By Toyin Falola
When my friend, Dr Yemi Ijaola, Cardiologist at UCH, Ibadan, visited me some weeks ago in November, I offered to “serve her breakfast” and asked what she would like to eat. Her response was funny, converting my offer of food into conflict. Dr Ijaola has been one of my slang vocabulary sources, in addition to the ones I pick up from my street guys in Lagos and skits and memes on social media platforms.
The influence of social media on the spread of these phrases or slang cannot be overemphasized. Nigerian youths, in particular, have carved a niche in the sociolinguistic label for every situation they may find themselves in. They do this in good and opposite manners, as these slangs can make people reflect on the realities that occur in our society. When I asked to “serve my friend breakfast,” she laughed and replied, “Abeg o,” don’t serve me breakfast.” This is because the term now has a new connotation from what it originally meant. It carried a deeper meaning than the friendly offer of food in the morning.
The Millennials (people born circa 1981 – 1996) and the Gen-Z (born circa 1997 – 2012) are well apart in years, and how they deploy and derive meaning from languages is quite different. “Serve me breakfast” maintains its meaning to the Millennials, but to the Gen-Z, the phrase is used to explain that they have experienced some form of disappointment. If you walk up to a Gen-Z and ask them what “serve me breakfast” means, you will hear stories of disappointments and inability to get through certain situations. The act of referring to disappointments as “breakfast” stemmed from breakup stories among courting lovers, and instead of saying their relationship has ended, they would say, “I don chop breakfast” to make it sound mild.
Now the trend has caught on and has become widely accepted. So, when there is a love relationship where partners are flaunting each other and their love life on social media, you would always read comments like, “he/she go soon give you breakfast; beware of breakfast; breakfast is real.” These are warnings from people who have experienced disappointment in their relationships or those who keep up with trending news of couples’ separation and eventual divorce and long years of courtship thrown into the mud. They try to warn the lovebirds that the seemingly sweet love affair may eventually get ugly.
Due to the rate at which breakups and divorces from marriages have become saturated in society, getting served “breakfast” has gained more popularity and even spread its tentacles to other spheres of life. This means you could now experience the “serve me breakfast” moment, even if you were not in a love relationship. For instance, you got admission into a university abroad, and your uncle had promised to help pay a large part of your fees because, according to him, it was the least he could do to show his appreciation to your father for sending him to school. Two weeks before the payment was due, you called him to remind him, and he assured you he would get it sorted soon. Then he stopped taking your calls till you lost the admission. That right there is a breakfast moment, and you have just been served!
The list of things that can earn you a “serve me breakfast” includes things as simple as traffic or a sudden defect in a gadget. Imagine that you need to get somewhere fast, and you set out with the mindset of having a short trip because the road is always less congested at that time of day. However, you get stuck in unusual and long traffic that makes your trip longer than it should be, which means the traffic or whatever caused it has served you breakfast. Similarly, if your vehicle suddenly develops a fault en route or before the journey starts, your car has served you breakfast. This means that not only humans but also machines can serve breakfasts. This is a fact that mobile phone users of this age are familiar with.
For the Millennials, “every disappointment is a blessing,” but to the Gen-Z, every disappointment is a breakfast! The list goes on into morally questionable pursuits that society considers lacking moral value, like gambling, especially sports betting, which is common among the male Gen-Z. Sports betting is one of the most unsure ways to make money, but it is also one of the ways to hit quick, big, and easy money; hence, the large following. To win, their predictions would have to be a hundred per cent accurate, which is supposed to be easy given that it is on a sport they love. The case always turns out differently, with more losses than winnings. You would then see them in their numbers claiming a particular football club or footballer has “served them breakfast” because they placed a bet on them to do A, B, and C, and they end up with B, C, and D.
Some breakfasts are universal and bring Millennials and Gen-Z together. This is the financial breakfast—served to the Gen-Z by the Millennials or to the Millennials and the Gen-Z by the government. This can happen when the salary-earning government workers are not paid when due. The Millennials got a share of this when the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was strong-handed into resuming their duties with the promise that they would get their salary for the eight months strike. The lecturers resumed, but the government reneged on its promise, serving ASUU one of the hottest breakfasts of the year.
Breakfast is not restricted to one’s nationals; it can also come from abroad. You read that right; you can be served breakfast from overseas. After going through “shege” in Nigeria and “sapa” makes it hard to save money to get an international passport, then you start to process your “japa” plans only to be denied a visa. Now that is a foreign breakfast! It would make you return home with fragments of your heart in your hands to tell your friends and family that you have been served breakfast at the embassy.
During the yuletide period, fashion designers are contracted to make beautiful attires to celebrate the season, and they will be sent pictures of nice outfits for them to deliver the replica or something close to it. Many people will be heartbroken during this period because most of these fashion designers will not deliver at the appropriate time, or they will deliver error-ridden outfits. The worst of these lot are the online vendors who take payments and pictures of the clothes and accessories they are supposed to deliver, only to deliver something else. Of all the aforementioned breakfast scenarios, this one is most likely to lead to fisticuffs and would require settlement in the police station because “olopa ma ko everybody.”
As a result of the upcoming elections, there is a lot of “bobo” and “zobo” going on in the political sphere. Politicians and their parties use numerous promises to entice the electorate to vote for them. If you fail to “shine your eyes” and refuse to be persuaded by the “zobos” and “bobos,” you will continue to be served breakfast for another four years after the election.