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In the evening the three of them, Jeremiah, Mazi Oleka and Nduka, were to reconvene at Mazi Oleka’s house for a few sessions of the g...

In the evening the three of them, Jeremiah, Mazi Oleka and Nduka, were to reconvene at Mazi Oleka’s house for a few sessions of the game of draft as was in their habit. Their meeting in the morning had ended unpleasantly and none amongst them could predict if the animosity they witnessed in the morning would be on display that evening.  Jeremiah was the first to show up at Oleka’s house. Oleka and his father in-law Udemba were treating themselves to a keg of fresh palm wine when he arrived. “Ah aaah! Jeremiah! You are like the vulture; you always know how to spot the carcass wherever there is one. Couldn’t you have delayed your coming by a few minutes to let me and my in-law have this fresh palm wine to ourselves?” observed Mazi Oleka. Jeremiah ignored him and snatched the Nkuku (a local palm wine cup) from his hand and poured out a cup of palm wine for himself and gulped it down hungrily before saying his greetings to Udemba, “Mazi Udemba welcome to Amuzi. How are my half-brothers in Umuokoro?” “They were very fine when I left them. How is Odinaka? She has forgotten the way to Umuokoro and does not ask after us anymore.” “Mazi don’t be annoyed, I will apologize on her behalf. The establishment of a daily market in Amuzi is responsible for her acts of disappearance in Umuokoro.”

“Oh! I see. That means she has secured a shop in the new daily market.” “No Mazi, my meanings you have absolutely misinterpreted. Odinaka’s ingenuity at money making has led her to improvise a mobile means of making her wares available to her numerous customers.” “I still do not understand you Jeremiah! You know I am not as much learned as you and my son in-law.” “Jeremiah why don’t you stop confusing my father in-law and humbly tell him that your wife, Odinakachi, is now hawking her wares in the new daily market?” “No! No! No! Oleka! The word ‘hawking’ is an affront on my wife’s estimable efforts at helping me with the gargantuan and mountainous needs at home. Women like her are no longer on earth. They can only be found in heaven. Please don’t insult me or her by using the word ‘hawking’ for what she does for me and my children.” “I guess I have to take my leave now Oleka. The grammarian the two of you make use of can cause a man’s head to catch fire and leave him wandering the streets like the mad lecturer at Egbu road Owerri, who writes on the road and on every wall he sees, teaching umu nmou (spirits) what he learns in his troubled sleep at night. I have to go back to Umuokoro before the sun goes down. Jeremiah I am happy that your wife is doing something to help you take care of your family, whether it is ‘hawking’ or ‘mobility’, she deserves praise.”

 “Nna anyi (our father) your visit is a rare one, I would have appreciated it more if you LINGERED for the exploration of the bottomless pit of erudition by men like your son in-law and my able self.” “Oleka, did your friend just call me Atinga (a skinny person?)” To Udemba the word ‘lingered’ sounded to him like Atinga “No. He did not. I think you misunderstood the word ‘lingered’ for ‘Atinga’.” “Yes! I heard Atinga!” Udemba exclaimed. “No, Mazi Udemba, the word ‘lingered’ means ‘welcome and goodbye’. My good friend Jeremiah was only saying his goodbye in a foreign way.” Oleka explained. “Shut up your vocal organ Oleka! Don’t be stupidly linguistic (Don’t talk too much!) How can you give my words an uncircumcised meaning in my presence? Mazi Udemba, please don’t be annoyed by my usage of big words; it is as a result of my much learning. The word ‘lingered’ simply means that you should ‘relax and enjoy’ our conversations.” Jeremiah countered. “Jeremiah do not embarrass me before the paternal genesis of my other half with your misambiguity (misunderstanding) of the language of English. There is no English dictionary where the meaning of the word ‘lingered’ is rendered as ‘relax and enjoy’. It means ‘welcome and goodbye’! Don’t use words when you don’t know their meanings!”

“I can see that I am certainly wrong to have misconstrued (considered) you a learned man. Your ignorance is as high as the heavens are from the earth.” Jeremiah shot angrily at his friend Oleka. “It is okay! The two of you should not fight over the meaning of the word, ‘Atingered’. Whether it means ‘welcome and goodbye’ or ‘relax and enjoy’, I am glad to have been cleared that Jeremiah did not call me Atinga after enjoying the sweet palm wine I brought from Umuokoro.” Just in time Nduka ambled in; Jeremiah and his friend Oleka turned to him to explain the appropriate meaning of ‘lingered’. “Is the meaning of ‘lingered’ the reason I could hear your voices from as far as Korie’s house?” Nduka asked them. “Do not be unnecessarily linguistic Nduka. Answer the question. Which of the two explanations is the appropriate meaning of the word ‘lingered’?” Jeremiah said to Nduka eager to hear that his explanation was the right one. “The two of you are wrong! Did you two perhaps miss your entire grammar class?” Nduka asked shockingly. “Stop your excessive exegesis Nduka and answer the question!” Oleka shouted impatiently. “The word ‘lingered’ is the comparative form of the word ‘lean’. Its superlative form is ‘lingermost’. Did you not recite big, bigger, biggest in your classes? So it is ‘lean, lingered, lingermost!’” 

Both Jeremiah and Oleka stared at each other in disbelief. Udemba was curious to understand the meaning of the new word ‘lean’ which Nduka presented, and so asked, “Nduka nwa m (my child) please the new word which you said is supper than ‘Atingered’ what does it mean?” “It means something that is small or eehmm…” Nduka tried to explain. “Does it mean Atinga?” “Yes! Something without flesh; something lean.” Udemba removed his footwear and attacked Jeremiah with it, shouting, “So you called an old man like me Atinga?!” Oleka and Nduka tried their best to restrain the old man, giving Jeremiah the chance to take to his heels. After Jeremiah had ran home and Mazi Udemba stormed out of his son in-law’s house in anger. Oleka turned to Nduka and said, “See what you have caused with your foolish explanations. I will now be required to pacify my father in-law with a white cock.” “But I did not give Mazi  Udemba the wrong meaning of the word ‘lingered’. Even Shakespeare used the same meaning when he wrote, “Let me have men about me that are fat, Sleek-headed men and such as sleep a-nights. Yond Cassius has a LEAN and hungry look; He thinks too much; such men are dangerous.” Nduka explained further. Oleka sighed and ran after his father in-law to tender his apology for the assumed insult given to him by Jeremiah.

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Written by:
Uzoma Ujor

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DON’T BE LINGUISTIC! - Episode 2 An African Literary Blog
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