Humour: Why Nigerians Use ‘O’ In Every Conversation

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Nigerian English is a very sweet language as it allows you freestyle. It is a combination of our native languages transliterated into ‘The Queen’s English,’ as my father would call it; some colonial British English, our native languages proper, and then some contemporary Americanisms.

We like it like that.

tend to speak in slang as it invokes some form of camaraderie between you and the person you are talking to – some form of ‘we-we,’ as we call it.

But then there are some slangs or clichés we use to death.

I mean, (in a faux American accent) wat da hell!

Like ‘O’; a simple word– rather, letter, with a simple sound. Its usage is so ubiquitous in the speech of an average Nigerian – especially those living in the city – that it is almost always the first thing most expatriates I have known learn when trying to take on the Nigerian swag.

When speaking with an average Nigerian, especially in Nigeria, if you don’t hear at least one ‘O’ in a conversation of five short sentences, then be sure you are not speaking to a Nigerian.

Take this conversation between two Nigerians for example:


“Yes o. Who is there o?”

“It is me o. Is your husband at home?”

“No o.”

“Haba! Where did he go now?” (Now is another overused word I may discuss someday.)

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“I don’t know o. Since morning o.”

“Ha. That’s not good o. Sha, tell him when he comes back that I came o.”

“Ok o. I will o.”

now, bye-bye o.”

“O, bye-bye.”

… Like I said, wat da hell!

If you paid attention, you’d notice that like most Nigerian exclamatory words, ‘O’ connotes more than one idea/reaction. It can be the answer to a call. It can be used in agreement. It can also be used to reiterate a point.

As for why Nigerians overuse it, to tell the truth, me, I don’t know o! All I know is that me sef, I use it a lot o and e tire me too o!

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Oluwafemi Toslaw -Webmaster, Young Media Entrepreneur, Blogger and Founder NaijaOlofofo Media

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