‘Dele Oladipupo ©2019
Just to be sure, we may need to return to the meaning and root of the word, ‘euphemism’. First, it is derived from the Greek word ‘euphemismos’ where it means ‘good speech’. From the foregoing, it is possible to aver that euphemism has to do with socially acceptable words or expressions used in such a way that the folks listening are not in any way offended. Euphemism, as we know, is a form of metaphor and it refers to mild ways of saying things that are harsh or even embarrassing. Euphemisms , in themselves , are good but when they are converted to blankets which help people mollycoddle decadent tendencies and actions then they become unhelpful.
The society faces a lot of danger when things are not referred to by their appropriate names. It is now customary to window-dress infamy to the point that they take on a positive guise. In those days when we were in secondary school, it was common practice to be asked to repeat a class because one had failed either English or Mathematics. Sometimes, students who failed either Biology or even Literature where compelled to repeat the class for another session. It was the height of ignominy in those days to be asked to repeat. Students in the class behind you would catch up with you. It became the norm for ‘repeaters’ to sit at the back of the class far away from those who had made progress with their lives. At some point, we devised a novel way of dealing with the malady since exam results were no longer handed to the students but their parents or guardians. If we wanted to ask a friend whether he passed or failed and either the father or mother was standing close by, we would simply ask, ‘se o j’ewa?’ . Literally, that translates as ‘ did you eat beans?’ If that person said ‘yes’, it means he had failed. If he said ‘no’, he passed. We could do this because many of us had a fore knowledge of what was coming and merely made our parents go through the motions. I think our problems started from all such flights of fancy.
When we were preparing for WAEC, one smart girl got pregnant. She immediately became the talk of the entire school. If my memory serves me right, I think some teachers with microscope as eyes got wind of her status before the ‘belle carrier’ herself knew a child was growing in her womb. A few weeks before the commencement of the exams, she had to quietly leave the school. The shame was too much to bear. These days, it has become the norm rather than the exception to have a child as a teenager. They’ve even acquired a new title, ‘baby mama’. Back then, it was both a shame to the girl and her family if one got pregnant outside wedlock. That is no longer so. Nearly all the popular male musicians have ,at least, two or three children from different women.
These days, teenagers have grown so daring that their actions seemed utterly impossible. Someone went to talk to teenagers in a church about ‘Sex and Sexuality’. When it was time to take questions, he found that the person reading the questions seemed thoroughly embarrassed after looking at a piece of paper. He became curious. The piece of paper was passed to him. He found to his utter consternation that the girl who wrote the question had written that she would like to have sex with him. The organisers threatened fire and brimstone. Eventually, the person owned up. She claimed she did it because her friends dared her.
Fraud now has a euphemistic colouration. It is referred as ‘yahoo’ or ‘wire’. When it was rumoured that one of my childhood friends had joined the league of internet fraudsters, many of us would not even touch him with a ten foot pole. Nobody envied him, in fact. The perpetrators are no longer referred to as ‘fraudsters’. Their new name is ‘ yahoo boys’ or ‘G boys’. A teenager confessed to me that his brother is a yahoo boy and that he is the bread winner of their family. Her father, an elder in the church, benefits immensely from his son’s largesse. He encouraged his son to shift his operational base to Ghana when SARS continually harassed the boy. Back then, we wouldn’t dare take anything which belonged to a friend home. We would be quizzed, even accused of stealing. These days, girls and boys whose parents live in face- me- I -slap – You apartments use the latest Iphones. Prostitution, which used to be utterly despicable has now been re- dressed. These girls call themselves ‘hustlers’ and the society has code-named them ‘olosho’ or ‘runs girls’. Before now, prostitutes never showed their faces in the day time. If you saw them in the day time, you probably won’t even recognise them. Many years ago, I spoke with a girl who told me once she got into the university, she would be a runs girl. When I asked her why she told me , ‘ sir, they live well. They use expensive things. People look up to them.’ You should have seen how wide my mouth became that day. I was too shocked to offer any piece of advice or condemnatory remark. Such is the extent to which we have become morally decadent.
Folks who go to church in the day time and still patronise herbalists in dead of night now call it ‘aajo’ which means taking care or monitoring. Voluptuous ladies are now euphemistically referred to as ‘fish’ and to have sex with such a woman means you ‘chop’ her or you’ve ‘smashed her mouth’. Ours is now a world on its head. Hard work has lost its allure and quick lucre is the fad. Rather than use language to better our society, we are using it to blunt the edges of hideous acts. These mild expressions are making it easy for evil to fester.
According to Rita Mae Brown, language ‘is the road map of a culture. It tells you where the people come from and where they are going.’ With the way we use words now, where are we going? The answer, my friend, lies in every man’s mind. We cannot continue to use finery for decadent behavior. According to Shakespeare, a dog referred to by any other name will still be a dog. A thief is a thief. A fraudster is a fraudster. This subject intrigues me. I hope, someday, to explore it in greater detail. Many thanks for your time.