Humour of Language



Language is the most powerful means of communication in human history. Just think for a second how the world would be if there was no Language… what form of communication might we use? Perhaps music… (hmmm I really don’t know, I rather not think too much about that).

 One beautiful nature about language is that it is dynamic. For centuries many languages have experienced a growth in their vocabulary from  new words, dialects and even pidgins. While the latter has been accepted as informal or uneducated, pidgins are no doubt a language in their own right.

 A form of Language I think hasn’t been given as much attention is the import of several non-words and text acronym into our active vocabulary. There are so many expressions we use today that were considered unacceptable in the past or even non-existent. But thanks to music, movies and social media we can get away with anything. In fact, there are certain words and expression that have connotative meanings by virtue of situations surrounding the origin of the word or expression.

My post today, would look at the influence of culture on language and the value of events on words and expressions. Culture is a broad topic, it is especially hinged on the society we come from. In my society, I’m constantly trying to keep up with new expressions that get thrown at me especially on social media. Within Nigeria for example I can count several new text acronyms that would definitely not make sense to those outside this society partly because it’s Pidgin.  The text acronym LWKMD for example, meaning Laugh Wan Kill Me Die often pops up in Nigeria’s social media.  It’s a variant version of LOL (laugh out loud) or LMAO(Laughing My Ass Out) in English. Seeing LWKMD in a comment about a picture or post conveys a vivid picture of laughter than LOL for me. It’s funny because in regular discussions with my friends I don’t use LWKMD, but there is this warm appeal to use LWKMD on occasion than LOL when texting (I probably need to read more on text acronyms and culture). Whatever the case it seems to me that daily, more and more new text acronyms are added into the social ‘mediasphere’, like there is some machine somewhere creating and distributing these words!

When it comes to non-words music has a lot to play for many of such inclusions. For instance, in my culture it’s not uncommon to hear people use the non-word koko during conversation,  someone could say for example, “the koko of the problem is…” when addressing the seriousness of a situation. I stand to be corrected, but the truth is that this word only found its roots in our language after D’Banj( a renowned Nigerian Artist) used it in his debut single Tongolo  in 2005. It’s not that the word koko was non-existent, it does exists in Yoruba- it means corn porridge, but the meaning  as coined by D’banj added a second dimension to the word koko.

The movie industry in Nigeria has added countless words as well. Popular sitcoms and comedy have had their share in bringing a new dimension to the way individuals in the society express themselves. A brilliant example is this movie Jennifer, where Funke Akindele plays the lead actress. It’s a Yoruba movie that centres on, among other things Jennifer’s (the protagonist) attempts to speak English properly. Jennifer’s deep accent and nonchalant pronunciation were the highlights of this comedy drama and it got everybody across the country and continent laughing. However, since that movie I’ve observed the use of many of ‘Jennifer’s expressions’ finding their way into informal language to convoke humour. For instance, when texting with a friend it’s not uncommon to say, “Yels” instead of “Yes” just for fun sake. Or saying, “it’s much bera” instead of, “it’s much better” just because it’s funnier to say it that way. Strangely, I feel like it has become cool to speak English in this hilarious way when ten years ago it was unacceptable.

More recently, the expression, “My Oga on top”has suddenly found its roots in society’s language.  It’s incredible how expressions tied with events can become so powerful.  Two months ago it was a normal pidgin expression no one gave two cares about, but now, you cannot say “my oga on top”  in Nigeria without conjuring laughter. How did this insignificant pidgin expression get so powerful? A Government official erroneously used that expression when referring to his boss on live TV, during an interview, and everyone found it hilarious. Since then anyone planning on easing up a tensed situation would often chip in this expression; just for laughs.  The funniest part of this expression is that some people have turned it into a text acronym( MOOT) on social media! Can language get any more hilarious?

In all of these things just discussed I can’t help but question If  we are getting more permissive EVEN with language? Is it okay to drift a little from standard English? or should we always stick to the norm and fight against change?

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