Lost in Explanation

7 Oct

I find it difficult to explain something intrinsically Nigerian to someone who is not Nigerian.  It makes me feel alien.  Like I don’t belong to society. Once I got frustrated when Turtle did not understand what I meant by, “I need to go to Dick’s Sporting Goods to buy a torch.”

“A What?” He asked.

“A Torch!”

“What torch?”

“A torch!  A torch!” I said as I cupped one hand and motions.

“Ohhhh, you mean a flash light….”

On many occasions I have had to edit a few things at work and catch myself saying, “you should put a full stop at the end of that sentence.”

“A what?”

“A full stop.  I mean a period.”

About a month ago, my co-workers asked me to speak a few words of pidgin like “how are you” and “I am fine thank you.”

So I said, “how you dey?” and “I dey fine oh.”

*blank stare*

“Oh,” said J, one of my co-workers, “you sound like jar-jar binks!”

Jar-jar freaking binks from star wars.  That was what something so uniquely Nigerian and popularly used and loved had been reduced to.  An alien character in a fictional story line.  Her frame of reference was a little insulting and maybe amusing.

I notice this happen too often.  Twice maybe three times a week.  I find myself self-editing my speech patterns, my behavior and I don’t know if it is because I want to fit in or I don’t want the mental burden of feeling alien.  Standing out.  Being an “other.”  I also find it to be a bizarre superficial behavior.  After all, I am a proponent of the the importance of being self aware, knowing who you are, where you come from and where you want to go.

I proudly wear my short curly fro. I refuse to respond to people who see it fit to correct my pronunciation.  So what if I say “Oh Grateen” (for “Au Grautin” or “sez” (as in “says”).  I delight in being different and standing out in the crowd.  Yet – my inner need to belong can rear its ugly head once in a while.

I am sorry for rambling.  It is Friday and I have not had a full night’s sleep in three weeks.  Yeah.  I took myself off Ambien for something far less trippy and the result is me staying awake most nights watching TV, stalking pests, reading and generally trying to keep my racing mind on track.  It is amazing how my mind just goes on and on for days, jumping from one thought to another without a break.  The only thing that gives me a break is an Ativan.  Or two.  But that crap is totally addictive.  So I avoid it whenever I can.


I need sleep.  I am kinda running on empty, jazzing myself up with coffee, redbull and slim jims.  My body is tired but my freaking mind won’t stop.   To make things worse, I have the shakes.  It comes and goes.  I move my legs up and down really fast.  My hands shake when I do simple tasks and my body jerks itself awake when I happen to doze off for a minute.  All side effects from my pain meds.  Good news is I am not in pain.  Bad news – everything else is like the twilight zone.

Okay enough rambling.  I have to prepare for a Maryland vs. Georgia Tech football game tailgate tomorrow.  I have to get my hair braided on Sunday.  I have to take Monday off to get some sleep.

I hope your week went better than mine my friends.





5 Responses to “Lost in Explanation”

  1. Taynement October 7, 2011 at 10:10 am #

    hope you feel better! You never realize how important sleep is till you don’t have it.

  2. jollof October 7, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

    Excellent post! This isn’t rambling Lil. I wrote an article, ‘Lost in Translation’ on my facebook page explaining how we get frustrated over the phone when pronouncing words which could easily be mistaking for another e.g. Fifty…Sixty. Hang in there – glad you’re not in any pain 🙂

  3. Amy October 9, 2011 at 10:06 am #

    Reminds me of when I was in pre-K and I kept asking my teacher to give me my bata back. Poor lady had no idea what I was talking about. I was in tears by the time my mom arrived and told her I was referring to my shoes!

  4. Ginger October 9, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

    I don’t think I have consciously changed my vocab to suit my Brit hosts.. after all Nigerian English is adapted from them but we do have some “I say tomatoes, you say tomatoes moments..lol.
    Calling my debit card my ATM card to incomprehensible stares. recharge card as opposed to top up card, etc. Pawpaw and papaya, pepper/chilli…

    Did you finally manage to get some sleep? hope so…Have a blessed new week.

  5. pendo October 11, 2011 at 3:04 pm #

    What is even more confusing is when people living in former british colonies (who usually speak the british version of english minus the accent) adopt american english in their vocabulary kinda like an american/british english thing going on ,”in a building someone says we need to take the “lift” then turns round to ask the security guard: ‘where are the “elevators” located???’ make up your mind is it british or american. Worse is using a combination of american and british spelling in the same document e.g. “my house color is green it was painted on Labour day” ????? color-colour, Labor-Labour

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