There are words that have been given different meanings in Nigeria. Sometimes, the meaning given to these words is even the opposite of their original meaning. Let us look at 10 of these words.

  1. fatal

   WRONG:    I witnessed a fatal accident this morning in which the vehicles were damaged beyond repair; but surprisingly, no life was lost. It was a miracle.

The word ”fatal” means “causing or resulting in death.” If death is not involved in an accident, then, it is not fatal.

RIGHT: I witnessed a ghastly (or near-fatal) accident this morning in which the vehicles were damaged beyond repair; but surprisingly, no life was lost. It was a miracle.

RIGHT: Most cancers are still fatal diseases, especially when diagnosed late.

  1. dupe

    WRONG:    The notorious dupe has finally been caught and jailed.

 What a life! When trouble visits a person, it brings along its kith and kin. Why should a person who has been duped be called “notorious” and jailed?

A “dupe” is a person who has been deceived or tricked, and not the perpetrator of such deceit.

  RIGHT:     The notorious fraudster (duper) has finally been caught and jailed.

  1. troubleshooter

          WRONG:    Be warned that we do not tolerate troubleshooters here!

 Gracious! Is it a lawless society? Why are peacemakers not tolerated in this place?

 The terrible misconception here is that most people interpret troubleshooting as troublemaking: most people think that a troubleshooter is one who uses a gun to “shoot” or cause trouble. Ironically, a troubleshooter is one who identifies troubles in machines, organisations or situations, and solves them. Therefore, a troubleshooter is a problem solver or a peacemaker.

 RIGHT:     There are so many crises in the nation that we urgently need the services of troubleshooters.

  1. vice

WRONG: The President and his vice will attend the event.

“Vice” is the opposite of “virtue”. Drug abuse, pilfering, corruption, etc, are vices. Did you mean that the President will attend the event with his bad traits?

“Vice” is not the short form of Vice President. When it stands alone, “vice” means something else. If one does not want to say it in full, then “deputy” should be used.

Right: The President and his deputy (or the Vice President) will attend the event.

  1. borrow

          WRONG:   Please, could you borrow me your pencil?

Does this mean, “Could you borrow from me your pencil?” Is it possible?

Obi    -›  Ada

Obi “lends” his pencil to Ada. Ada “borrows” Obi’s pencil.

Therefore, the owner lends, while the recipient borrows.

RIGHT: Please, could you lend me your pencil?

  1. Stature

 WRONG: Ify has the stature of a model with all the curves in the right places.

For unknown reasons, many Nigerians believe that the word “stature” means “shape.” But “stature” means a person’s natural height. In the Bible, Zacchaeus is known as a short man. This is what the Bible says about his height: “There was a man called Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector, and rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small of stature. (Luke 19: 2 & 3 – Revised Standard Version).

RIGHT: Ify has the shape of a model with all the curves in the right places.

  1. angst

WRONG: Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has expressed angst against those asking him to account for recovered Abacha loot, describing them as illiterates and stupid people. – from a newspaper, March 21, 2016

“Angst” is not a synonym of “anger”. Because it sounds new and cool, many people just drop it into their sentences to feel hip, believing that it means “anger”. Derived from German, “angst,” according to the Oxford Dictionary, is “a feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically an unfocused one about the human condition or the state of the world in general.” Example: the existential angst of the middle classes. Its second but informal meaning is: “a feeling of worry about something trivial.” Example: My hair causes me angst.

RIGHT: Former Nigerian president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, has expressed anger against those asking him to account for recovered Abacha loot, describing them as illiterates and stupid people.

  1. radical

Rascal: a dishonest person.

  Radical: a person who wishes to make great and rapid changes in the government of the country.

 Some people make the grave mistake of thinking that a radical is a rascal. That is a grave insult to radicals. Radicalism is noble. Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN) was a radical.

  1. invaluable

RONG: I threw away the gift; it was invaluable and worthless.

English would land some people in trouble one day. “Invaluable” is stronger or higher than “valuable”. It means that the thing in question is so great that a value cannot be placed on it. It has a similar meaning as “priceless” (which, by the way, does not mean worthless!)

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  1. likeness

          WRONG: Chief Anyaoku has developed particular likeness for some parts of the Commonwealth. (from a newspaper)

“Likeness” means image or sameness of form.

 Examples:

“The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men.”

“Whose likeness and inscription is this?”

When one wishes to refer to the noun of the verb to “like,” then the word to use is “liking.”

RIGHT: Chief Anyaoku has developed a particular liking for some parts of the Commonwealth.

  1. disinterested

          WRONG: Although you claim to be concerned about my problems, you have shown by your actions that you are really disinterested.

The opposite of the word “interested” is “uninterested” and not “disinterested”. The word “disinterested” has a meaning which is close to the word “unbiased” (and also not influenced by any personal gain).

RIGHT: Although you claim to be concerned about my problems, you have shown by your actions that you are really uninterested.

 RIGHT: Be wary of his advice; he doesn’t seem disinterested in this matter.

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