I love Nigeria and the creative prowess of its people around linguistic elements.

Nigerian linguistic creativity

Nigerians have entrancing ways of adding special dimensions to the semantic weight of a common word. This is not in any way far from the natural things that happen to languages around the world. However, when Nigerians pick a common English word, they can perform unimaginable wonders on it as they panel-beat it from the phonemic level to the semantic altitude.

Phonological difference

I am yet to understand where the English word “Tush” came to have a totally different sound and meaning in Nigerian linguistic clime. Phonemically the word is a combination of /t/ (plosive), inverted /e/ known as schwa and /ts/ sibilant fricative so that you have something like “Tash” is pronunciation. But Nigerians have personalized this word and forged it into what the native speakers would not quickly make out in a speech.

“Tush” is often used among Nigerian students and what you hear is “Tush” not “Tash.” This happens because most Nigerian languages are filled with words that are pronounced as they are written. Letters are sounds. However the basic difference between the two phonemic realizations is just the medial vowel sound /u/ which is perceived as schwa in English while it is realized as the /u/ in “Put” by Nigerians. And this makes all the difference.

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Tush the English way

Another point of difference where “Tush” is concerned is the semantic distance created between its original English meaning and Nigerian meaning. You say “tush!” when you mean to exclaim that something is not true or when such a thing is stupid. You use “tush” as a slang to mean “buttom.” “Tush” is also the word for the pointed tooth. You use it to specifically refer to the canine of a horse. There are of course people with unusually long canines, even when they close their mouth you still see the tush parting their lips. Lol.  This is no exaggeration.  But that is not the focal point of my logomachy. I am more fascinated with the phonemic and semantic maneuvering of the word “tush.”

Bending the Tush

“Tush” in Nigerian sense means “nobby,” “chic,” “stylish,” “elegant,” “posh.” It is often used in company of words that suggest dressing well and having an understanding of class, and being a yuppie.  When you hear a Nigerian student tell you “You are not tush,” she is saying that you have a poor fashion sense, you are unrefined, in short, you are rude.

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New sense for old word

And let no one chide Nigerian students for this superb expression of creativity which is actually one of the features of any human language. After all the English language, from time to time, welcomes new sense for old words.

Written by Omidire Idowu.

Omidire Idowu Joshua is a professional editor and blogger. He conducts online English Classes. You may reach him via noblelifeliver@gmail.com