I’ve read claims on social media that Buhari is being unfairly vilified because he never mentioned the word “lazy” in his rambling response to a question about investment opportunities in Nigeria’s northeast. Because most people who make this claim can’t even string together a sentence in English that isn’t a mockery of the language, I chose to ignore them. But even people with a fairly decent grasp of English are giving wing to this ridiculous ignorance.
Hello! In English, there’s a little something called “paraphrasing.” Look it up. It’s defined as expressing “the same message in different words.” In our quotidian dialogic engagements, more than 80 percent of what we say about what other people have said is a paraphrase of what they actually said. We often paraphrase for brevity and for clarity. This is particularly important for social media where brevity is the soul of conversation. It’s even more important for the news media where time and space constrain journalists to be brief, clear, and direct.
Buhari said Nigeria has a “young population” that just wants to “sit and do nothing and get housing education and health for free.” Social media users and headline writers paraphrased Buhari to have said “Nigerian youth is lazy.” (“Youth is” is more grammatical than “youth are.”) Four words were used to compress and accurately capture the meaning of Buhari’s 12 words. Notice that Buhari also never used the word “youth”; he used “young people.” Yet the dolts who are griping about the word “lazy” haven’t said anything about “youth,” which Buhari also never directly uttered. If they’re complaining about Buhari never having said “lazy,” why aren’t they also complaining about Buhari never having said “youth”? It truly takes a special severity of mental retardation to be a Buharist.
A person who sits and does nothing and expects to get housing, education, and healthcare for fee is decidedly a lazy person. Well, he’s actually worse. American English speakers call such a person a moocher, a bum, or a scrounger—which is worse than being lazy. So here is a little lesson for grammar-challenged Buharists. If someone says to you, “You always secretly take people’s money without their permission,” it’s OK to say that the person has called you a “thief.” The word “thief” doesn’t have to be uttered before you know that fact. If someone says to you, “You kill people without just cause,” he is also calling you a “murderer.” If he says, “You’re a citizen of Africa’s most populous country,” don’t wait until he says “you’re a Nigerian” before you know he is referring to you.
People are actually charitable by paraphrasing Buhari as calling Nigerian youth “lazy.” His insult is way worse than that. A lazy person is merely a person who is disinclined to work. If, in addition to being disinclined to work, he is also expecting free stuff, he is a parasite, a leech. So the paraphrase should have been “Buhari calls Nigerian youth parasites.”