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A Brief History of Words (and Phrases)

Words are powerful. You may have heard that statement before. It suggests that when you speak out loud or make a verbal declaration, there is a high chance of it coming to pass. In some cultures, words carry a very heavy weight. It says that you are responsible for the words you say, so be extremely careful as you could very easily find yourself directly or indirectly responsible for someone else’s death.

Words also have a life of their own. I realise that because there are words that have lived with me from as far back as I can remember, refusing to let go. I am able to recall the very first time I heard the word:


I was about 6 at the time and my family had just returned from an out-of-town weekend. Upon our return we discovered the live crocodile (or an alligator, can’t remember which) that someone had left us. Needless to say we were baffled and terrified. They had left it in a tall wooden crate so that the head and tail both reached up the sides; part of the belly lay in the middle. I remember my cousin Wole holding me up to have a peek, I grabbed the sides of the crate to have a better look and he said; “Careful Toks, it’s risky“. That was the first time I heard that word. We later found out that in that part of the country it was considered the highest honour to receive a crocodile as a gift. Apparently Dad had saved some person’s life and they were just being er…thankful. At the risk of starting an animal rights invasion to Nigeria, I’ll let you know that the Croc was left to die as my parents rightly feared for our lives.


I heard this word for the first time  years ago when dad announced he had arranged a mass for my grandpa who died in 1982. What’s the point of having a church service for a man who died so long ago I asked.  His response? For the repose of his soul. I asked what  repose meant. He explained but I don’t remember. No plans to add that to my vocabulary.

Woe Betide you.

A boarding house special. “Woe betide you if my bed sheets are not bright white after you have washed them”.  “Woe betide you if you do not bring my diner in from the dining hall.” Woe betide you this, woe betide you that. Senior Funmi comes to mind here. For the longest time I thought this ugly phrase was a slang and not a real word. I also though the “betide” was spelled betie as senior Funmi and others dropped the “d”. Today I still wonder who came up with the word anyway. It is one of those words that you can’t figure out the meaning unless you already knew what it meant. As it turns out it is not part of my vocabulary.

Massaged the truth

I love this one, credit to President Obama. It was his description of what was done to the weapons of mass destruction report carried out by the Bush administration. I keep meaning to use it but I forget. I also feel sorry for the next few people I’ll be speaking with as I’ll be sure to worm that phrase into our conversation. Somehow. Anyhow.

Now I haven’t the faintest idea why I chose to put up a post on words but I thank you for stopping by to read. Plus of course the fact that you are reading this means a mass is not being held for you, that’s something to smile about isn’t it? Have a lovely rest of the day!

4 responses »

  1. LOL @ ‘Woe betide you’!

    In my own experience…..Snr Chinelo O. of FHH and Snr Ijeoma I. of Octopus House were the bane of my life at CSSKD. I sincerely hope they have learnt to be happier people without resorting to making other’s lives a misery 🙂 I recall Snr Ijeoma I actively hunted me down to taunt me LOL. I wish her peace!

    How r u doing Toks?

  2. You are so kind to wish her peace. I bet she picked on you because you shared her first name and you were finer than her. Don’t mind them jare! Thanks for stopping by dearest!

  3. Pingback: Daddy. « Toks's Blog

  4. Pingback: Midnight Post | Pawpaw & Mango Blog

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