When I first arrived in Abuja I did a post entitled ‘Wetin Dey Happen’ and this would have a good time for my Nigerian friends to inform me that there a myriad of ways for us to ‘greet ourselves’ here in Naija. Below is what I have managed to come across so far and would welcome corrections for any spellings, meanings and usage that I may have got wrong- oh and any other greetings I may have missed out.
Well Done: Nearly every morning I would exit the lift at work and the security guard on duty would say what I thought was “Welcome Ma’” to which I would respond with, “Thank you, how are you?” Soon after I worked out that he in fact was saying, “ Well done Ma’!’” and though I would often wonder what he was congratulating me for, I would still thank him and ask how he was.
A colleague later explained that in as much as it appears to be a greeting, the context of the phrase that I was already familiar with (i.e. well done as a congratulatory remark) remained the same. In essence the security guard was applauding me for turning up for work and encouraging me to have a good day.
How you body de? Pidgin English; often used when addressing someone who has been unwell. The first time I heard it was during my first week in Abuja. I was staying in a hotel and had just developed a cold. The guest relations manager knowing that my Pidgin English was not my strong point, opted to greet me in what can only be termed as the literal translation of the phrase. I can not even begin to describe my shock when I heard her utter the words “How is your body?”
Compliments: This word is a contraction of the phrase “Compliments of the festive season to you” of which the UK equivalent is either/both Merry Christmas and/or Happy New Year. Given that the December holiday period not just about Christmas and that Nigeria is a religiously (culturally) diverse nation; it is the perfect way to greet your workmates. It is just a little confusing hearing it in the short form for the very first time.
How far? Similar to “How is it going?” though the first time I heard it I didn’t have time to think of it in those terms. All I could think of was “How far with what?” I still am not sure of the appropriate response.
How you dey? This one I got first time around even though I wasn’t quite sure what the ‘dey’ bit meant, the ‘How you’ does indicate that it is some sort of enquiry into how one is doing. What I didn’t grasp until fairly recently was that while saying ‘I’m fine’ is ok; there is a proper Pidgin English response; two in fact. These being either ‘I dey’ or ‘I dey kampe’; the latter used when one is doing really well.
Attached to these greetings are a string of questions that a greeter usually attaches such as How was your night?, How work? and How your people? I am sure there are many more but now I am better prepared. Throw any greeting at me and I will respond confidently with the “catch all” response; I thank God o! (The ‘O’ at the end of the sentence is optional, but I like it)
* The title of this post has its origins in a conversation I had with one of my regular taxi guys. Two days had elapsed since I had ridden in his taxi so I was surprised to see him flashing my phone. (To flash in the context of mobile phones is to ring someone’s phone and hang up before they respond as means of getting that person to call you back) Thinking I had forgotten something in his car, I broke my ‘ignore all flashers’ rule and called him back. Upon picking up his phone he happily informed me “Auntie O! I just de greet you!” Still couldn’t work out whether it was just a sweet gesture or a smart business move or a bit of both; but it made me happy.