I’m On My Knees

In all the years I’ve lived on this earth, I’ve never said ‘good morning’ to my mother. If I ever do I think she will die of shock. To my mother’s despair, the only language my brothers and I speak (fluently) is English. I can’t construct a sentence in Benin (paternal language) and all I can do in Urhobo (mother’s language) is greet and beg for keys and money. I’ll explain. As a teenager, in an attempt to frustrate me (why else would she do it) my mother would often demand that if I wanted something from her, I had to ask in Urhobo. The two things I always wanted were the keys to her room and money so I learnt to ask for both.

I’m not sure if it’s a Nigerian thing or if it’s specific to certain cultures but saying ‘good morning’ to an Urhobo person is like spitting in their faces. Sometimes I meet a friend of my mothers’ and unsure of their ethnicity, politely say, ‘good morning.’ If their eyes and nostrils widen, you know they are Urhobo. One of the first words to ever proceed from my mouth was degwo. It’s how you greet in Urhobo. It’s still one of the only words I know in the language but I thank the good lord that it’s as versatile as the oil its land produces. Degwo will get you very far. My friends Stinkus and CrawCraw are constantly ribbing me about this so you have them to blame for this Urhobo lesson.

Degwo  means ‘I am on my knees’ and the response ‘Boma do’ means ‘stand up.’ Unlike other languages that literally translate the words, good morning, degwo is symbolic. When you greet an elder, you are expected to kneel as a sign of respect. Like my mother says, what’s the point of saying ‘I’m on my knees’ if you’re standing straight as a ruler?! Personally, I think the ground is too far from my knees for them to meet so I tend to curtsey. It drives my mother crazy.

“My friend, your knees are not touching the ground!”

I ignore her and we end up fighting. She thinks I’m rude, I think she’s ancient. She shouts, I space out. When I remember she’s my mother, I apologise and we let it go…till the next time.

Degwo can mean, good morning, afternoon or evening. It can also mean thank-you. It can mean whatever kneeling could signify. So Stinkus and CrawCraw, you have been educated. The next time I hear any jokes about this I will knock your heads together…AND I MEAN IT!

So tell me, how do you say good morning in your language and where are you from? Do you have to kneel or can you get away with sitting and greeting?

 xXx

Waila

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13 comments

  1. All my life I just had to say “e karo ma” my mother was satisfied as long as the “ma” was there. But since I got married she has gone mental about me kneeling to greet her cus apparently “I feel too big for my boots now” and since “I am now a woman” I can’t kneel again!! MOTHERS can’t just get them 🙂

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  2. “I’m not sure if it’s a NIGERIAN THING or if it’s specific to certain cultures but saying ‘good morning’ to an Urhobo person is like spitting in their faces.”

    LOL GBAO that is the problem with KOLO/COLONIAL MENTALITY.

    “NIGERIA” is the name of a CARVED OUT geographical area of land, given by FOREIGNERS.

    Underneath the FACADE that is Nigeria, there are VARIOUS TRIBES with their RESPECTIVE CULTURES.

    Our CULTURE is NOT “NIGERIAN” but rather BENIN/WARRI, just like our friends have their Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, Efik etc etc etc. cultures!!

    CULTURE is the TEMPLATE for our respective ways of life.

    The term “Good morning” is ultimately a FORM OF GREETING that is part of ENGLISH CULTURE.

    You, Waila Caan are an AFRICAN WOMAN, so you best DIGWE with your KNEES TOUCHING THE GROUND!!!

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  3. Lol. Tell me about it. I’m Urhobo (both paternal & maternal) so I know how to “Digwe” for real (BTW, I thought it was “Digwe” not “Digwo”)…he he. So I learned to say “Migwo,” (as a greeting), to which the response is “Vrendo.” Not sure of all these spellings.

    Anyway sha, I envy the hubby cos Yoruba folks don’t play with their language. I know more Yoruba than Urhobo, and yes, I blame it on my parents every day. Lol.

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  4. Undeve – Tiv (paternal) not sure of the spelling tho.
    Ì bòóla chí – Imo igbo (maternal)

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  5. thanks for the education on irhobo greetings.

    you know for we yorubas, greeting is everything. a yoruba woman could quarrel with you for years cos you didn’t greet her properly. we use to get knocks on our head for not kneeling properly.

    we term the igbos as people that knock their father’s head in the morning rather than kneeling down or prostrating to greet good morning.

    we have greetings for everything. even for death we have greetings. every greeting starts with eku.

    eku ise
    eku ijoko
    eku ifarada
    eku ile
    ekaabo
    eku ilede
    eku oro eyan
    eku ipalemo
    eku oro ana
    etc

    the only way to please a yoruba woman is to greet her 100 times in a day. this shows you are respectful and well trained. this is particularly useful to appease the MIL.

    to remove our greetings from our culture is like removing half of our heritage.

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  6. is there one that is more appropriate for an elder? say if i am greeting my uncle who is a chief? i know to kneel and say one of these things when I see him, but how do I greet him in writing? I am composing an email! help!

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  7. Migwo is the general grating in urohbo but the Isoko and Uvwie people say Degwo. and they answer vrendo (Urohbo) or Bomado(Uvwie/ Isoko).

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  8. Migwo is the general greeting in urohbo Land but the Uvwie people (which are alo part of urohbo) and the Isoko people say Degwo. and they answer vrendo (Urohbo) or Bomado(Uvwie/ Isoko).

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