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Wetin Be Pidgin and Where E Dey Come From? (What is Pidgin and Where Did it Come From?)

Wetin dey happen my people? Kilon shele? How far? I hope sey you bam?

Have you ever wondered where pidgin originated from? Or why so many Nigerians can speak it but not necessarily know how to speak their native language? Well, read on to find this out and more. I promise I won’t bore you!

Okay, so first up pidgin can be argued to be (though many people would beg to differ) the Lingua Franca of Nigeria, in other words the “Bridge Language” and to define it further, is the language that is widely used as a means of communication amongst most Nigerians.

Let’s talk about pidgin as a whole; there are different kinds of pidgin. West African Pidgin (Nigerian Pidgin, Cameroonian Pidgin, Sierra Leone Krio), Indonesian Pidgin (Tok Pisin, spoken in Papua New Guinea) as well as Pidgin spoken in parts of Asia and the Caribbean.

It is said that pidgin takes more of a “baby talk” approach and seems to imitate toddler speech or phrasing (calm down, I’m not saying that people who speak it sound like babies oh, just listen to the explanation first). Toddler speech doesn’t have any tones and uses simple vowels and like Pidgin is used to get what you want, using whatever communication and terms of reference you can (in the quickest way possible). Originally, pidgin was a few well placed words here and there with gestures to accompany them, and the rest as they say is history.

The beauty of pidgin is (should I call it beauty? Erm…..let me say “straightforward”) the straightforward thing about pidgin is that unlike other languages, pidgin can be as structured or unstructured as necessary. There aren’t really any structured rules to the game. It isn’t however, used as a mother tongue but over generations and over time the language has evolved and adapted hence giving it accommodation as a “first language” for new generations.

Okay, so I’ve gisted you about pidgin as a whole but now let’s take a look at Nigerian Pidgin gan gan.

All right here goes, another word for “Pidgin” is “Brokin” and is well recognised compared to other creole languages since most speakers are not true native speakers, many children however do learn it at a young age.

It was reported in 2006 that Nigerian Pidgin is the native language of approximately 3 to 5 million people and is a second language for at least 75 million people (now, that’s alotta people).

Can you believe, there are 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria and pidgin is the one language that people from all over Nigeria have in common? No one is saying that every Nigerian knows how to speak it, or even understands it but the majority do. What’s more, ethnic groups do have their own distinctive additional words for example, Yorubas love starting or ending sentences with “se” or “abi” so using it in a sentence, Yorubas would say something like “Se you go come back later?” or “you go come back later abi?” meaning “are you coming back later?”. I love that sentence I just used to illustrate my point, it highlights another trait of Nigerian Pidgin- the use of two opposites in one sentence, side-by-side “go” and “come”(you’ve just gotta love pidgin haha). Igbos do the same thing, so they would say “Nna, I dey vex for una wella” which means “Man! I’m so upset with all of you”.

Nigerian Pidgin differs all around the country. Now let me name some of the different dialects of Nigerian Pidgin: there’s Warri, Sapele, Benin, Port Harcourt, Lagos (especially in Ajegunle), Onitsha and others. Out of everywhere in Nigeria, pidgin is spoken the most in Niger-Delta where most of its population actually speak it as their first language (I bet you didn’t know that, ey *wink*)

Nigerian Pidgin actually shares similarities to Caribbean Pidgin. This is because descendants of slaves taken to the New World of West African origin brought back words and phrases from Patois to the Western part of Africa.

Some of the similarities include the tendency to repeat words/phrases for example, Jamaicans say “passa-passa” which means “scandal/drama” and “pyaa-pyaa” meaning “sickly” (the list goes on). Examples of Nigerian pidgin include “yama-yama” meaning “disgusting” and “laye-laye” meaning “never”.

Even more interestingly, the use of words is also similar. Jamaicans when speaking patois use the word “boasie” which means “proud” whilst Nigerians use the word “bosi” which also means “proud. Jamaicans use the word “unu” and Nigerians use the word “wuna” which is derived from the Igbo word “una” meaning “you people” (though most people do use the word “una” or maybe they’re saying “wuna” but I don’t hear the “w” hahaha) . In patois, “pickney” is the word for “children” whilst in pidgin the word is “pikin”. The use of “dey” or “deh are found in both patois and pidgin. This means that sentences like “where you dey/deh?” would be understood by Jamaicans and Nigerians to mean “where are you?” There are sooooo many similarities, (no wonder some of these Nigerian artists love speaking patois in some of their songs hehe, Nigerians would fit in nicely in Jamaica and vice versa).

So there you have it, the origin of “Pidgin”! If you want to learn pidgin or develop your pidgin further whilst having fun, be sure to tune in and watch ELR8D every Sunday at 20:30 CAT and 19:30 WAT on EbonyLife TV DStv Channel 165 where entertainers Chigul and Emma oh ma god countdown the top eight nostalgic things that represents Nigeria.

0 thoughts on “Wetin Be Pidgin and Where E Dey Come From? (What is Pidgin and Where Did it Come From?)

  1. Differentstone

    Fantastic write up.Let me just add that PIDGIN is simply proof of a people’s struggle with an original language…And (in the context of this write up),I believe what is being addressed here is ‘Pidgin English’ spoken in Nigeria. Please note that ‘Pidgin’ exists in every language. So, for as long as you can’t speak an original language with accuracy/fluency, what you speak is pidgin.


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