and acquired
some English from native speakers. Both claim much knowledge of English,
though the dislocations in their use and interpretation of literary usage,
as well as the general ungrammaticality in their English, proclaim their
deficiency in it.3


An idiom is “a number of words which, when taken together, have a dif-

ferent meaning from the individual meanings of each word” (Seidl and
McMordie 1988:12–13; see Hornby 2005; Longe and Ofuani 1996:114). It is
in this nonliteral communicative value of idioms that the problem lies for
students and other learners of a language—the idea that “it is often impos-
sible to guess the meaning of an idiom from the words it contains” (Cam-
bridge International Dictionary of Idioms 1998: vii). Besides the problem of
contextual interpretation, idioms pose difficulty in usage in that their lexis
and structure are often fixed and so are not susceptible to lexical or syntactic
manipulation. Therefore, V. U. Longe and Ogo A. Ofuani (1996:116) have
claimed that idioms “constitute the most difficult part of a language for any
foreign learner.” They elaborate on this:

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Although native speakers use idioms naturally, in a foreign
language environment, idioms are merely presented with a
simple paraphrase or definition and no rules for their usage
are offered. This may lead to an incorrect assumption that a
given idiomatic expression follows the same rules as a non-
idiomatic phrase of similar form. . . . Thus, the assumption
may lead to the construction of ungrammatical sentences[,]
africa today 55(4)

especially when students begin to apply lexical/prepositional

substitutions. . . . It is therefore advisable for students to note
the precise words and the contexts in which they are used.

Therefore, standard examination bodies in ESL societies—such as the West

African Examinations Council (WAEC), The National Examinations Council

(NECO), the National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB),

the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB),4 etc.—devote a major
Literary Usage in English as a Second Language in Nigeria

part of their English Language syllabuses and examination questions to test-

ing knowledge of English-language idioms and their meanings.
From the angle of expression, one feature of Nigerian and generally
African English is the modification of the fixed form of idioms (Schmied
1991:87–88; Kujore 1985:95–96). This feature involves either the substitu-
tion of the standard lexical items with other words, or the modification of
the grammatical structure of the idioms.5 Obafemi Kujore (1985) presents
a glossary of such nonstandard forms of English idioms in Nigerian usage,
juxtaposing them with their standard forms. Cases of such modification in
Masquerade include the following.

1. I am talk about the one you are do, and you are does another.
From frying pan to fire, nde, eghen! (Zebrudaya n.d., a)

2. Giringory are add salt to injury, nde. (Zebrudaya n.d., b)

These are frequent real-life Nigerian modifications of the standard idioms,

which are “out of the frying pan into the fire” and “to add insult to injury,”
respectively (Kujore 1985:95). In the first, the Nigerian version has the
“advantage” of brevity over the standard version; in the second, the substitu-
tion of salt for “insult” may have been informed both by the phonological
similarity between them and the African’s experience that salt produces
a painful sensation when applied to a wound. As noted by Kujore, Josef
Shmied, and others, several such idioms have been significantly nativized
by Nigerians and Africans for their use. Other examples they cite are “more
grease to your elbow” for the standard “more power to your elbow,” “to cut
one’s coat according to one’s size” for “to cut one’s coat according to one’s
cloth,” “the taste of the pudding in the eating” for “the proof of the pudding
is in the eating,” “to drag one’s name in the mud” for “to drag one’s name

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through the mire,” and “silence means consent” for “silence gives consent”
(Kujore 1985:95–96, Schmied 1991:88).
In addition to the modification of the lexical or grammatical forms of
idioms, Nigerian usage is characterized by the modification of the meaning
of standard idioms and the invention of new ones. Thus, “to put up with
somebody” often means “to stay temporarily with [the person],” rather than
the standard “to tolerate/bear/endure”; an undergraduate student might “put

africa today 55(4)

up with another” for some weeks before securing accommodation in a hostel.
Again, a “go-slow” in Nigerian usage is not a kind of industrial action as
used by native speakers, but heavy road traffic, vehicular congestion on the
road, or a traffic jam. Similarly, “a cheerful giver” is not just a generous or
philanthropic person, but a woman who freely gives sex to men. Idiomatic
neologisms in Nigerian usage include “to be on seat” (to be available in one’s
office) and “to go on school run” (to leave one’s office to take one’s children

home from school and return to the office).
The more egregious dimension in the use of idioms in ESL societies

Diri I. Teilanyo
is comprehending and interpreting or translating them. Jennifer Seidle and
W. McMordie warn us about translating idioms from another language to
English; but the warning applies to the reverse translation from English to
another tongue:

remember that it is extremely unwise to translate idioms into

or from one’s language. One may be lucky that the two lan-
guages have the same form and vocabulary, but in most cases
the result will be utterly bewildering to the English native
speaker—and possibly highly amusing. (Seidle and McMordie

In the studied texts, the main problem is that Zebi and the C.C. are ignorant
of the fact that some expressions they hear are idioms and so have figurative
meanings. Hence, they interpret them literally. Together with malapropism,
idiomatic misinterpretation is one of the most crucial pillars on which the
amusement and general comedy in Icheoku and Masquerade are hinged.
Dozens of such misconceived idioms occur in Icheoku, and several do in
Masquerade. The following are only a few instances:

3. D.O. I ‘d like to know from her which of the two men is

the apple of her eyes
C.C. Master, you know that apple is in the tree, not in the
eye. How the apple go to his [her] eye? (NTA 1988a)

4. D.O. Unless he reveals everything he knows about the

activities, he will face the music.
C.C. [Ochudo, if you don’t reveal everything about the secret
society, you will come out and dance.] (NTA 1992)

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5. D.O. All right, Court Clerk. Can we have a taste of today’s
C.C. Yes, sir. Today’s wine.
D.O. Yes. [Incidentally starts scratching his throat.]
C.C. [Nwadishi says he smells palm wine in the court.
That’s why his throat is itching. Did anybody bring
palm wine so that he can drink some?]
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[In a moment, a calabash of palm-wine is presented with a

local wooden mug to the D.O, who reacts in dismay.]
D.O. No, No, No, No, I was only speaking to you in an
idiom—that we should take the charge immediately.
(NTA 1988b)

6. D.O. I’m really happy. One of my friends, Mr. Fairway,


came to visit me after his wedding. He came with

the wife. And from here they will travel to Stringhill,
Literary Usage in English as a Second Language in Nigeria

where they will spend their honeymoon.

C.C. [He says there is one of his friends named Fowl who is
on a visit to him. After his stay, he will climb the hill
to lick some honey. From there they will travel to the
moon.] (NTA 1988d)

7. D.O. I’m very happy today. I feel on top of the world.

C.C. [My people, the D.O is sitting on top of the world.]
D.O. The letter I got from home last night says that my
daughter came tops from a university.
C.C. [My daughter was carried shoulder high into hell.]
D.O. She’ll be called to the bar in less than one month from
C.C. [She will be admitted into the drinking bar.]
D.O. In no distant time, she’ll be appointed to the bench.
C.C. To the bench.
D.O. Yeah.
C.C. [Soon she will join you to sit on these benches.] (NTA

8. MR. BUTLER. Chief, your name rings a bell in this town.

ZEBI. Bia, my friend, why are my name ring bell in the
town? I am sell hair-die? or I am make the advertise of
BUTLER. I am sorry you misunderstand me I am implying
that you are very popular in this town.
ZEBI Yes. But how can the popularity, which I am popular-
ize, come to be interfere that my name are ring bell?
(Zebrudaya 1976)

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Cultural differences and diversity in flora and fauna between Western
and African societies may be implicated for the gross misunderstanding of
idioms evidenced in these texts and in real-life African second-language use
of English. Since many idioms are culture-bound in deriving their existence
from certain historical or natural occurrences in their societies of origin, the
lack of familiarity with the culture of the source language could readily be an
obstacle to the deciphering or decoding of the implied meanings of idioms.

africa today 55(4)

For example, the idea of a honeymoon, the idea of being called to the bar, and
the idea of a name or issue ringing a bell all have certain stories or cultural
phenomena behind them, which are not shared by many Nigerian or African
users of English. Thus, the C.C.’s experience is limited to the literal notion of
honey as a physical substance and to the moon as they obtain in his geophysi-
cal environment, is the concept of the bar as a place for drinking, rather than
the use of the term in legalese, while Zebi is familiar only with the ringing of

a bell in open market places in Nigerian urban centers by sellers of groceries
like “hair-dye” and local medicinal ointment for scabies (“okirikpoto”). This

Diri I. Teilanyo
invokes the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of linguistic determinism and cultural
relativity, which argues that each language is so inextricably tied to its users’
culture-induced thought-processes that it is either virtually impossible, or
at least inaccurate, to translate one language to another without a major
loss in value (Bussmann 1996: 414; Malmjaer and Anderson 1991:305–308).
The challenge confronting the incompetent user of English idioms
includes both the use of the appropriate forms of idioms and the decoding of
the appropriate semantic import of idioms in relation to the context of use.
The consequences of attempting to translate them, as Seidl and McMordie
(1988:13) indicate, are confusion and misinformation on the part of the C.C.,
who represents the incompetent user of English.

Figurative Language

Figurative language is “a departure from what speakers of a particular

language apprehend to be the standard meanings of words, or the standard
order of words, in order to achieve some special meaning or effect” (Abrams
1988:64). It is, in the broad sense, “any way of saying something other than
the ordinary way” (Perrine 1963:116), or “language which doesn’t mean
what it says” (Hawkes 1979:1). Figures are not just ornaments of language:
they are crucial, not only in poetry, but in all modes of discourse (Abrams
1988:64). The ability to use figurative language appropriately—be it in the
form of tropes, or in the form of schemes—is an indication of a significant
level of mastery of a language.
Probably because Zebi is much more independently expressive than
the C.C. and because of Zebi’s level of mastery of lexis, we come across more
tropes from Zebi than from the C.C.:

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9. Since I was marriage you, so many numeracity of young
young men and women have die. But Chief Okorigwe Nwogbo
alias 4.30, I am dey kankpe—like the Iroko of Gibralta. (Iroha

10. “Vote for me: I will stopper power failure” O yes. You have
stopper power failure, but in your house alone, because you
africa today 55(4)

are get electric generator plant that can be supply fire to your
house when NEPA are on duty. (Iroha n.d., a)

In 9, we are interested, not so much in the simile used, as in the domestica-

tion of the idiom through the substitution of a local object, iroko for ‘rock’,
in the standard simile derived from the famous geological feature, with its
myth as the calpe of the ancients and one of the pillars of Hercules (Brewer’s

Dictionary 1970). In Igboland, the iroko (a huge perennial tree) is more a

symbol of strength than the rock, though an iroko tree is unlikely to be
Literary Usage in English as a Second Language in Nigeria

found in Gibraltar. Of course, there is also some element of malapropism in

it: Zebrudaya might just have confused the words “rock” and iroko, owing
to the phonological similarity between them.
Example 10, a recast of a common saying by Nigerians whenever there
is a blackout of electric power, presents a paradox. A listener unfamiliar
with the incessant outages of electric power in Nigeria would consider the
expression quite self-contradictory: why would one use a personal power-
generating plant when NEPA (National Electric Power Authority)6 is on
duty? After all, the work of NEPA is to supply power, and if NEPA is on
duty, then the power supply should continue uninterrupted. This paradox
is resolved by the probably unrealistic view among some Nigerians that the
frequent seizure and return of power (a chronic problem all over Nigeria) is
deliberately done by NEPA officials to indicate that they are at work to be
switching power on and off: if there were no such “go-and-come,” people
would think that the officials merely switched on power at the start of the
establishment and have been idle thereafter.

Proverbs and Aphorisms

A proverb is generally a way of speaking in symbolic terms. Hornby (2005)

defines it as “a well-known short phrase or sentence that gives advice or
says something that is generally true.” Ruth Finnegan does not consider a
precise definition of a proverb an easy matter, but she agrees that “it is a
saying in more or less fixed form, marked by the popular acceptance of the
truth tersely expressed in it” (Finnegan 1970:393). Thus, its distinguish-
ing characteristics are terseness, relative fixedness, and the universality
and timelessness of its veracity. Moreover, it is “marked by some kind of
poetic quality in style or sense, and in this way set apart in form from more
straightforward maxims.” Further,

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the proverb is a model of compressed or forceful language. In
addition to drawing on it for its words of wisdom, therefore,
[the artist] takes interest in its verbal techniques—its selection
of words, its use of comparison as a method of statement, and
so on. Familiarity with its techniques enables him create, as it
were, his own proverbs. This enables him to avoid hackneyed
expressions and gives a certain amount of freshness to his

africa today 55(4)

speech. (Nketia, quoted in Finnegan 1970:389)

Proverbs, while being universal in occurrence and function, seem to have a

special place in nonliterate communities, especially traditional Africa:

In many African cultures a feeling of language, for imagery, and

for the expression of abstract ideas through compressed and

allusive phraseology comes out particularly clearly in prov-
erbs. The figurative quality of proverbs is especially striking;

Diri I. Teilanyo
one of their most noticeable characteristics is their allusive
wording, usually in metaphorical form. (Finnegan 1970:384)

Proverbs gain their significance from the situation in which they are used.
They may be applied in morality stories to drive the lesson home. They
may feature in riddles and panegyrics. Furthermore, they are resorted
to in everyday conversation for oratorical embellishment, concealment
of deeper meanings from the uninitiated, and subtle hinting. “Proverbs,
in short, are interwoven with other aspects of linguistic and literary
Finnegan (1970:410–416) has identified utilitarian and aesthetic func-
tions of proverbs in Africa. Proverbs serve for general edification through
advising, rebuking, warning, or shaming maladjusted persons into compli-
ance. Through irony and sarcasm, they serve for comment, persuasion, ridi-
cule, and mockery. They serve as the embodiment of a people’s philosophy
in that they reflect popular thought and insight on the problems of life and
reveal the thoughts about the past: “In proverbs the whole range of human
experience can be commented on and analyzed, generalizations and prin-
ciples expressed in graphic and concise form, and the wider implications of
specific situations brought to mind” (Finnegan 1970:416). Schmied (1991:92)
adds that one of the proverb’s functions is to summarize matters that might
be difficult to explain. Furthermore, proverbs signify the speaker’s wisdom
and/or age, or they neutralize what may appear unpleasant or dangerous
truths. Sometimes they may be pure rhetoric; sometimes they are used out
of love of traditional wit, irony, or poetry.
Proverbs are significant in our texts in two dimensions: use and inter-
pretation. Indeed, in Igbo society, as in several other African communities,
“life is much of proverb and riddle” (Egudu 1972:101), and “proverbs are the
palm-oil with which words are eaten” (Achebe 1958:5) and are a major part of
oral tradition. Thus, Zebi and the notable male Igbo adults in Icheoku bring

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their messages home by resorting to the rhetorical device of proverbs and
give “a certain amount of freshness to [their] speech” (Finnegan 1970:389).
In addition, proverbs situate their users as being properly integrated in their
communities and imbued with the wisdom that their age suggests.
With Zebi, proverbs often have some elegant modification from the
standard forms:
africa today 55(4)

11. If fly are does not hear something, then dead body will be
use him to be make running mate in the grave. (Iroha n.d., b)

12. My father was talk it that if man are get up in the morning
and fowl are pursue him, run four-forty, because why, he are
does not know whether the fowl have germinate teeth in the
middle night. (Iroha n.d., b)

13. Mr. Frog are does not run in the daytime for nothings. And
Literary Usage in English as a Second Language in Nigeria

he cannot be does it. Any time frog are run the running in the
afternoon, the answer are either that his house are burn fire or
snake are wanted him to be wash mouth. (Iroha n.d., b)

14. Let monkey chop. Let baboon, his brother, also chop in
the same plate. But whichever that are refusal his brother in
the consummation, may he get hypertension. (Iroha n.d., c).

Most of these proverbs are commonplaces among the Igbo in Nigeria. J. O. J.
Nwachukwu-Agbada (2002:172) renders the Igbo proverb in 11 thus: “The
housefly without an adviser follows the corpse to the grave.” But Zebi has
clothed it with some newness in giving the fly the personifying political
metaphor of a “running mate,” which does not obtain in standard usage.
Similarly, the standard proverb in 12 is “If a person gets out of bed in the
morning and a fowl begins to chase him, he had better run away, for it is
possible that the fowl has grown some teeth during the night” (Nwachukwu-
Agbada 2002:106). In Zebi’s version, there is an added metaphor in the reg-
ister shift (to agriculture) of fowl “germinating” teeth, rather than merely
“growing” them. In 13, the standard translation of the proverb is either
simply “A toad does not run in the daytime for nothing” or “Whenever you
see a toad jumping in broad daylight, then know that something is after
its life” (Achebe 1958:143; Nwachukwu-Agbada 2002:53). Here Zebi has
brought in the embellishment of making the pursuer a snake and the activ-
ity as that of using the toad to “wash mouth.” In addition, the personifica-
tion of the frog is consummated with the ascription to it of the masculine
human pronoun “he/him.” Again in 14, Zebi has altered the normal proverb,
“Let the kite perch and let the eagle perch too. If one says no to the other,
let his wing break” (Achebe 1958:14). Zebi has substituted “monkey” and
“baboon” for the usual metaphorical vehicles, kite and eagle; the retribution
for selfishness is also now “hypertension” rather than a broken wing. These

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modifications, while making the utterance “nonstandard,” bring additional
freshness to the regular proverbs.
Besides this freshness, most of Zebi’s proverbs possess the stylistic
features outlined above for African proverbs. For example, while saying his
welcoming prayer, Zebi comments in proverbial terms about Mr. Bankro-
vitch’s visit to him:

africa today 55(4)

15. Pussy-cor, or cat in the English interfering, was talk it that
he are knows the good journey when rain are start to beat him
from his doormot. (Iroha n.d., c)

This proverb brings to light Zebi’s state of mind in relation to the ominous
verbal exchange he has had with the European visitor at the door. He consid-
ered the white man’s manners quite insulting; therefore, the proverb suggests

his misgivings about the chances of success of their future intercourse. Later
in the hotel scene where Zebi orders a truly African dish and the waiter says

Diri I. Teilanyo
he does not understand, Zebi asks:
16. Why are you not understooding me? Are it that the barber
are does not know how to cut head or the knife are not sharp-
ness? (Iroha n.d., d; 1976)

A standard translation of this interrogative proverb would be: “Is it that

the barber does not know his work, or that the scissors are not sharp?” The
import of the question is whether it is the waiter’s fault for not compre-
hending him or whether the order had not been placed appropriately. Being
a rhetorical question, the context tells us that the waiter is at fault; in fact,
he fully understands the request but does not have the meal requested, as
they have only a European menu, leading Zebi to remark that while in other
countries charity begins at home, in Africa “it are begun abroad.”

17. We are say that fire was burn Reverend Father, and you are
ask whether his biabia was include in the burn too. (Zebru-
daya 1976)

This is another nonstandard recast of a popular proverb: “We are saying that
fire has burned the Reverend Father to death, and you are asking whether his
beard was also involved.” It is used here to drive home the point that the fire
spared nothing in the market. Therefore, the question being asked—whether
some unimportant items had been spared—was redundant.

18. My mother was talk it that if leg are waka wara-wara-

wara-wara-wara-wara, you was took wara-wara eyes to be
look it. (Iroha n.d., a)

Invoked when the members of parliament are surprised that Zebi has noticed
their immoral dealings as politicians, this proverb serves to reply that it is

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their untoward behavioral patterns that have attracted his attention. The
ideophone wara-wara suggests a fast pace of movement, as when one walks
briskly through (dry) grassland (with the sound produced by the friction
between the feet and the grass).7 While none of these idioms is strange, what
makes them more refreshing is the dress of the nonstandard, but highly
rhetorical, English in which they are clothed.
Zebi often supplements his proverbs with aphorisms and maxims
africa today 55(4)

or axioms. An aphorism is defined as “a short phrase that says something

true or wise” (Hornby 2005). The OED (1989) defines it as “any principle or
precept expressed in few words; a short pithy sentence containing a truth of
general import; a maxim.” A maxim is “a well-known phrase that expresses
something that is usually true or that people think is a rule for sensible
behaviour” (Hornby 2005). An axiom is “a proposition that commends itself
to general acceptance; a well-established or universally-conceded principle;

a maxim, rule, law” (OED 1989). What makes them particularly memorable
and exciting is that, though they are often long statements, they gain fresh-
Literary Usage in English as a Second Language in Nigeria

ness through the dress of the nonstandard English in which Zebi clothes
them by “nativizing” them through the substitution of local or familiar
terms for foreign (and unfamiliar) ones and other innovations (sometimes
bordering on malapropism):

19. What are good for the goose are good for the lizard/gizard,
or in the vice-versa. (Iroha 1984; n.d, d)

20. Action are spoke louder than television. (Iroha n.d., a)

21. If I am offend you, biko, pardon me. After us, to error is

humanity and to forgiveness is harmattan. (Iroha 1986; n.d., c)

22. Jusu krat was only talk that to teacher people that two
wrongs cannot be, can never and will not be equal to one good.
(Iroha n.d., e)

23. Man are propose; God are condipose. (Iroha, n.d., b)

The standard version of the aphorism in 19 is “sauce for the goose is sauce
for the gander.” Here, Zebi has substituted the adjectival good for the
nominal “sauce” as well as gizzard and lizard for “gander.” He has possi-
bly confused the second set of words because of the phonological bonding
between “gander” and gizzard (same two syllables, same stress pattern, same
initial voiced velar plosive), as well as their belonging to the same animal.
The choice arises also between gizzard and lizard. He uses gizzard in Iroha
(n.d., e) and lizard in Iroha (1984), where the humor in the substitution is
reinforced by his friend Mr. Jegede Shokoya’s echo: “It is good for the lizard;
it is good for the lizard.” Beyond the mirth, the substitution may be seen as
an attempt by Zebi to domesticate the idiom through the use of animals that

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are more familiar. The other innovation is the insertion of the element or in
the vice versa. This gives additional insight into the proposition in the state-
ment. The more “normal” Nigerian rendering of this aphorism is: “What is
good for the goose is good for the gander” (Kujore 1985:47). Therefore Zebi
has only improved on the “standard” Nigerian version.
In 20, television has been substituted for “words.” Zebi’s version brings
the idea more forcefully to mind because of the superordinate position of

africa today 55(4)

the television as a technological medium for disseminating information,
compared with basic human words uttered without such technological mass
media aid. It reinforces Zebi’s feeling that the MPs’ failure to honor their
electioneering promises has been conspicuous. In 21, there is category-rule
violation or malapropism in the use of error and forgiveness, together with
the substitution of the more familiarly African harmattan8 for the normal
word “divine.” In 22, Zebi has modified the standard axiom “Two wrongs do

not make a right.” First there is the replacement of “right” with its synonym
“good.” Then, there is the reduplication of the negative verb phrase with

Diri I. Teilanyo
increasing intensity achieved through the reinforcement of cannot be with
can never and further with will not. The coupling and parallelism (Yankson
1987:6) serve to suggest Zebi’s conviction that Jesus Christ was not being
literal in the prescription “If someone strikes you on your cheek, turn to him
the other also” (Luke 6:29); for “if somebody are slap him [Jesus]—itawai!, he
will return it with immediate effect” (Iroha n.d., e). Lastly, in 23, the maxim
“Man proposes; God disposes” has been amended with the substitution of
“dispose” with Zebi’s neologism “condipose.”
While many maxims have a long history (as the above), one may
invent new ones. Thus, it is an affirmation of Zebi’s creativity that he can
invent one. In the following, we have the combined effect of a paradoxical
maxim forged by Zebi and an elongated proverb for rhetorical effect. One of
the parliamentarians has said that Zebi is merely joking in wishing that he
were able to telephone Jesus Christ to come and take over the “political”
of this country.

24. I am joking, nde? Thank you very seriously. But let me be

told you: a man cannot be foolish in the abundant unless he are
get plenty wiseness. Quote me—Chief Zebrudaya Okoroigwe
Nwogbo, alias 4.30, Chief the Honourable Palmwine Power-
less, Talkative Number One of Africa Limited and Sons. Enh.
Any time you are saw somebody who are use walking stick
to be supported himself, you will be go to took it from him so
that he will be fall in the ground igidigba! And as if enough
are not enough, you are not only took him walking stick from
him, but you are also took it to be knack him in the head—
ikpoi! (Iroha n.d., a)

Indeed, proverbs are not meant for everyone’s understanding. So, just as Mr.
Bankrovitch dismisses the proverbs in 14 and 15 above as “African jungle

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poetry,” even the fellow Nigerian Mr. Jegede Sokoya (Zebi’s friend and inter-
locutor here) says of 24 above that “I do not understand you at all.” The short
English idiom equivalent to the above is “to add insult to injury”—that the
parliamentarians are not being fair in going beyond depriving him and the
electorate of their share of the “national cake” to insulting him in suggesting
that he is merely joking by his statements of admonition.
Beyond comprehension, translating African proverbs and other idi-
africa today 55(4)

omatic expressions is another matter. It poses a problem for the translator

(interpreter) in expressing them in the words of the target language and for
the foreigner (European) in assimilating the implied message. This comes to
light in Icheoku, where even the proverbs are often confusingly or generically
called idioms or parables:

25. 2ND ACCUSED. Nkita nile n’ezu oshi anu, mana nke

zochara kpuru n’onu akpo ya ozu oshi anu.

C.C. All the dog use to tief a meat. But one wey you find
Literary Usage in English as a Second Language in Nigeria

meat for im mouth is the one who the tief, the dog who
use to tief.
D.O. What does that mean?
C.C. Is a parable, sir. (NTA 1988c)

The standard translation of the Igbo proverb here is that every dog steals, but
it is only the dog found with meat in its mouth that is proclaimed a thief.

26. CHIEF. The Ejiofor kpatara nku aruru ngwere wee

pukwute ya oriri.
C.C. [You are now speaking deep language. Will you call
your father to come and interpret? How do you want
me to interpret? You want me to lose my job.]
D.O. What’s happening?
C.C. Imagine the likeness! Na this heavy heavy idiom.
D.O. What is it?
C.C. Na idiom.
D.C. You explain.
C.C. How can I explain “Ejiofor kpatra nku ahuhu ngwere
abiara ya ura.” [You should put this idiom when dis-
cussing with chiefs like you, not in the court.]
D.C You say it’s what? What did he say?
C.C. E say “Ejiofor kpatara nku ahuhu ngwere abia ya ura.”
D.O. Ejiofor did what?
C.C. Let me think how I go speak am. [Pause] Ejiofor is the
D.O. Yes.
C.C. Who pursue that wood with ant, the lizard come for im
D.O. That’s an idiom.
C.C. Yes, is an idiom, sir. (NTA 1989b)

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A standard translation of the proverb in the above excerpt is given to us by
Achebe: “A man who brings ant-ridden faggots into his hut should expect
the visit of lizards” (1964:144), but an incompetent interpreter like the C.C.
has a problem communicating the ideas in both proverbs to the D.O., since a
literal rerendering of the proverb would not benefit the D.O. much, because
he is insufficiently initiated in the proverb culture to use the contextual
clues to decipher the full communicative import.

africa today 55(4)

27. ODEMENAM. Gwara m nwa dishi na ewu ata m igu na
isi. [Tell the D.O. that goat has eaten palm-tree in the head.]
C.C. [Can you explain that to the D.O? You want me to lose
my daily bread.] [To the D.O] Is idiom. E say that a goat
then chopu cassava for im head.
D.O. What?

C.C. The cas—ehn, the bundru, bundru of—u, enh, enh
palm-wine for im head, palm-wine leave. Is an idiom.

Diri I. Teilanyo
To Odemenam. [Don’t speak in proverbs again, or else
I will throw you out and you will be convicted.] (NTA

28. C.C. Nkeme chetara na nkeme echetaghe. All of them.

D.O. What do you mean? What do you mean?
C.C. By what?
D.O. Nkem cheta, nkem cheta.
C.C. Oh, is an Ibo idiom.
D.O. What do you mean? I don’t understand.
C.C. Thank you. Forgive and forget. (NTA 1992)

In 27, the C.C. has difficulty translating the witness’s proverb. In the incident
in 28, the C.C. is unable to relate his own idiom whose normal translation
would be “the things I remember and the things I do not remember.” He
considers a translation unnecessary, since he believes the D.O. would be at
a loss about its contribution to the subject-matter at hand.

29. UKACHI. Ukachi bu nwa ofu anya ji isi ugwo nwanem

C.C. Enh?
UKACHI. Ukachi bu nwa ofu anya ji isi ugwo . . .
C.C. Sharrup! Grammatic oil! [Shut up! All right, translate
it to the D.O by yourself. You people want me to say
things I shouldn’t say.]
D.O. What is it?
C.C. The man jus talking whether, e say that one eye wey
D.O. Aah!
C.C. I never know what e mean. E say one open eye wey owe
brinding man.

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D.O. What’s that?
C.C. Is an idiom, sir.
D.O. Owing him money or what?
C.C. I can’t make out. One eye wey owe the brinded.
D.O. It’s an idiom?
C.C. Idiom, sir.
D.O. Let him reduce it. Let him tell you exactly what he
africa today 55(4)

means. (NTA 1988e)

Here Ukachi says he is a (one-eyed) child that owes blindness, suggesting the
precarious nature of his case in court, in that a one-eyed man is in danger of
becoming blind should he lose the remaining eye.

30. NWADIKE. Gwara m Nwa D.C., na ji anaghi efu ome n’


odudu n’ o bu n’isi, nke a bu ilu n’obodo anyi.

C.C. I want to tell the District Officer my idiom that yam
Literary Usage in English as a Second Language in Nigeria

will not get owner in the front, unless for head. . . . In
the top of it . . .
D.O. [To Nwadike] Have I not warned you that I prohibit
unnecessary idiomatic expressions in this particular
court? (NTA n.d.)

In this case, Nwadike asks the C.C. to tell the D.O. “In our town, yam
does not at its head sprout; it does at its tail sprout” (Emenanjo 1972:111),
implying that in this community there is a normal way of doing things.
Here, the D.O. expresses his discomfort with such circumlocutory rhetoric,
going by his warning against it, in justification of the C.C.’s hesitation to
translate or explain the proverb in 28. Obviously, the D.O. would not find
the proverbs to be of much use as they are not just for “pure rhetoric,” but
are imbued with culture-bound “traditional wit, irony or poetry” (Schmied
1991:92). Furthermore, “some of these features [of proverbs] are far from easy
to interpret because they reflect underlying patterns of African thinking—a
very difficult field in any case, and one that perhaps only Africa scholars can
penetrate” (Shmied 1991:93).


The examples above present a picture of the deviant manifestation of nonlit-

eral use of language in nonnative settings. Specifically, they demonstrate that
idioms, tropes, proverbs, and aphorisms tend to be misunderstood in such
second-language settings, especially by incompetent users of the target lan-
guage. Moreover, they show that the daring user may take liberty to impose
certain modifications to the standard lexical and grammatical forms of such
expressions, either out of ignorance or out of the desire to “domesticate”
the expression into his local culture and environment, or even simply out

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of linguistic experimentation, that is “poetic license.” At the extreme, he
may invent some himself.
The ultimate aim has been to shed light on the challenges literary
use of language constitutes for incompetent users of a target language. This
presentation lays credence to Alexander Pope’s dictum that “a little learning
is a dangerous thing” (1973:1863–1864), in that having taken too little from
the spring of a second language, the “drinker” (symbolized by Zebi and the

africa today 55(4)

C.C. here) gets intoxicated with the little draughts and thinks he has drunk
enough, only to manifest the shallowness of his knowledge. Indeed, only
drinking deep from the fountain of a second language would have removed
the intoxication and made him understand and use such aspects of literary
language in their standard forms and senses.
The texts used for illustration are fictional texts; however, they con-
stitute a realistic parody of a true-life challenge and could have significant

impact on real-life use of English. Indeed, quite a number of Nigerians and
Africans are in the fold of the Court Clerk and Chief Zebrudaya, while

Diri I. Teilanyo
many more mimic this English on a daily basis and do get “addicted” to it.
In all, the deployment of such nonstandard features for aesthetic purposes
is an additional and significant impetus to the entrenchment of “Nigerian
English” or “African English” as a distinct variety, since their use suggests
fossilization of the nonstandard elements in the users’ linguistic repertory, in
that these are people who have, somehow, ceased to improve their learning of
their target language and employ the much they have learned for expressive
and creative purposes. Given the popularity of Nigerian audiovisual drama,
both locally and internationally, the use of this type of language for such
theatrical purposes amounts to further elaboration in the functions of such
varieties of English—an act that could further spread the assimilation, use,
and ultimately establishment of this language type.


1. NTV (Nigerian Television) has since been renamed Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).
2. These abbreviations feature in the works themselves. “CC” is used in the list of cast and dra-
matis personae in Icheoku. “Zebi” is the pet form that Ovuleria, the chief’s wife, uses to call, and
refer to, her husband. A graphological variant of it is “Zebby” (Ikhazuagbe 2001).
3. As will be seen in the quoted excerpts, there are several aspects of “nonstandardness” in the
English studied here: phonological, grammatical, lexico-semantic, and stylistic. Only literary
use of language is treated here, other aspects having been treated or to be treated elsewhere.
4. The West African Examinations Council (WAEC) is a West African subregional examination
body. The National Examinations Councils (NECO) and the National Business and Technical
Examinations Board (NABTEB) are national examination bodies in Nigeria. All three bodies
conduct standardized public examinations and award certificates of these to candidates at
the end of postprimary education. The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) is the

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body in Nigeria that conducts qualifying examinations for entrance into tertiary institutions
in the country.
5. In the quoted excerpts, words and expressions that involve some dislocation in use or com-
prehension are in bold print, to be marked off from the rest of the utterances in which they
6. The National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) has recently been renamed Power Holding
Company of Nigeria (PHCN), following the federal government’s commercialization of the
africa today 55(4)

public corporation.
7. The untranslatability of African ideophones has been treated elsewhere (Teilanyo 2001); and
for the place of ideophones in Igbo proverbs, see Nwachukwu-Agbada 2002:157–161.
8. This is a season of dry and cold weather in parts of tropical Africa. It is sometimes considered
the tropical equivalent of winter in temperate climates, prevailing mostly in December and
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of Ibadan.
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Hornby, A. S. 2005. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English. 7th ed. Oxford: Oxford
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Diri I. Teilanyo
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———. N.d, a. Governor for Sale. LP and audiocassette. Lagos: Premier Records.
———. N.d, b. Senior Sinner. LP and audiocassette. Lagos: Premier Records.
———. N.d, c. The Visit of Mr. Bewitch Bankrovitch. LP and audiocassette. Lagos: PolyGram Records.
———. N.d, d. Unholy Baptism. LP and audiocassette. Lagos: PolyGram Records.
———. N.d, e. Death for Jegede. LP and audiocassette. Lagos: PolyGram Records.
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africa today 55(4)

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———. N.d., a. Woman Contractor. LP and Audiocassette. Aba: Ben Nigeria.
———. N.d., b. Licence Your Gun. LP and Audiocassette. Aba: Ben Nigeria.

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1. “BRIDE OF WAR,” from ICHEOKU (Nigerian Television Authority,

videotape, 1988a), written by Peter Eneh, starring:

Chukwubiko Okereke, District Officer

africa today 55(4)

Lomaji Ugorji, Court Clerk
Sunday Nwodo, Court Messenger

[C.M. is alone in the courtroom with the villagers.]
C.M. Mmadu ga ejerila nga n’ ulo ikpe taa taa nwoke na acho nwanyi di
mma e e e e o mma, ha ga—ama onye m bu. [Someone will go to

prison today. A man who is looking for a beautiful wife.]
[Palm-wine tapper comes in and looks around.]

Diri I. Teilanyo
TAPPER. Omenka, ngi kam na-acho kedu mbele mananya m kadu mbele
mmanya m.
[Omenka, I am looking for you. Where is my keg of palm-wine?]
OMENKA. [Standing up] Nnaa, biko iwe ewela gi ugwo ooihu, ka o si
wee niee Ikenna wee were ukwu gbawaa mbele nwanya, m
ga akwu gi ugwo. Iwe ewela gi ooo. [Please don’t be annoyed.
I will pay for it. You’ve seen how it happened. Ikenna smashed
C.M. Onye bu onye a, ebee ka isi.
TAPPER. Mmadu ama kwuzie okwu ebea. [Won’t I talk?]
C.M. E e e e e shi ezi. [Go out.]
TAPPER. Ogini kam mekwara gi. [Ask him to pay me.]
C.M. I makwa onye m bu.
TAPPER. Mbele mmanya m.
C.C. Onye bu onye ahu
TAPPER. Kedu—?
C.M. Shi ezi.
TAPPER. O gini?
C.M. Shi ezi m shi, shi ezi.
TAPPER. Hapu m aka mi.
C.M. Shi ezi.
[Court Clerk enters.]
C.C. What am I hearing? What is this? Kedu ihe umu n’ eme n’ ulo ikpe.
Ama m ebe oshi gbeta n ulo ikpe.
C.M. I makwa onye m bu.
C.C. Who are you? Kedu ihe unu bu.
C.C. Ooo gini?
C.M. Gwa ya si ya shi ezi.
C.M. Bia, ooo gini?
C.M. Ama m ebe o shi gbabata n’ ulo ikpe.
TAPPER. Omenka ji ebele mmanya m . . .

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C.C. Ooo gini n’ esere nmu.
C.M. Asi m ya o na—.
C.C. Unu kpuru ya jee kpufee ya jee tii ye n’ kompita ooo ife ichoro.
POLICE. Ngwa, nuru nwa yoo niru nwa yoo.
[The crowd murmurs.]
C.M. C—O—O—O—U—R—T! Bilienu oto!
[D.O. walks in.]
africa today 55(4)

C.C. Morning, sir.

D.O. That’s all right.
[D.O. signs the register.]
C.C. Yeesa
D.O. That’s eee, that’s eeeh—.
C.M. S-i-i-t!
D.O. I haven’t got time to waste, so we get straight on to the business.

C.C. Ah, ah! Master, we have no business in the court. Are we a contrac-
tor or trader? Business no dey for court. Which kain business are we
Literary Usage in English as a Second Language in Nigeria

D.O. My friend, please; I have just come to court. I don’t have to come to
waste my time here. I am saying we move into the cases we have for
C.C. Oh, yes sir. The case we have today is the case of fighting, damages
between Ikenna and Obiamerem.
D.O. Yes.
C.C. The two young man is fighting for the love, love, loveability.
D.O. What?
C.C. Loveability.
D.O. Loveability?
C.C. Enhn.
D.O. What does that mean, please? What does that mean?
C.C. Like likeness. I like you too much [gesturing with his hands to his
[The C.M. is hitting his snuffbox, distracting the D.O’s attention.]
D.O. What’s happening there?
C.C. [Shouting at the C.M. Sharrup! Bagotee! Tinye ya n’ akpa gi.Rururu.
All right. Aga ewepu gi eji—.
D.O. Oh, please!
C.M. Eji
D.O. I told you I don’t have enough time.
C.C. Bekee shi n’ ya enweghi efe.
C.M. O kwa utaba, utaba.[It’s snuff, snuff.]
C.C. Sharrup! Put it in the pocket. Tinye ya n’ akpa gi.
D.O. Let’s go on. Go on.
C.C. The two young men—the two young man is fighting for the
loveability of gal, Uzoamaka.
D.O. I’d asked you what’s loveability.

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C.C. Lovea—.
C.M. blows his nose. D.O. jerks up.
D.O. Oh, dear!
C.C. Imagine this boy! Police, take him out
C.M. No!
C.C. Kpapu ya! Sharrup! Get him out there.
Sergeant murmurs.

africa today 55(4)

D.O. Leave him; leave him. Let him be warned. Go back. Let him be
C.C. Bekee shi gi nye ya.
SERGEANT. Shim m gbochie.
C.C. O shi gi nyesoo ya okpu ya.
C.M. O wukwa im kan zichaga.
SERGEANT. Ina ezicha ya imaghi ihe.

C.C. Ina ehi im n ulo court.
D.O. Get on. Get on, please.

Diri I. Teilanyo
C.C. Mosquito hes!
D.O. So what happened next?
C.C According to the traditionary of the people—.
D.O. Ehn.
C.C. When two men fighting for, for for gal loveability, the, the quarrel
will settle by the tradition.
C.M. Louder! Meche no-nu-o.
D.O. Before you get on, you say this loveability?
C.C Loveability. Yes. Is turn like say I like you too much pass anything.
D.O. That’s all right.
C.C That’s what we call loveability.
D.O. That’s all right.
C.C. No harm.
D.O. And what’s the custom of these people; What’s their custom?
C.C. Thank you, sir. The custom of the people is that if nab the two man
fight . . .
D.O. Two men.
C.C. Two men fight, enh.
D.O. Ehn.
C.C. So the quarrel will be settle by traditional.
D.O. Yes, yes.
C.C. The traditionary: the two men will rasle. Anybody who carry the
each, the other man down, na im go, e don win the rasle, sir.
D.O. Ehn, you say rasle.
C.C. Rassle, sir.
D.O. Rassle?
C.C. When they are rasle. You don—.
D.O. What’s rasle? Let me understand you very well.
C.C. Yes.
D.O. Just get it gradually. What is rasle?

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C.C. The rasle. Oka mgbe onu ya.
C.M. Oka mbge.
C.C. E e he e, bia. Gosi ya out esi agba mgba. Gosi ya ihe ara akpo igba
mgbe. [Show him how to wresle.]
D.O. What is it?
C.C. They want to show you what is call rasle. [Two men come out and
wrestle briefly.] Is OK; Is OK; Is OK.
africa today 55(4)

D.O. Oh, wrestling, you mean?

C.C. Enh.
D.O. Wrestling.
C.C. Wrestling, sir. If I make mistake—.
Both D.O. and C.M. laugh hysterically.
D.O. Now I understand what you mean.
C.C. Yes, sir. If the other man put the other man down, e then win the

D.O. I see. So what did—.
Literary Usage in English as a Second Language in Nigeria

C.M. Louder!
D.O. Yes.
C.C. So, na im go marry the lady.
D.O. If I understand what you mean—.
C.C. Yes, sir.
D.O. The two men wrestle.
C.C. Yes, sir.
D.O. The custom of the people is that they must have to wrestle.
C.C. Yes, sir.
D.O. Whoever throws the other one down marries the girl.
C.C. Thank you very much, for Your Worship, sir.
D.O. Yes. So one of them threw the other one down.
C.C. Yes.
D.O. And that was who—.
C.C. Na im win the fight. Na im go marry the lady, sir.
D.O. Right. Why do they have to fight?
C.C. Sir?
D.O. What was their fight?
C.C. The fight is causing by the other man wey dem beat down.
D.O Ehn.
C.C. E break the calabash the other man carry wine to his in-law.
D.O. I see. Hei!
C. C. So, there the fight started.
D.O. Two men, of course—.
C.C. There are two parties. The other party is supporting Ikenna and the
other party is supporting Odemenam.
D.O. That’s all right.
C.M. Louder!
D.O. You spell that “Odemena.” You spell that.
C.C. Ikenna?

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D.O. Odemena.
C.C. odemenin? /O-di-em-a-el-mi-mi-mi-mi-i/
D.O. What’s that? Odemena?
C.C. Odemenim. /O-d-o-em-e-el-mi-mi.
D.O. Who threw the other down? Who threw the other?
C.C. Ikenna.
D.O. All right. So, it was a bride of war, eh?

africa today 55(4)

C.C. Sir?
D.O.It was a bride of war.
C.C. Yes, sir.
D.O. That’s right. Can I see Ikenna. Please you call Ikenna.
C.C. [Calling] Ikenna!
D.O.Puta e bea. He’s coming.

Ikenna goes into the dock
D.O. How old are you?

Diri I. Teilanyo
C.C. Sir.
D.O. How old is he? How old is he?
C.C. I gbaka afo olee.
IKENNA. Ia di m aro isi abuo.
C.C. Forty years, sir.
D.O. [Surprised] What?
C.C. Forty years.
D.O. Is he not very young? He says forty years?
C.C. Well, I can’t make out, sir. Is what he pronounce to me I tell you.
D.O. That’s all right. That’s all right. How long did the fight take place?
How long is the fight?
C.C. Kedu nga I ha aka tutu unu ejee ino ogu u u olee out ogo gi ruru.
IKENNA. Out a m ha kam ha.
C.C. Nga akara ka gi ha, olee out oruru.
IKENNA. O gafere ni isi m.
C.C. Otua iha ka iha.
IKENNA. [Using his hand to indicate height on his forehead] Out a m ha
ka m ha.
C.C. I long as I long now before we fight.
D.O. Oh dear! I’ve really suffered in Africa. I am asking when did this fight
take place? How long now?
C.C. You say the long; how long he is are. The man tell you that he is long
now as im long their fight. What mistake do I make there?
D.O. There’s no mistake, by your understanding, no mistake. I want to
know when, the time it has taken since they fought.
C.C. Kedu mgbe okwu na uka a ji bido mgbe ogu a ji bido.
IKENNA. O mego out izu.
C.C. E den reach a week, a week of market.
D.O. All right. Would you tell the court what happened.
C.C. Kedu ihe butere ya mi unu ji luwa?

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IKENNA. Nna anyi gwara n nwa dishi na nwatakiri nwanyi a mu na ya
huru onwe anyi n’ anya rie nne.Ma na oge o bula anyi ga-am n’
akpa nkata, ya bu nwa akpo zoemena amaghi ebe o ga esi puta
o bia tie kum—.
C.M. Louder!
C.C. Oge ga nwanyi ahu na akpa nkata.
IKENNA. Ehu o si ofee puta bia choo ka o gbochie ife anyi n’ apka.
africa today 55(4)

C.C. Mhm. O chio ka ya ya mara ihe nnu n’ akpa. So this lady—.

D.O. Yes.
C.C. Uzoamaka. It take long when me and im begin to sweet heart. [D.O.
laughs] So hen I get something, I begin give him.
D.O. You’re speaking very well. That’s all right.
C.C. Yes, sir. When we start, me and Ikenna start for the story and the
other man jus come in there. I don know where he from.

D.O. I see. That’s Odemena.

C.C. Enh.
Literary Usage in English as a Second Language in Nigeria

D.O. What happened next?

C.C. Ngwa.
IKENNA. Ihe meziri nu Oge o, O na eme ya o nizie ofu ubochi ebe anyi
nu n’ mmiri mu a Uzoamaka wee n’ akpa nkata dika out anyi
na akpabu n’ mbu O wee sikwa ebe i wee gbaputa wee kwaa
mu aka si m aka si m na Ogo enue iwe ewe m anyi wee uba.
C.C. He say that when he was there was ponee day.
D.O. You say “Once upon a time.”
C.C. Once upon. Pardon, sir. Once upon a time, he was in the river.
D.O. I see.
C.C. Begin to be what? There e say “Uzoamaka!” When Uzoamaka meet
him there, e push him say war e start.
D.O. I see.
C.C. Mhmm
IKENNA. Mgbe o kwara m ya bu aka anyi wee lubazie ogu ka-anyi n’ alu
ogu uzoamaka makana o nwere obi ebere wee choo ka o gboo
anyi ite o bu n’ isi wee aa wee kuwaa.
C.C. Onye, onye choro ka o gbuo unu.
IKENNA. Uzoamaka ya wu uke nwanyi ochoro ka ogbuo ogu anyi ogu n’
isi mu na demenam
C.C. And that my loveness gal Uzoamaka wanted to divide us when we
start to be fighting. And his pot wey e carry for his head e throw
down and break.
D.O. Let me have the crux of the matter, the crux of the matter.
C.C. O shi ya choro ka ya Mata ezi okwu nu na ikpea ihe doro okwu, ihe
sere okwu a.
IKENNA. Eeee ihe doro ya bu okwu bu na a si ka agba mgba.Ora obodo
tinyere mgbe o ue na uboshi mgba a mu na ya wee n’ aba mgbe
o bunye m asu mmiri n’ anya ka fichaa-asu mmiri o bunyere m
n’ anya o maburu tuo n’ ala.

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C.C. Our people, their traditional is for wrestle. So when de day of the
wrestle we came out—Odemelim and Ikenna.
D.O. Ehn.
C.C. Andi Odemelim jus pour spitch on my eye and throw me down.
D.O. I see now. Tell him to go on. If he has any other thing to say.
C.C. Go on. Kwuwe, kwuwe.
IKENNA. Mgbe o tuziri m n’ ala ha wee n’ asi na o merie m ma na ufodu

africa today 55(4)

akwadohu ya wu nwatakiri ana—akpo Uzoamaka furu m n’
anya rie nne o wutere ya nke ukuru o wee biakwute m akuu—.
C.C. The lady call Uzoamaka love me too much. She is vex when Odeme-
nam put me down. And the whole party divide into two. Some agree
and some people are dragging, not agreeable.
D.O. That was very unfortunate, that you were thrown down before your
intended wife. It’s unfortunate.

C.C. Mgbe o wu ana ha ekwu na o gunwa ka ejide nu ya o ri , out ji ejide
gi, a gi amaghi.

Diri I. Teilanyo
IKENNA. O wu eziokwu ma na ife merenu wu na emesiri kebie okwu ma
mgbe ekebisiri ya bu okwu ha wee si na—aga eburuzi mmanya
wee jekwuru Uzoamaka nna Uzoamaka mara iru ebe a ihe wee
mu iwe m wee gbawa ite.
C.C. When our people settle the case that Odemena is going to marry—.
D.O. Yes.
C.C. Uzoamaka.
D.O. Ehn.
C.C. Em, I mean Ikenna.
D.O. Yes.
C.C. So I was annoyed; I vex. Iwe ewe ni obi agbawa m.
D.O. Hold on. Please hold on.
C.C. Yas, sir.
D.O. You say what? Gba gba wa.
C.C. I annoyed, I vex, not English language.
D.O. Ehn. Not properly used. Yes, of course, I can tolerate that. Yes.
C.C. he’s annoyed.
D.O. So I don’t understand—.
C.C. I annoyed; I vex. Iwe ewe m obi agbawa m, in Igbo language.
D.O. What does that—I see. That’s all right. Go on.
C.C. Ahn. So because of that I break the calabash of the man.
D.O. He did!
C.C. He did it.
D.O. He did.
C.C. I mere out ahu ee.
IKENNA. E mere m out ahu nna anyi.
C.C. Yes, sir, for Your Worship.
D.O. In the presence of everybody?
C.C. Nga di mmadu ahu no ka ikuwara ya.
[Ikenna nods.]

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C.C. Yes, sir, for Your Worship.
D.O. Ask him to go and sit down.
C.C. Gee nudia ala
C.M. Jee nudi ala.
[Ikenna goes to his seat.]
D.O. Now you call Odemena.
C.C. [Calling.] Odemenim!
africa today 55(4)

C.M. Odemenim!
C.C. Nwakenu.
C.C. Puta.
C.M. Puta.
[Odemenam comes into the dock looking triumphant.]
D.O. how old are you?

C.C. I gbala afo ole.

ODEMENAM. Agbala m afo iri ato.
Literary Usage in English as a Second Language in Nigeria

C.C. Agbala m afo iri ato. [To D.O.] I’m thirty years old, sir, for Your
D.O. What?
C.C. Thirty years.
D.O. What do you do for a living?
C.C. Kedu oru gi kem mgbe isi biri n’ uwa.
ODEMENAM. Si ya na m na ako ugbo mu na nnam.
C.C. I’m a farmer.
D.O. A farmer.
C.C. A farmer.
D.O. What can you tell the court about the case between you and Ikenna.?
C.C. O shi kedu ihe I nwere iko maka okwu dara gi na ike . . . na gi ne
ODEMENAM. G  wara m nwa dishi na ewu ata m igu na isi. [Tell the D.O
that goat has eaten palm tree on the head.]
C.C. Kedu ihe wu ewu ata gi igu n’ isi I ga enwe ike bia soo ya ya di gi
nfe, unu choro ikponye ihe m gi eri nri ajaoo. [can you explain that
to the D.O? Can you speak English as I do? You want me to lose my
daily bread.] Take time.
D.O. What is wrong? What is wrong?
C.M. Louder!
D.O. What is wrong?
C.M. Mechienu onu-oo
C.C. Jus idiom. E say that a goat chopu cassava for im head.
D.O. What?
C.C. The cas—eh, the bundru, bundru, of—u, enh, enh palwine for im
head, palm leave.
D.O. palm leave.
C.C. Yes, sir. Is an idiom.
D.O. You mean palm fronds.

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C.C. palm fronds, sir, for im head. Is an idiom.
D.O. it’s all right. I get it. Tell him to get on.
C.C. Ngwa na ekwu atukwala ilu a ozo itu ya m chopu gi ama gi ikpe.
[Don’t speak in proverbs again, or else I will throw you out and you will be
D.O. Yes, the wrestling match with him. What happened? Would you tell
the court what transpired.

africa today 55(4)

C.C. O shi I gakwa agwa ya out mgba unu na ya mere ka anyi—alu ogo
m fu n’ nwatakiri Ikenna na oriju hu afo m si ka m hapu o wee jee
zie anyi ga eji gbaa mgba, ka amara onye bu oka ikpe, mgbe ahu
anyi ji wee jee igba mgba, m wee lekiti ya anya si eeh eehe mu na
nwatakiri jee igba mgba na o kpeka orijughi asfo o wu ibu ma na
dika Omenala anyi si wee di—.

C.M. Louder!
D.O. What’s the noise about?

Diri I. Teilanyo
C.C. He said—.
D.O. What’s the noise about?
C.C. Sir.
D.O. What’s the noise about?
C.C. is what this man is speaking, sir. Nna a nnu emezila mkpot.
C.M. Louder!
C.C. So when Ikenna came out—.
D.O. Yes.
C.C. I been look him down from down to up and fain that it is not eh,
nothing dey for him. He didn’t strong.
D.O. he weighed him. Did he weigh him?
C.C. [Laughing.] Yes, sir. E weigh him up and fain out that nothing on him.
D.O. I see.
C.C. And then, from there e go reported to the our people.
D.O. the result of the wrestling: I want to know what was the result.
C.C. O choro imata mgbe ahu out gi nna ya si wee gbaa ya na ihe mere
nu, mee osiso o wu ulo ikpe ikowacha ihe—.
ODEMENAM. Ihe ga eme bu ihe ga merenu
C.C. Ehn.
ODEMENAM. Ka anyi putara n’ oha obodo m wee too ya aka mgba o
nweru ihe o mma, m wee tulie ya elu tuu ya n’ ala.
C.C. We come face to face in the public. Well, I put him down for the wrestle.
D.O. He did!
C.C. [Laughing] I mere out ahu ibu dara ya.
ODEMENAM. Ori juru afo e bulirini ya tuo ya n’ ala.
C.C. E e e e e.
C.M. Louder!
C.C. laughs
D.O. What did he say? What did he say?
C.C. He say he did it. And he carry the man up and throw him down.

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D.O. [Shaking his head in appreciation] I see; I see. That’s all right. What
of the fight that took place in the house of Omeke, Omeke, the
C.C. The in-law, Ofeke.
D.O. Ahn.
C.C. Kedu kwanu ihe dara n’ ulo Ofeke.
ODEMENAM. E  buru m mmanya maka na emego m Ikenna ka o mara
africa today 55(4)

ha oto zubehe ilu Uzoamaka, m wee buru mmanya ka m

turu ya n’ ala jee na nke ogo m nwoke
C.C. Well, since that time wey I put him down I know that the wife is for
me; the lady is for me.
D.O. Ahn.
C.C. When I carry a calabash of wine go to my in-law Omeke—.
D.O. Yes.

C.C. {To Odemenam] Ehn, gini emezie ebe hu.

ODEMENAM. N  watakiri a wu Ikenna maka na o zoro ebe ahu wee gba-
Literary Usage in English as a Second Language in Nigeria

puta wee jee were ukwu gbaa n’ ebele mmmanya m bu ji

nke ogo m nwoke.
C.C. And Ikenna hide himself there. Immediately he see my movement—.
D.O. He hid himself. You say he hid himself.
C.C. Hitam. Yes, sir.
D.O. Hid himself.
C.C. Hitamtam. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Your English correct. Well, e jus
come out.
D.O. Ehn.
C.C. And take his leg and break the calabash. [Kicking with his leg.]
D.D. And that was the fight.
C.C. That start the fight.
D.O. Let him go and sit down.
C.C. Oshi gi rida jee nudi ala
Odemenam goes out.
D.O. OK, Court Clerk, I’ll like to hear from the chief.
C.C. [Calling] Okey! Onwere onye ana-akpo Okey.
C.M. Okey!
OKEY. Ooh!
C.C. Puu ebea. [Who is Okey? Come out.]
Okey advances.
Kuru n’ ebe ahu.
D.O. What’s wrong? What’s it?
C.C. I think you say you want Okey.
D.O. I said what?
C.C. Okey!
D.O. No! No!
C.C. Okey, nwa bekee si I ga-akputara ya out nne ewu. I think you say
no. I nula ya n’ onu nwa bekee.[Okey, you will bring one goat to my
house. That’s D.O’s order.]

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OKEY. Nna anyi gini ka m mekwara nu.[What did I do?]
C.C. Gawa.
C.M. Ga nudi ala.
C.C. Ga nudi ala. O gwago gi ihe o gwara gi I kputa ya I kpogwara ya
chief ka o kputara m.
D.O. I want to hear from the chief.

africa today 55(4)

C.C. Yes, sir. Ga nudi ala. Bombastic!
D.O. Listen. Court Clerk William. Listen.
C.C. I kputa ya ikpunye onye eze.
D.O. Listen carefully.
C.C. I nuru mgbe osi ya choro onye eze.
D.O. I said O.K. That is “all right.” I want to hear from the chief.
C.C. O shi ewu hu gi hu na o buru ebu I kputa ya gi kpugara Chief ka o

kputara m.
OKEY. Oh nna anyi.

Diri I. Teilanyo
C.C. [Calling] Chief.
C.M. Onye Eze.
Chief rises.
D.O. Chief, you’ve been here. What can you say about this case?
C.C. O shi na gi anula ihe gi kwuru maka ihe gbasara okwu u okwu alulu
di n’ nwanyi hu.
CHIEF. Biko, siri nwa dishi na o buru na nwata ebulie nna ya anya.
C.C. Ooh! Chief, biko nwanne m o bu n’ iwuhu onye eze aka m akpori
gi .kedu ka iga esi gwa m ihe m bia; bia soro ya nwa dishi ngwa jee
kpoa nwa gi ka o bia, bia sooo.
CHIEF. Ilu bu mmannu Igbo ji eri nri.
C.M. Louder!
C.C. Ama m Ama m abukwa m onye Igbo ibe gi.
D.O. Court Clerk William! Court Clerk William!
C.C. Udi nke I suru kedu otuu ga esi gwa ya ga kpoo nwa ya nwa bekee
gi ka o bia soo ya ina-acho
D.O. Excuse me. Excuse me.
C.M. Louder! Mechienu onu.
C.C. Geenu nti.
D.O. what’s the noise about?
C.C. Is, according to the Chief. E jus tell me say that if a boy jus take im
father up—.
D.O. Yes.
C.C. E hold rope of im father for two leg, cover im eye.
D.O. What’s rope?
C.C. [Laughing heartily and bringing his glasses and cleaning them with
his handkerchief.] Imagine the—Umunna nnu ahula shi a nwa bekee
amawu ihe. Master, you have a rope, you, your two legs, sir

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D.O. I don’t have any rope between my legs. Thank you, Chief.
C.C. E e e e.
D.O. Thank you, Chief.
C.C. E e e nna nudi ala.
D.O. can you call the girl in question.
C.C. You mean the . . .
D.O. the girl in question.
africa today 55(4)

C.C. Ooh! [Calling] Uzoamaka!

C.M. Uzoamaka!
C.C. Bia n’ ebeea.
D.O. I want to know from her which of the two men is the apple of her eyes.
C.C. O shi olee umu nwoke abuo were mkpuru oshishi hu tinye—Master,
you know that apple is in the tree, not in the eye. How the apple go

to his eye?
D.O. Oh dear! [Pause] I am saying which of these two men will she marry,
Literary Usage in English as a Second Language in Nigeria

that she loves most, more. Which is the one she likes to marry?
C.C. Ooh. Biko nwa m ewela iwe nu ewela iwe ima ndi n’ ekwu uka. O
shi na n’ ime nimadu abuo a ndia ka m were nwayo gwa gi ya olee
ike kedu onye n’ ime he nke gi di mma I choro ka o luba gi?
Uzoamaka points at Ikenna who beams with smiles. There is wide
C.M. Louder! Louder!
D.O. The fact that the people fought over this matter shows that the par-
ticular aspect of the tradition has lost the unanimous respect of the
people and no longer acceptable by all.
C.C. O shi m gwa unu ebe o wu nna ilu nwanyi aga ewete ya n’ Uzo
Omenela nna gi mewe Omenala aliu nuru na ime hu hio ogu na nke
egosila na Omenala ahu adiaghikwa n’ ihe n’ ahugidele ya ogo a
C.M. Louder!
D.O. It is inhumane and great social injustice to force a lady to marry a
man against her wish.
C.C. O dika nga ewerela agba unyi wee tee mmadu site n’ ishi mo n’ ahu
ma o wu gwuo ala lie onye ahu I je shi nwagboghobia jee luo onye n’
awughi Uche ya.
Murmuring of approval.
C.M. Louder!
D.O. Tell them Odemenam’s wrestling has no consequence.
C.C. O shi na mgba nile Odemena gbara O nweghi nga o banyere.
D.O. That’s the end. Thank you very much. Thank you.
C.M. C-O-O-U-R-R-T Bilienu oto.
D.O. rises

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CONCERT PARTY (1976). LP and audiocassette. Aba: Ben Nigeria.

Chief Zebrudaya Okoroigwe Nwogbo, alias 4.30
Mr Olabisi Ajboye, Chief Zebrudaya’s friend
Mr Butler, a journalist

africa today 55(4)

Giringory, Chief Zebrudaya’s houseboy
Clarus, also Chief Zebrudaya’s houseboy
Magdalene, Chief Zebrudaya’s concubine

Zebrudaya dey come-o

Zebrudaya dey come-o

Diri I. Teilanyo

Clarus dey cry-o

Oga, make you forgive me-o

Giringory dey run-o

Oga man mus wak-o

Ajiboye surprise-o

Zebrudaya dey vex-o

Mgbo, mgbo piafu kwagi isi

Mm, mm, mm, mm

[Music fades away]

[Repeated knocks on the door]

ZEBI. [Shouting] Who are him or her?
BUTLER. Mr Butler, please. Mr Butler of the Overseas Press Limited.
ZEBI. Ajiboye, are you with me?

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ZEBI. Mr gini?
BUTLER. Mr Butler of the Press, please.
AJIBOYE. Mr Bottle ke?Ehn, Shebi, he want to buy some empty bottle
from you, Chief.
ZEBI. My friend, I am does not sell empty bottle. You can be asking my
friend of number 17 who are drink beer. I am drink tombo liquor in
africa today 55(4)

the return bottle.

AJIBOYE. Eh-o, Chief. Even if you have empty beer bottles, you should
send them the brewery ke,who will make good use of them, not
to people who go from house to house to buy bottles.
[Repeated knocking]
ZEBI. Where is Jehovah Armagedon of Job 13: 30. My friend, you are does
not hear that I am does not have bottle to sell to you, enh?

BUTLER. What the bloody hell have I got to do with bloody empty
bottles? I am saying Mr Butler of the press. Can someone let me
Literary Usage in English as a Second Language in Nigeria

in? I mean I am running out of patience.

ZEBI. Em, Ajiboye, let us be see who he, who he are are, because the
gravity of oyibo which are proceeded from his tympanic membrane
cannot be spoke by the buyer of ololo.
AJIBOYE. Certainly-o.
[More knocking]
ZEBI. My friend, jie break and put hydraulic. I am coming to open the door
for you. [Calling] Em, Giringory Akabogu! Giringory Akabogu of
Ikot IV.
GIRINGORY. Uka , sir.
ZEBI. Ngwanu, come and open that door for Mr Bottle who are knocking.
[The door is opened and Mr Butler enters.]
BUTLER. Good day, gentlemen. I am very sorry to pop in like this. You
see, I am told to come in here to have a little chat with Chief
Zebrudaya Okoroigwe Nwogbo.
ZEBI. “Alias 4.230”: do not be forget it.
BUTLER. That’s true. Alias 4.230. You see, I have to come here to collect
some facts for a special report on the Ikoha Fire disaster.
ZEBI. Eh, thank you. Have you go to be saw it with your eyes weakness,
BUTLER. What a shame!
ZEBI. Eghen! Ajiboye, are you with me?
AJIBOYE. Chief-o, this man must be a been-to-o. Because that is what one
been-to did in my village when his mother died. He said “What
a shame!”
ZEBI. Ajiboye, it are not only the been-to. The people of your village are do
it propro. Are you not present when Dokubo Tiger, my friend from
Tombia, was vex vex to be slap one Mr. Balogun?
AJIBOYE. Slap Balogun ke! For what reason did he slap him?

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ZEBI. Oh, ‘re you ‘re. He have morose. So you have forgot the time the
wife of Dokubo Tiger was die. And while Dokubo was crying cry for
the calamitor which was happen to him, Balogun was arrival to be
told him “well done! Kpele-o, well done.”
AJIBOYE. Eghen. But that was very unfair for Dokubo to slap Mr. Balogun.
ZEBI. Lie! Mr. Balogun should be thank his Allah that Dokubo was not
take knife to cut him head. Eghen! How can somebody be dead

africa today 55(4)

die. Insake of you to say “Sorry,” you are say “Kpele-o, well done!”
Eghen! You are wake up from sleep: “Ha, Papa, well done.” You are
fall from heaven of palm tree: “Wawoo, well done.” Eghen! You are
return from toilet: “Ha, well done.” Snake are bite you: “ha, well
done.” Are your people no get sorry in dem dictionary, enh? Good
thing are happen: “Well done.” Bad thing are happen: “Well done.”
Ngwani, Ikoha Market have burn fire: you can go to be tell the

traders “Well done” as their property have burn fire—and see the
resultant consequent.

Diri I. Teilanyo
AJIBOYE. Chief, oti-o, I don’t want any more of this-o. Shogbo. Ah!
ZEBI. Oh! Ajiboye, are it vex you vex, nde? Odinma: Well done!—accord-
ing by you.
BUTLER. Sorry, Chief, could we just conclude the interview so that I can
dash off I must catch the 4 o’clock bus?
ZEBI. Ngwanu, go ahead and conclude your interview, although I was not
give you appoint of it.
BUTLER. I’m awfully sorry about it. Impromptu interviews are often more
exciting than the preplanned ones. Yes, Chief, your name rings a
bell in this place.
ZEBI. [Alarmed]Eghe, Ajiboye, are you with me?
AJIBOYE. Just leave me and face the man who is interviewing you, ejo-o.
ZEBI. Bia, my friend, why are my name ring bell in the town? I am sell
hair-die? Or I am make the advertise of okirikpoto? Gbo, Mr Botru.
BUTLER. I’m sorry, you misunderstand me. I am implying that you are
very popular in this town.
ZEBI. Yes, but how can the popularity—which I am popularize—come to
be interfere to mean that my name are ring bell?
AJIBOYE. Honestly, I don’t know-o. Ah!
BUTLER. Can we progress, Chief. What I mean is that everybody in this
town and beyond knows Chief Zebrudaya Okoroigwe, alias 4.
ZEBI. And let me be warn you warning. Do not be call my name with sam-
samness like you are chopping pepper soup of fresh fish. You must be
calling it with alacrity, like iroko tree are fall in the ground – igbua!
will be in the imaginitude.
BUTLER. Now, what other details can you furnish me about your early

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ZEBI. Em, well, I was pass my standard six in the year 1915 in the Slummy
Slummy Primary School in my village of Mbitoli, alias Ikeduru.
BUTLER. What do you mean “Slummy Slummy Primmary School?
AJIBOYE. Eh-o. What he means is Salvation Army Primary School in Mbi-
toli, Ikeduru.
BUTLER. How nice! Em, when did the Chief get married?
ZEBI. In the year 1929 during by the time of woman riot of civil war. I
africa today 55(4)

was saw Missism Ovuleria Uredia Nwogbo, how she was fighting
it without, without no merciful. So I was love her because of her
AJIBOYE. [Cutting in] Eh-o, in addition kpa kpa, the Chief has two wives-o
and a host of other assistant wives all over the Federation.
ZEBI. Ajiboye, what? Are he ask you? If you are want to took, then over to
you. I can be put my final full stop, are you hear?

AJIBOYE. Ejoo, Chief, go ahead-o. Ah.

ZEBI. Yes, eh, I am get another woman, but she are in the temporary. Em,
Literary Usage in English as a Second Language in Nigeria

when she are misbehaviour well, I can be promotion her to parlia-

ment. She are Gertrude Apolonia God—give Nwogbo from Umudele
in Ezebudele. She will be returning next week. She was go home
because her father was fall from heaven of palm-tree and one eyes
was pier him.
AJIBOYE. Do not forget about Magdalene-o. She dey here kpakpa.
MAGDALENE. No mind am; e don forget me now.
ZEBI. Ajiboye, he! Ehen. Yes, Mr Botru.
BUTLER. I’m sorry.
ZEBI. Magamdalene are include, but she are in the considerate.
BUTLER. So nice. I suppose the Chief has so many grown-up children.
ZEBI. Oh yes. My first children are Benji. He are pass B.A. in the Engi-
neerer. He are working in the prisoner in the London.
BUTLER. He works in the prison in London, you say?
ZEBI. Yes. Em, my childrens No. 2. Took note.
ZEBI. My children No.2 are Gilbert. He still in the University of Mozam-
bique to be studying bank.
BUTLER. Very nice.
ZEBI. Em, I am get two daughters. Agi and Phenomena. Agi are studying
undergraduate in the University of Lawyer. And Phenomena are
Secretary-Typer in the compin. Em, I am also get two houseboy:
Clarus Mgbojikwe of Ndiolumbe , the Acting Big Man. One eyes
are pier his mother. And, em, I am get Giringory Akabogu too, of
propose personality.
BUTLER. What do you mean “proposed”?
ZEBI. Yes. His mother are come from Ikot Ekpene and his father are come
from Arondiziogwu.
BUTLER. As a young man, what services did you render to your country

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ZEBI. Ehen, Mr Botru, I am also get my friend here. Em, he are—em
Olabisi Ajiboye.
AJIBOYE. Em, the son of Lamgbodu from Ijebu Remo. Em, Ph.D Pool Fore-
cast. And as a matter of contingency, number 4 is sure banker
today, sho gbo.
BUTLER. Interesting! Interesting, Chief! Em, back to my question. As
a young man, what service did you render to your country,

africa today 55(4)

ZEBI. Eghen, who are young man. Gbo? Gbo piafu kwa gi isi for you to
refer me as young man. Even if your eyes are your in-law, can you
not be see this my grey hair? Or was you think it, or are you think-
ing it that it are the wig of lawyer? Eghen, Why are you not spoke
the simple oyibo that I can be understooding you? Or have you come
to be use me to practice oyibo grammatical, nde? Well, I was serve

General Hospital for thirty year as Gate Man. Since five year ago I
am retire in the compulsory.

Diri I. Teilanyo
BUTLER. Oh. That’s an awful lot of time. Now, em, one last question,
ZEBI. What it is?
BUTLER. What exactly do you mean “Alias 4.230”?
ZEBI. Yes. [Laughs heartily] Thank you. It are the title which my dwem
people of palm-wine consumator are graduate me. [Laughs again] It
are mean that any time you are look your handwatch of clock and it
are knack 4.30—whether in the post-meridiam or in the anti-merid-
ian of it, Chief Zebrudaya are in the bar to be washing mouth.
[All laugh]
BUTLER. Howe nice meeting you, Chief. I shall make a nice story out of
this. Thank you very much for everything. Thanks.
ZEBI. We. Eghen! We have not broke kola-o. Em, [Calls.] Giringory! [To
Mr. Butler] Or I am to owe you the debtor of kolanut? I am does not
BUTLER. Small time. I shall come again. See you sometime.
ZEBI. Odimma. Let it be as you are talk, eh.
[Mr. Butler departs]
AJIBOYE. Oh, Chief, I think I shall be going too.
ZEBI. [Laughs] Chie! Ajiboye, So Chief Zebrudaya Okoroigwe Nwogbo will
soon appear in the newspaper. Cheri! That day it will be grandiose.
I am does not mind to throway party. Ngwa, let us go to be drink in
advance. [Calling] Giringory! Giringory Akabogu!
ZEBI. Wem, proceed to come here. [With more excitement] Yei!
[Giringory comes]
GIRINGORY. Uka, look me-o]
ZEBI. Ehen, Giringory.
ZEBI. Ngwanu, try to be took charge of the house. I am go out.

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GIRINGORY. U  ka, Clarus say make I tell you that since yesterday we
never wak-o. In fact, the cloth wey you say make I wash
for you e still dey for backyards, because, Uka, the kain
hunger wey dey catch me, to God, if we catch you, you fit to
ZEBI. I am to give you—I am—Are you to eat me? I am foods? You have
not wak. Look, if I am return back and you have not wash the cloth
africa today 55(4)

which I was tell you to wash—We, Ajiboye, let us be go.

GIRINGORY. [Calling] Clarus-o!
CLARUS. Giringory, na wetin?
GIRINGORY. Uka wan to comot without no give us money for wak-o.
CLARUS. Eghen!
GIRINGORY. To God in heaven.
CLARUS. I dey come. [Appears and addresses Chief Zebrudaya] Oga! Oga!

ZEBI. Clarus, what it is?

CLARUS. This one wey you wan go, Giringory no tell you say nothing dey
Literary Usage in English as a Second Language in Nigeria

for house? Look, na only one cup of gari remain-o. Oga, soup no
ZEBI. So you will be chop me. Will you be chop me? Ajiboye, let us be go.
CLARUS. Oga, make you no go-o. make you bring money make we cook
soup. I beg. Giringory, tell am, eh. [Whimpering]
GIRINGORY. U  ka, you sabi say “All work and no play make Jack a dull
ZEBI.E. Thank you.
CLARUS. Oga, na true.
ZEBI. Ajiboye, let us be go.
AJIBOYE. Chief, Chief-o, sincerely speaking before we go to drink. Eghen,
when you think about the Aba Market fire disaster, shogbo
Olodumare, it was a really serious affair-o. Not even one single
pin was saved from the Market kpakpa. Mghm.
ZEBI. Yes, Ajiboye. It are very very surprisation. Jus look at it. Look at it,
how fire was chop the whole total property which the market people
of Eyimba was collect since long time ImoRiver. Eghen. Jus see how
fire was chop it finish without no reach four hour. Chineke, ejik-
wam okwu-o eh!
AJIBOYE. Chief, the worst of all is kpakpa was that I was told that a heavy
rainfall was falling outside the town for almost the whole day,
but not even a single drop of rain fell in Aba where fire was
burning the market, mghm!
ZEBI. It are true, Ajiboye. I was hear it that rain are fall from Umukpu
which are does not reach two hour from Aba. Eghen! Rain are fall
heavily from Umukpu telle Enugu and environ and beyond. Eghen.
The rain are so heaven that even motor driver are stop because we
cannot be see road to be driver his motor. But, Ajiboye.
AJIBOYE. Eghe-o.

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ZEBI. Do not be brame the rainfall. Oh, oh, so you are thinking it that
when fire are burning the big township, then God will be sends rain
from heaven above to be quench the fire, nde?
AJIBOYE. Eghwe-o, but Chief, that fire was really too much that I should
expect God to take immediate action to sends down the rain
with military dispatch, ke. Ah! Ah!
ZEBI. Sometime you are thinking it that God are the Commissioner for

africa today 55(4)

Fire Brigades, nde?
MAGDALENE. But, Chief, even if fire brigade no dey, Aba get river wey
never dry. Why dem no go get water come quench the fire?
ZEBI. Bia, Magamdalene, try to be put ya mouth in the handbag, before
I am dislocation it without no charge you any fee, eghen. So you
are want everybody to took bucket and run to the waterside to be

troway in the fire, nde?
AJIBOYE. Ee, but that is the duty of Fire Brigade, ke, but whether or not

Diri I. Teilanyo
they have been able to do so—oya be abu-o, mghm.
MAGDALENE. But that sday when fire bin dey burn, I see plenty Fire
Brigade motor, then I begin glad and happy.
AJIBOYE. Ah, ah! the same with me-o. Chief, it is true I was glad to see
those Fire Brigade motors-o. Eghen. Then I simply and gladly
walked away, thinking that any moment, the fire would be over.
Eghen, Chief, but the contrary is the case, ke. Ah!
ZEBI. O yes, my brothwer Ajiboye. I was gladding gladness when I was see
one battalion from Pracourt, two battalion from Owerri, eghen, two
battalion from Umuahia. Even our sister state of Ikot Ekpene was
send fire motor of fire brigader.
AJIBOYE. Certainly, ke.
MAGDALENE. But before dem come, now, the fire don burn finish.
ZEBI. Mba, Magdalene. They was arrival in time, but they was connection
their pipe to the pomp so that they can be get water to qwench the
fire. Which eye! Eghen! They they are try the pomp of Wegi Road:
babas! Kwent Street: babas! Market Road: babas! Eghwen! So under
the circumstant, what, how can Fire Brigader be do without no
water available?
AJIBOYE. Ee, Chief, so what you are saying is that if water were available,
the Fire Brigade would have succeeded in quenching the fire,
ZEBI. With immediately at once.


Zebrudaya dey go-o
Zebrudaya dey come-o

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Zebrudaya wan come kwa-o

Clarus was cry-o

Oga, we beg-o
africa today 55(4)

Oga, no vex-o
Oga, help us-o

Oga man mus wak-o


Ajiboye dey come-o

Literary Usage in English as a Second Language in Nigeria


AJIBOYE. Ee-o Chief, so what you’re saying in the final analysis is that the
Aba Market fire disaster would have been avoided, even water
was running in Aba that day.
ZEBI. Oh yes, without no thinking in the twice. Goat and fowl are know
it. Eghen. Ajiboye, are you surprise?
AJIBOYE. O yes-o.
ZEBI. When we are no get water to drinking, then it are the one to
quench fire which are burning market. It are true. That are the
reason why Chineke God was vex vex to be declarate that day dry
season of rainy season. Eghen. Even the the dem people of native
dokinta people who are make rain was failure that day. Even the
talisman which people are put in the market to be catch thief and
sell market—efu! Eghen. Everything was perish: anwuru, snuff,
tobacco, akaun, crafish, okporoko. As for ikirika of secondhand
cloth, fire was use that one to clean hand after chopping Cotonu
material. Eghen, so you can be arrival in the final conclude that
the proud of Eyimba have go to the babas, because of no water
available. Eghen. Why are you not able to make water available,
Eyimba, biko-nu? Gbo, Water Work, what are the difficurity? Are
you not get pipe? Pipe are dey. If not the filament of Umuahia are
still producing. Water are flow in Aba River. So what are hold
dog die?
AJIBOYE. Chief, even the water Aba people are drinking, I don’t think that
water is very clean-o. I guess there is too much chlorine or other
ZEBI. How can it be clean? Ajiboye, are you not know it that all the dorty
water and blood which the fowl-killing industry are kill and wash
into Aba River vru-vru-vru-vru-vru. All the dye color which the

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people man of China are wash inside the weaving industry are wash
inside Eyimba River. And all the dorty rubbish from ecetram ece-
tram industry in Eyimba. That are reason why chorora was took Aba
River to be make brigade headquarter.
MAGDALENE. Zebru dear, we no mind make pump dey work make the
water no good. Wego boil am before we drink am. If to say
that pump dey run that day when Aba market burn fire,

africa today 55(4)

even the bad water we for take am quench the fire.
ZEBI. Magamdalene, look at it: We are talk that fire was burn revernd
father, and you are ask whether his biabia was include in the, in
the burn, too. Eghen! Everything was crash: waterman crash; P and
T crash; even policeman crash. Eghen! Even the bucket which one
woman was took to carry water from the well of Mgboko, before she
are carry the wter to be reach the market, the bucket and the water

iwo-o-o on the ground. Eghen! Let us be hear something.
AJIBOYE. It was a very very serious affair, Chief. Before the people are able

Diri I. Teilanyo
to that day I don’t know. Some people nearly commit suicide
against themselves that day, but for the timely intervention of
the Military Governor of the State.
ZEBI. Eghen. I was saw him. That are what I am call gentru. He are propro
gentru. Eghen. He was arrival there to be took his eyes to be eyes
AJIBOYE. He promised kpakpa-o that Government would take steps to
alleviate their troubles.
ZEBI. Are you are! So Eyimba, try to be took heart. It are the way of life.
Sometime it are sweeting sweet; sometime it are bittering bitter. He
who are tradering trader must be prepare to gain or loss. Gbo, Aji-
boye. But not by burning fire. That are the reason why I am thank-
ing the Governor for the promise which he have promise. But do not
be forget it that Government—like Chineke God—are help those
who are help themselves.
AJIBOYE. Beeni-o.
ZEBI. So try to be cooperate with Government so that Government will
be cooperate with you too. Ka Chineke mezie okwu. Em [Calling]
Clarus! Clarus Mgbojikwe of Ndiolumbe!
CLARUS. Oga, sir. [Proceeding]. Oga, look me here.
ZEBI. I am wait till dog are germinate horn before you are give me
belefors, eghen?
CLARUS. O  ga na the only akpu wey you chop remain last night. And soup
no dey again—o, Oga.
AJIBOYE. Olorun Olodumare! Chief, what did I hear? Okpu for breakfast!
ZEBI. Ajiboye, are you are! Everyday I am teach you etikwet and you are
does not learn it.Eghen! Even commom, common, commonsense
which are does not cost money, you are does not get it.
AJIBOYE. Oti-o, Chief commonsense is the most expensive thing in the
world. You cannot buy it with all the money that was consumed
in Aba Market.

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ZEBI. It are true. I am agree with you. But Clarus should be able to know it
that akpu are not belefors chop. Even the dem people who are driver
caterpillar cannot be chop akpu for belefors.
CLARUS. But, Oga, the people wey dey push truck de chop akpu for bele-
fors, enh.Dem no mind to chop the thing five time a day-o, oga.
ZEBI. Ajiboye, are you with me?Are you are. Clarus are compare me with
truck pusher who are chop akpu in the belefors.
africa today 55(4)

AJIBOYE. It is true ke. Truck pusher would not mind to chop akpu even in
the supper.
ZEBI. Clarus!
CLARUS. Oga, sir.
ZEBI. Biko, give me tea and bread for belefors, biko. Mbereme bere.
Bereme bere. Abasi kon mbo, according by my friend bassey Okon of
Village Headmaster, eghen.

AJIBOYE. Clarus.
CLARUS. Ejo-o, make it two cups so that I can help Chief with one-o.
Literary Usage in English as a Second Language in Nigeria

ZEBI. Foul! I am give you letter of invite to tea drinking?

AJIBOYE. Eghen, Chief, are you trying to insult me because of common
tea and bread? Tea ke! Ajiboye Olabisi of Ijebu Remo. You are
trying to insult me because of common tea, mghm.
ZEBI. Ajiboye, you cannot be do me anythings. Even till next year. Are you
hear it? Eghen, are it because of that nonsense talisman? Try to let
it touch my body, then I will teacher you how much mbe are cost in
AJIBOYE. Chief, do not be surprised: you can go to Ndiolumbe without
seeing even one mbe.
ZEBI. Then, they will be change their name from Ndiolumbe to Ndio-
lufoul. Egwe, egwe, egwe kwa ga nu isi for them to answer Ndio-
lumbe without no mbe.So it are are in the 1956. Eghen. My brother
Andioduwa was go to Umunede to purchase ede, cocoayam, but to
his greatest surprisation, he was not see even one ede to be roast in
the fire to be chop before he are think of the bags of it for selling. As
Jesu Krat was talk it in his parabology, anything that are does not get
fruit should be cut down. So therefore, if Ndiolumbe are does not get
mbe in the quantum of it, then it should be cut down. Q.E.D.
CLARUS. [Running in] Oga, look the thing for table-o. the thing hot well
well-o. Chei! Chineke-e-e!
AJIBOYE. Ee, Clarus, where is my own cup of tea?
ZEBI. Ajiboye, shut up the mouth. You are see tea in the provision store,
and you are troway face because the house of Chief Zebrudaya are
dey, nde? [Calling.] Clarus!
CLARUS. Oga, sir.
ZEBI. Obey the last order. No tea for Ajiboye. Ka Chineke mezie okwu.
[Clarus departs.]
AJIBOYE. Ee-o, Chief, before I forget, you see that day that Aba Market
was burning fire.

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ZEBI. Ehen.
AJIBOYE. I saw Clarus and Giringory drinking pal-wine and beer in the
market. And that is a serious affair-o.
ZEBI. Ajiboye, what are you talk, eghen. What are you talking about? That
Giringory Akaboku and Clarus Mgbuojikwe was consummate liquor
when, when market was burning fire, nde. Eghen. Are you sure,

africa today 55(4)

AJIBOYE. Chief-o, if what I am telling you is a lie, let Sango and
Oriorokun shatter my head. I won’t mind at all.
ZEBI. Ajiboye, remain in the coole. The quality of bitterleaf soup are
dependable on the quantity of dawadawa in it. Eghen. Okporoko
and mangala are mere helpers. [Calling.] Giringory! Giringory
Akaboku of Ikot Ekpene!
GIRINGORY. Uka, sir!

ZEBI. Report.

Diri I. Teilanyo
ZEBI. Acting Big Man, Clarus Mgbuojikwe of Ndiolumbe! Acting Big Man,
Clarus Mgbuojikwe of Ndiolumbe!
CLARUS. Oga, sir.
ZEBI. Report.
[They run in]
CLARUS. Oga, sir.
ZEBI. Yes. Yes, the generation of periwinkle choppers, I was get informate
that when Aba Market was burning fire, the two both of you was
pursue rat. Girity or not agirity?
CLARUS. Chineke! Giringory, that day we pursue rat?
GIRINGORY. Uka, to God in heaven, that day we no see even single rat
for Market-o. To God, I no pursue rat.
AJIBOYE. Ee-o, Chief, Chief-o. I did not tell you the boys were pursuing
rat ke. I told you that I saw them drinking palm-wine and beer.
Ah! Ah!
ZEBI. Look, look, look, look at it him. Lack of no parabolical mythology.
Eghen. You was intimidate me that Clarus and Giringory was con-
summate liquor when Aba Market was burning fire. But when I was
put it in parabolical cropority, your head was turn turvy-turvy and
confusion. Well, Clarus and Giringory, you have hear the allegate.
CLARUS and GIRINGORY. [Together] Yes, sir.
ZEBI. Girity or not agirity.
CLARUS. Oga, I swear with this your bread, that day, Oga in fact . . .
ZEBI. Come on, leave it; leave my bread! Egbe, egbe, egbe kwa gi n’ isi for
you to swear swearing with the gread of my belefors. Are you con-
summate liquor or are you are not, during by the time Aba Market
was burning the fire disaster? That are the question. [Silence] Ehe,
siki one! So what Ajiboye was talk are true, nde?
GIRINGORY. Uka, I beg-o, make I talk true-o. I beg, I want to take my
mouth talk . . .

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CLARUS. [Protesting] Enh-enh; enh, enh, Giringory, no talk. Make I take
my mouth talk-am.
GIRINGORY. N  o, make I talk the true because I was there when the thing
ZEBI. Giringory, go ahead to be told me.
CLARUS. Make you talk small-o.
africa today 55(4)

GIRINGORY. U  ka, you know say since I come this house, I never talk lie
at all.
ZEBI. Em, go ahead.
GIRINGORY. Y  es, Uka. That day when the market burn fire, I look the
thing for for eye. My eye begin run water. Then I go dey
look how the thing dey burn via, via, via, viam, viam. I
sorry for everybody. Na im one man climb upshair the

market wey dey burn. Uka, we work hard-o; we work, we

work; we work; we work, do everything. Then somebody
Literary Usage in English as a Second Language in Nigeria

climb upshair the fire: we follow the thing. Uka, the man
come glad for the thing wey we do for dem. And then e
come down and look for something to wak. To God, make I
take the name of my father wey dey for Arondiziogu. Uka,
the man give us beer and palm-wine. Uka, Clarus, e look
the beer, e look the palm-wine. E say “Clarus;” e say “Gir-
ingory, e, as you be junior houseboy, make you drink the
palm-wine; me wey be senior houseboy, I go drink the beer.”
Na so e happen, Uka. So Clarus begin to drink the beer; me I
drink the palm-wine-o
ZEBI. E-e-e-eh.
ZEBI. Clarus.
CLARUS. Yes, Oga.
ZEBI. Have you hear what he are talk?
CLARUS. Yes, Oga.
ZEBI. Ngwanu, go ehead to be explanate to me.
CLARUS. Yes, Oga. Oga, we drink wine and beer that day. But, Oga, we no
drink am by our own accordance. Giringory, no be so?
GIRINGORY. You talk true small.
ZEBI. You was not drink it by your own accordance.
CLARUS. Yes, Oga.
ZEBI. In what accor was you drink it?
AJIBOYE. Let him speak the truth. That’s all-o.
CLARUS. Oga, you see that day fire dey burn Aba Market.
ZEBI. Ehen, what happen?
CLARUS. E come burn near to Cameroun Road.
ZEBI. Then you was go to drink beer.
CLARUS. Wait, Oga, make I talk finish, now. Oga, when the thing burn
nearer to Cameroun Road, na im this person carry knife and

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jump to the roof of the shade, begin to cut the gbam-gbam wey
dem take roof the shade.
ZEBI. Mm, hm.
CLARUS. Oga, na im me and Giringory climb to help them.
ZEBI. Mm, hm.
CLARUS. Oga, when we do the thing finish, now, the man come like the
thing wey we o well well. Na in the man come give us beer and

africa today 55(4)

palm-wine. Giringory, no be so?
GIRINGORY. In fac, you talk true small-o.
ZEBI. Em, Ajiboye.
ZEBI. I am gree that the people of Eyimba are very very generosity. If you
are do then good, they will be compensate you proproly. Eghen.
[Silence]Ajiboye, are you with me?

AJIBOYE. I am with you, Chief. But these people, Chief, if you do them
bad: Ahah, Olodumare! They will show you pepper.

Diri I. Teilanyo
ZEBI. Yes, it are true, But why was you drink the beer, Clarus mgbuo-
jikwe? In your carabirity as houseboy of no nonentity, you should be
refusal the beer donate. Eghen. You should be chop akpu; you should
be chop akara mgbo, Ajiboye?
AJIBOYE. Certainly-O.
ZEBI. Children should be chop akara and drink gari, not tombo liquor.
Mgbo, Ajiboye?
AIBOYE. Honestly. Chief , we are in soup. Children of nowadays ke.
ZEBI. Come on, everybody, fuck off. Come on, get out. Alele.


Zebrudaya don go-o
Zebrudaya dey come-o

Giringory dey cry-o

Because e no wak-o

Clarus dey sleep-o

Na because I no chop-o
Oga, help us-o

[Music fades away.]

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