Razzmatazz: Of Air Conditioners and Mother Tongues

I will take you to three places.

First, to an office reception, some years ago, where I sat with my aunt, shivering. I did not have a fever. I was shivering because the air conditioner was set to a temperature of 16 degrees. Please note that the average outdoor temperature is 27 degrees.

When asked if the temperature could be adjusted, the receptionist gave us a cold ‘no’, that it was just fine. I was in utter confusion because she was visibly uncomfortable as well, as I could see her trying to keep warm, rubbing her palms together.

Later, my aunt would explain to me it was so she wouldn’t seem razz, like she wasn’t used to being in air conditioned rooms, or in cold temperatures. Ehn ehn?

Then, I’ll take you back to Primary School, where we were fined for speaking Yoruba or Ibo, or anything that wasn’t the Queen’s English. It was tagged as speaking ‘vernacular’, which connoted to me then, something vulgar. But more than ten years later, I’ve finally checked the meaning of the word and I see it means ‘the natural language spoken in a region, a language not learned or imposed’.

I can’t help but wonder what the incentive behind that was. Was it so we could speak better English? I also remember how it was a thing to describe kids who spoke a lot of Yoruba as razz and unrefined.

Lastly, I’ll take you to Dentistry Clinic where I rotated through this week. From the cubicle I was in, I could see what was going on in the others. From one across me, I watched how a nurse shouted at a patient’s mother, telling her to go to the waiting area, as the cubicle was too small for her to stay in with her child. Mean nurse, nothing new.

Until a foreigner walked in with her daughter, into a similarly small cubicle and I saw how the air shifted. I noticed how the nurse’s demeanor changed. The glimmer in her eyes that resembled adoration. The smile that hadn’t been there. She then offered the woman a seat. I had to look away to preserve my dignity.

Later, as a show of solidarity with all the previous mothers, I refused to greet the nurse when she came over to our cubicle.

What I find common in all three spaces above is a strong desire to be anything but exactly what we are. Things associated with our native identity are attributed as unappealing and uncultured but foreign things are seemingly refined and have an appeal.

It’s extremely ridiculous that our native language (and accent) is still being shamed. One of the best things passed down by those who came before me is Yoruba; a language I can call my own. Few things are as calming as muttering ‘rádaràda‘ when I’m in a class and I can’t follow what is going on, or when I am insulting someone in Yoruba under my breath.

Nigeria is in the tropics and it should go without saying, that the air conditioning should be reasonably adjusted to such.

If anyone laughs at you for trying to speaking your native tongue, or for having an accent, well shame on them. You could also add some snide comments in your mother tongue to make it stick. My go-to words are Olódo and Shior! Just a suggestion.

Let me know your thoughts.

Why is it seen as more refined when we’re speaking another language or doing something rather foreign? Why is our definition of razz what we are?

26 thoughts on “Razzmatazz: Of Air Conditioners and Mother Tongues

  1. I guess we were raised to believe that being a Nigerian or a Yoruba is not enough. And that anything foreign is always better than what we have. I think the culture of incompetence that permeates almost all Nigerian systems tends to reinforce this notion too.

  2. Is because of some parents who will rather communicate with their children in English right from young age do they don’t even know how to speak their dialect. Is also inferiority complex trying to belong to the so called ” big girls and boys” gang

  3. This is the truth and nothing but the truth! I didn’t realize how ingrained this rubbish attitude is, till two months ago when I moved to a different West African country, to join an international organization. Me, newbie scared of being judged as “too razz” (by people who don’t even know me) for playing Tope Alabi out loud, enduring the AC at below 20 degrees cause I don’t want them to think I’m not cultured. SMH. Thank God I’ve learned better now. I jam Shina Peters at the loudest volume, pronunce my words however I want, and leave a sweater permanently hanging on my seat. The most annoying bit for me has been about my accent. I can tell where people are from (and what language they are most comfortable speaking) by their accents. It’s how I know to say hi to the German in Dutch, or trip over my French with the Cameroonians. Accents are identifiers, reflections of our home and heritage and absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Now I don’t say sorry when my “h” factor appears in the middle of my presentation, chop am like that abeg. Let’s all gbas gbos our horrible pronunciation of the other’s language.

  4. Our colonisers made us believe that we were inferior, stripped us of our identity, and gave us theirs not just as the better identity, but as the RIGHT identity to have; and boy did we run with that…
    Fast forward almost sixty years after and here we are, still running with an identity that isn’t ours, and isn’t theirs, a horrible lukewarm, a tasteless in between.

    I would speak Yoruba and someone would say “you don’t look like someone who speaks such” and expect me to blush in joy.
    Oh well… radarada niyen jare.

  5. This was a good read.
    A wake up call to all of us to embrace who we are in terms of our nationality and all there is to it and never succumb to the pressure of being right in the eye of the “wrong” Majority.

  6. The AC story reminds me of my plight in my office. It’s just too cold😱. If you dare complain, you are labeled “unsophisticated”. O ti su mi😪.

  7. This is my first time of reading your blog. I’m glad to be here. I have had an experience similar to the AC scenario. I wonder how our anticipated socialisation is going, because the more we try to become whom we are not, the more we unveil ourselves. Thanks for bringing this home.

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