“Nwaoma Osiso”

Nwaoma means good child or fine girl.
Osiso means quickly. It also means “sharp-sharp” or “sharpali” in Nigerian Pidgin English.

That’s a literal translation.

I don’t understand the relationship between “fine girl” and “sharp sharp”. We have always called beautiful girls “nwaoma”, “asa nwa”, “nwa na mma” and the rest.

Some people believe that “nwaoma osiso” is derogatory. Few persons from Aba I have interacted with said it’s a slang some folks in Aba use to refer to prostitutes.

In the United States, the word “nigger” is offensive and derogatory. In Nigeria, I grew up seeing people call themselves “nigger”, it sounded American to us and we all wanted to sound foreign.

You hear things like “Nigger… Yuh mehn, wassup?” And the other person responds positively without offence. When it is used by a white, it is seen as a racial slur but when it is used by a fellow black, the understanding is different. I think the same may apply to “nwaoma osiso” going forward.

The controversial slang and it’s alleged origin doesn’t make some people feel good about it. The first time I heard it, I didn’t feel good about it either because the “beautiful girl” and “fast fast” being used as the same word didn’t resonate well with me. Not because my mind ever went the wrong side but because it didn’t make any sense to me.

Igbo slangs like “gbawa door” which literally means “break the door” means “leave quickly”. People use if at different occasions and the ongoing conversation before it is used can determine what the user meant.

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For example, during a heated argument, if one person uses the word “gbawa door!” It means “get away from here!” But when used during a conversation like “kam gbawa door”, it means “I need to quickly leave”.

In the same way, the interpretation of “nwaoma osiso” may depend on situations and who is using it. If a friend calls another “nwaoma osiso”, it will simply be understood as “fine girl”, these days ladies also use “nwoke oma osiso” to refer to their male friends.

However, if a stranger approaches a lady and calls her “nwaoma osiso”, she may find it offensive especially with the controversy surrounding the slang.

Slangs evolve and sometimes it turns from negative to positive or from positive to negative. “Aboki” is an Hausa word that means “my friend” but in Southern parts of Nigeria, “Aboki” is seen as insult when used on a Southerner.

When used on a Northerner, it is interpreted different depending on initial conversations. If used during an argument, the Northerner sees it as an insult. Mostly, when used by a Southerner, it is considered a slur.

Not everyone is comfortable with being called “Nwaoma osiso”, at least not yet. You shouldn’t carelessly use it on anyone. Some people have problems with it, so to stay on a safe side, I’d rather choose not to call someone “nwaoma osiso”… Except when it’s very obvious that we are joking around.

For another person, it may work fine.

By Onyedikachukwu Nnadozie

George is a brand strategist at Funtrick Technology, an author and a public speaker. He takes time to write on George's Diary. He also writes his opinions on politics and similar subject on Gist Afrique.

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