If variety is the spice of life, then Nigeria is the kind of pepper soup dish that would have Toke claiming the sweat on her brow is ‘glow’.

Here’s the super-new episode of VRSUS by the way. #ShamelessPlug #NaWeDoAm

You know the basic facts – over 200 million people, 200 tribes and languages, 36 states, three major ethnic groups all live together in Nigeria. We’re in a melting pot if there ever was one. It’s little surprise that no single language, not even our lingua franca, English is spoken across the country.

But if you listen enough, one of the best things about being Nigerian is how we’ve injected common terms with new meaning and created a set of terms that only Nigerians understand.

People call them Nigerianisms. We may not have all of these codified into a dictionary but I will have you know that Nigerian English is the fastest growing variety of non-native English in the whole world.

That grammatically wrong term you’ve been using (insert the wrong term) could become more common than you realise; which poses a small, itsy-bitsy lirru problem.

I honestly believe Nigerians are funny from birth, and it shows in our Nigerianisms. But some of these terms have become so annoying that we don’t want to imagine a world where everyone speaks them too.

That said, in the global interest, these are the 7 most annoying Nigerian-isms. I hope we wake up tomorrow and forget them so we can avoid an eventual apocalypse where the only rational person is, you guessed it, your old English teacher.


So the basis of this is simple. See finish is pretty much the lazy version of “familiarity breeds contempt“. The problem is you can’t say this thing without sounding like you’re about to start a fight; you say ‘the reason for this situation is see finish’ and someone takes it as an insult.

What kind of world are we creating where a simple phrase can get you on Instablog for fighting inside gutter? Nah plis.


I want you to think deeply about what a person means when they say “This guy. Oya come and be going to your house“. Do you feel this slight sense of chaos swimming in your head? Do you feel the need to moonwalk in several directions at once? Imagine a non-Nigerian in the same shoes.

I have a theory. This particular Nigerianism was introduced to our lexicon by the spiritual agent of confusion – the same guy who tweets on behalf of Bashir Ahmad and made Cynthia Morgan change her name to something no-one (including her) can seem to remember.

  • “MY DEAR”

This is one of those many British slangs that found its way into Nigerian English. That’s not necessarily a bad thing except we’ve turned it into a condescending way of referring to people we don’t rate, or putting them in their supposed place.

How many times have you said something smart, only for the oldest person in the room to say “My dear, nothing works like that“. It’s also become a fave of creepy men who hang out near ATM stalls and mutter as a term of endearment to every girl or woman who passes by, “You look so cute, let me help you, my dear”. Ewww. Delete please.

  • “THEY”

Nigerians use ‘they’ like a swiss army knife. We use it to refer to a random group of people as in “They said Buhari is actually Jibril from Sudan”. Sometimes, it refers to an imaginary hater e.g “They told me I wouldn’t make it; look at them!”.

“They” is the lethargic way Nigerians describe any and everybody including groups we are a part of e.g “

  • “OPEN EYE”

You would assume everyone keeps their eyes open fairly often; I mean, it’s how we see, right? That is until a Nigerian tells you that someone has ‘open eye’ which is basically slang for “greed”.

My only problem is there’s no way to accuse a person of having open eye without sounding poor, frustrated and unfortunate.

  • “TAKE IN”

To the rest of the world, to ‘take in’ mostly means to understand or assimilate. But when you’re a Nigerian with women in your life, it means one of them is now pregnant. Now, apart from making it sound like women go to a government facility to ‘take babies in’, it just strips reproduction of all its beauty.

She doesn’t want to take in, dammit. She wants to be pregnant. Only Nigerians can make pregnancy sound like a football tactic.

  • “UNCLE” & “AUNTY”

I get that the idea that we’re all related is super cool and all that. But thanks to Nigeria, odds are you’ve spent your entire life referring people you don’t know from Adam as “Uncle” or “Aunty”.

As you get older, you begin to notice that people call you the same thing as well. A random kid walks up to you and says “Uncle, help me carry my ball from that tree”. Yea, I love your zeal and all but I don’t really know your dad or mum like that.

That’s all folks. Let’s come together and save the world from eternal confusion. As with everything Nigerian, it begins with you. If she’s not ingesting entire morsels of fufu in quick succession, she’s not taken anything in. Thanks, my dears.



Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.