Pidgin no be Pidgeon – An Ode to That other English

Where would Nigeria really be without pidgin English? I dare say that this very urban linguistic and cultural masterpiece is the glue that holds our fragile nation together. It is the uncontested language of trade and business, at least in the colloquial domain. Yes o. Forget about Queen’s English. Pidgin is understood in every nook and corner of the country, but your valiant attempt at remaining true to the Queen’s English may leave your floundering and beep-booping, like a stranded alien, in many parts of the country.

Pidgin is to me linguistic jazz and, like that venerable musical idiom, the exponent is free to improvise, forming new words, phrases, idioms and sounds that only have meanings in the context of the Key, Beat and Tonality, which makes you smile out of pure pleasure in appreciation of the art. Good thing too is that, like a Jazz jam session, you are challenged or ‘gingered’ to showboat your own skills to the enjoyment of all. Pidgin is a coming together of cultures and languages; which came together and where, as in Jazz, is the source of diversity in forms and dialects, varying from the relatively straight-laced northern forms to the flowery ‘Warri’ variant.

Also, Pidgin facilitates a truer translation from the numerous indigenous Nigerian languages, being more akin in spirit, structure and form than the Queen’s English. Try translating a Proverb from your Nigerian language to English and you will find, like me, that, somehow, the metaphor feels like a watered down lyrical equivalent. Try it in Pidgin and… aha!

Pidgeon no be Pidgin.

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