Life,  Medical School Saga

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?

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