A Note About Accents

Dear fellow Ghanaian/other African now living and studying in America/other Western country,

I understand that when we come to America we are forced to slur a little in order to be understood by our American friends and so that we can have conversations without having our accents analyzed. But when you are among your fellow people from the Motherland, please please drop your attempted American/other Western accent. And there are a couple of reasons why you should do so.

1) You don’t need to speak in an accent to prove to your fellow Africans that since leaving the motherland and beginning University in *insert name of Western Country here* you have become more educated and have changed. The change we’ve all experienced will inevitably show and you really don’t need to slur every word to prove it. And in any case, we are in America with you so there’s really no need to prove to us that you’ve come to Amurrica.

2) No one is giving awards for who sounds more assimilated and, truthfully, our attempts often sound pretty ridiculous so let’s do each other a favor and speak like we did for the 18 years before we came to Amurrrrrica. Besides, these attempted accents really just stifle our personalities. This is not to say that we shouldn’t learn to pronounce some words the correct way in instances when the version we’ve learnt is plain wrong but proper pronunciation does not equate to slurred and twanged words. There’s a distinction between mispronunciation and slanging.

3) No one likes the constant feeling of being an ‘Alien in New York’ and so we often try to blend in but when we are with each other and you whip out those accents you are creating a barrier – except this time it’s with your own people. Also, do you really want me to believe that after 3/4 years you’ve forgotten how to enunciate your t’s? Listen to Kofi Annan – after years of working in the UN I can still hear the sounds of Ghana infused in his words.

4) We need to be proud of who we are and where we are from. When you speak with someone from the motherland in these forced accents it sounds like you are trying to hide where you’re from. I’m not sure if you succeed in fooling yourself but you are certainly not fooling anyone else. Regardless of how much you slur, we are all still aware that you are from the Motherland – accept it, own it, and know there’s nothing wrong with that.

Ultimately, accents are really about navigating spaces. Personally, I often really miss home and there’s nothing I love more than speaking with my people in the way that’s most natural to me. So those who insist on speaking in forced accents, please don’t deprive your friends from the motherland a chance to be natural and at ease. Drop the pretense and let us, through the lyrical way we speak and the infusions of our ‘ah’s, beh’s, mtchews, and other sounds I cannot attempt to spell, be taken back to what’s familiar

Written By: Zahra Baitie


Note by MM: I know, I know, I’ve been the worst blogger in the world *dodges rocks and shoes*. Lately, I’ve just been…uninspired… Also, I’m currently working on my thesis, which is threatening to consume me. That’s my official excuse. The unofficial excuse is that I’ve been lazy. But I’m trying this new thing where I take guest entries. So if you have a motleymusings-esque rant about anything and everything, email me ūüôā (motleymusings1@gmail.com). I’ll be back, guys, I promise. Until then, enjoy these rants from these brilliant guest bloggers.

This topic is definitely one that I would have gotten to. Spent my Christmas holiday in Nigeria, and it was like I died and woke up in the Fake Accent Olympics. Like, sister, you said you study in Ukraine, right? So why do you have a BritAmerican accent? And why does your Nigerian accent slip in there like an unannounced visitor? Something doesn’t add up…


How Sexy is Ebola?

Apparently, Ebola is sexy. Yes, not only is Ebola funny, it is also SEXY.

I found out this mind-blowing fact on Halloween Day. I searched “ebola costume” on Twitter, because I know that there are morons with no sense of social propriety in our midst. True to form, they come out in full force, fingers tweeting with moronic gusto.

Some were generally excited about nailing this oh-SO-creative costume:

Others were filled with apprehension because, you know, life was standing in the way of their Ebola sexiness #PoorYou #Catastrophe #Tragic:

Then you had the ones that were facing a genuine dilemma because they had some REALLY tough questions that needed urgent answers:

I mean, I don’t know, moron. Here is a very short list of why this MIGHT be inappropriate:

And then, this winner:

People (serious side eye to Americans) have spent the past couple of weeks demonizing Africans for “bringing” (because it’s obviously something you carry¬†in your pocket. Like a pen. Or those fliers that roadside campaigners shove in your face) Ebola to their hallowed soil. And, of course, ALL Africans are guilty until proven innocent because we, all ~1 billion of us, all live under the same roof. “Stop the Africans! Close our borders! Ban the flights! Quarantine those savages!”, people have screamed at the top of their lungs. People¬†have been routinely harassed, dehumanized, and stigmatized because of a deadly virus that rages thousands of miles away.

Then, Halloween comes around, and Ebola is suddenly sexy? It becomes yet another tired “slutty —-” or “sexy—–” costume derivative? What exactly is sexy about Ebola? The fact that over 13,500 people have been infected with this deadly virus? Or that about 5000 people have died from it?¬†The children that have been orphaned? Or the families that have been wiped out? Oh, wait, maybe it’s the fact that children in the worst hit places can’t even go to school? Isn’t that sexy?! Why don’t you incorporate ALL of that sexiness into your costume? I bet that would win you first prize at the costume contest.

Ebola is not funny. Neither is it sexy.

Again, for the kids at the back of the class: EBOLA.IS.NOT.FUNNY.OR.SEXY.

Ebola¬†is not a pun that you can use to score cool points. People’s tragedy is not a costume or a garland to wear around your neck. If you’re headed out tonight with an Ebola costume, I suggest that you abort mission and self-quarantine, because you’re a menace¬†to the people around you. Have some sense, be a normal human being and put on a normal costume about a cartoon character or a superhero. Here is an entire list of them: 55 Awesome Halloween Costume Ideas. You’re welcome.

Home (2)

I was going to hate Lagos, and I was going to be miserable. However, somewhere along the line, my hatred betrayed me. I found absolute joy in the little things around me- the luxury of my mum waking me up every morning and asking me “what do you want to eat?” (seriously, my¬†house is a fattening room), the joy of having my not-so-baby brother gleefully recount his run-in with area boys (street thugs that harass people for money), the convenience of having a Mr. Biggs around the corner (their doughnuts are trash, but I can’t stop eating them. Blame nostalgia). I even started to find joy in the grossly grammatically incorrect Nigerian-isms such as “on the gen”, “have they brought light?”, “is Madam on seat?”, “let me flash you”, “reverse back”, “turn your hand! cut your hand!” etc.

Along with all of this came a feeling that I’ve never had in Lagos, or anywhere else for that matter- a feeling of¬†being grounded, belonging to a place. The feeling of driving past Silverbird and remembering illicit meet-ups with childhood boyfriends I could swear I was¬†going to get married to, or past a certain intersection where a popular movie star threatened to to “fuck up” my¬†11-year old friend because she flipped him off from the back of the school bus, or running into family members and old friends that told me¬†long-repressed, embarrassing stories about¬†my¬†reckless childhood self.¬†These people knew me, and they loved me for me. That feeling of having people who see right through your bullshit, through your determined efforts to re-brand yourself, who call you embarrassing pet names derived from your childhood indiscretions, people who love for who you were, who you are and who you’re going to be. With them, I could be the worst version of myself, or the best version. It really didn’t matter.¬†All of this¬†started to grow into a tolerance for Lagos. I could still hate the city, I said to myself, but I loved the people and they loved me back and that was all the home I needed.

However, somewhere along the line, I even started to love this city, every bit of it. There’s no city like Lagos in this world. Lagos has a particular character that makes it unique. Where else would you find someone frying and selling¬†akara¬†right outside¬†a billionaire’s palatial mansion? Where else would you be able to buy¬†breakfast, lunch, dinner, clothes for work, furniture for the house, and a puppy for the kids, all while sitting in traffic? Where else would you find a vulcanizer dutifully spreading tiny sharp objects on the road, so that unfortunate drivers can “need” his help? This is Lagos, which has managed to find the sweet spot between absolute chaos and sustained disorder.¬†This is my city, and I love-hate it.

In fact, at the end of the three months, I got on a plane and felt homesick for the first time in over 5 years. I sat in my seat, and cried, longing for this city that has become my old-new home.


Home (1)

“Where we love is home- home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts”- Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

I have a love-hate relationship with Lagos.

Growing up, my relationship with Lagos wasn’t as polar as it now. I don’t know that I had any feelings towards the city at all; I tolerated in the way one tolerates that annoying never-married aunt that seems to have an endless supply of relationship advice. I had¬†a healthy apathy¬†towards Lagos- the power outages, the endless traffic, the pollution, and the default state of chaos all melded into a mass of indifference in my mind. It was my city, and I was stuck with it.

2009 was the first time that I left Lagos for an extended period of time. Upon my next return, my routinely practiced and mastered apathy was replaced by a temperamental impatience, followed by a burning intolerance¬†that¬†then flamed its way into a full-blown hatred for Lagos, for home. Everything was wrong with this place. The power went out for too long, and the resulting the power generators bellowed with a determined¬†clamor that was almost too surreal to be real. The traffic raged on for hours, lulling to sleep whatever plans you had for the day. To make matters worse, everyone around me had changed. New traditions had been formed and new alliances had been made, none of which included me. If “home”, by definition, is meant to elicit a sense of place and a feeling of communion with people around you, then I definitely wasn’t home.¬†I was surrounded by all these people that I could recognize but didn’t really know. I felt like a stranger in this new home, and that feeling was, at best, unsettling and, at worst, slightly depressing. It then seemed easier to channel my being lost into an exaggerated hatred. If I hated and denounced this city, it wouldn’t matter that I felt lost and that, secretly, I felt like Lagos itself had disowned me.

Given my official hatred for home, I avoided going to Lagos. I almost had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, the next time I was forced to go to Lagos. Who can forget the “hearty” welcome I received right from Murtala Muhammed Airport- the almost palpable humidity that hits you the second you step off the plane, encircles you and threatens to cut off your oxygen supply; the sole croaky fan by the corner, which is squarely positioned on the immigration officer who asks you ridiculous questions while you melt from the heat; and the carousel that doesn’t work so you literally have to fight, push and shove to get your luggage. It was like a holy triumvirate of fuckery saying “Welcome home!”

What’s worse? This time, I was stuck in this deplorable city for 3 months. THREE.

Loose Ends

The hardest breakups are with people you never really dated.

How do you move on from something that was never really there? How do you let go of something that you never really had? How do you conclude something that never really started?

I think what makes it so hard is the very nature of these non-relationships- the unspoken words, the tacit suggestions, and the non-binding promises. There is something intense about this extremely precarious state of likeness, lust “love”, or passion- being wrapped up in this thing you can’t explain with this person that’s yours but not really yours. So you convince yourself that this inexplicable thing‚ÄĒlet’s call it a situationship‚ÄĒyou have is enough, and that you’re ok with this nebulous bond, this grossly inconclusive arrangement that you’ve gotten yourself into. It’s enough, you say repeatedly. Until, one day, when it‚ÄĒthis illusion, this meticulously constructed castle that you’ve built in the sky‚ÄĒall comes crashing down and you’re forced to go through the painful process of breaking up with this person that was never really yours.

Some call this process an “uncoupling” (thanks Gwyneth and Chris Martin), but how to do you carry out the said uncoupling if you were never really a couple? Uncoupling, I think, involves a dissolution of agreements, a voiding of pre-existing obligations, setting someone free from all the things they owed you and freeing them from the explicit or implicit promises they made you. In a conventional relationship, this might be straightforward; you have the ever-useful, albeit lame and painfully unimaginative, platitudes such as “it’s not you, it’s me” (by the way, if anyone ever says this to me, I’m just going to assume that it is, in fact, me), “I think you deserve better” (quite a lofty assumption; who are you to tell me what I do or do not deserve? Do I get any say in this?) or the more pithy “I can’t do this anymore.” But how do you say these things to someone that you were in a situationship with? How do you dissolve agreements that never really existed in the first place, or void obligations that you were never really owed? How do you set someone free when they were never really bound to you in the first place?

Given the complexities, it seems easy to assume that, just like the¬†tacit¬†agreement that defined the said situationship, there can be a tacit “uncoupling”. You convince yourself that you can break up with this person without really breaking up (after all, you were a couple without really being a couple). So you “move on”, maybe find a new love interest (formal, this time, given the stress of your previous “arrangement”). You’re happy, you tell yourself. It’s so much better to be with someone that’s legitimately yours, someone you can lay claim to, someone that’s obligated to you. With this person, you never have to wonder what you are or where you stand and the certainty that comes with this knowledge envelopes you in a warmth of security that seems impossible to trade for anything in the world. You’re happy, and you’re “home.” Or so you think. You ride this wave of happiness and security for a while until, one day, a strange feeling starts nudging at you, lightly at first, but slowly increasing with intensity. You ignore it; you’re happy, you tell yourself. But the feeling never really goes away, that feeling of longing for the words that you never said, the answers you never got, and the conclusions you never reached. You wish you could go back, you wish you could ask for answers, you wish you could tie up those loose ends that continue to gnaw at the current state of happiness that you’ve so dutifully built for yourself. But at this point, you’re stuck; you can’t go back and re-write the story. All you get are the shoulda-woulda-couldas to keep you warm at night.

So you wait, patiently, for the day you wake up and these loose ends are not there, staring you in the face and demanding for closure.