I am writing for you, Jordan.For the first time in the nineteen years you’ve spent on earth, you opened your huge Collins dictionary and checked the meaning ofthe word poor. You never knew it would come to this. For more than a week, your bank account has had nothing but N500 in it and there was no hope of anything coming anytime soon. You were broke. Broke. For more than two weeks, it has been a wonder how you’ve managed to still keep yourself together. You don’t have any cash at hand and you don’t have anything in the bank. And you have things you need to attend to with money. Nothing could be more heartrending. A friend asked how you were doing and you replied: stressed body, empty pockets, broken heart. He didn’t know how to reply and you do not blame him. It wasn’t his fault.
You opened to the ‘P’ section and checked the meaning of the word poor.
‘Someone who is poor has very little money or few possessions.’
Useless! You shake your head at the meaning of the word. Of course it was a useless word. A nonexistent term.
The problem with words like poor is that they have no definite meeting. It is a relative term. If someone walked up to you and asked you the question, ‘Are you rich or poor?’ You’ll probably say, ‘I am rich in Christ Jesus.’ Or if you really want to be optimistic, you’d say, ‘I believe I’m rich. I’m just not walking in the reality of it yet.’ You might however be as straightforward as you want to be and say, ‘Guy, I’m poor. I don’t have anything in my account. I haven’t eaten anything since yesterday morning. I owe a huge debt. My younger sister called from school yesterday that she is broke. I haven’t paid my faculty due. I am poor.’ Now that is you being honest with yourself, saying all there is to your present state. But really, are you poor?
As I said earlier, the word itself is a useless word and I still don’t know why it still shows up in my dictionary. Poor is useless because it cannot stand on its own. I will try to explain this but bring out your canvas and let me paint a picture.
If you take a bus our of school and head to the market. You’d see a girl hawking oranges and when you do your math, everything on her head is not up to a thousand naira. When asked why she is hawking, she tells you she’s saving up for next year’s JAMB form. She couldn’t write the exam this year because she didn’t have enough cash. You ask which school she wants to go and she says, Obafemi Awolowo University. You tell her that’s where you are from. Her eyes shine in admiration and reverence and you walk away. According to her, you are not poor. You’re the richest man in Babylon. Forget that you are cashless. Forget that your account balance is N 0.00. Forget all those. You are still not poor. You have sha paid your school fees and your sister is still in school. You still have data on your Android phone. So you are rich. Very rich according to our future Jambite.
Our future Jambite walks down the street and sees this old man sitting under a broken truck begging for crumbs. He’s wearing the same shirt he has been wearing for the past two weeks. Our Jambite gives him one out of her oranges and gives him a shirt she brought for him. It was her uncle’s shirt which he forgot at their place the last time he visited. The old man says thanks and prays for her. She collects his shirt and promises to bring it back the next day washed and sparkling. The old man smiled with tears in his almost gone eyes and shows a terrible set of teeth.. According to the man, this hawking future Jambite is the richest girl in Nigeria. She feeds him. She clothes him. What’s more?
But according to you, these two characters are poor. And you still you say you are also poor. But really, you are, my dear Jordan.
Let’s go up now. The richest man in your extended family is your uncle who lives in Canada. He’s doing some work you don’t know but you know he has enough to ease your burden throughout your stay on campus. To you, he is rich. The richest, maybe. But really, is he rich? To the potbellies who have cash stacked in sacks in Ikoyi, your uncle is just another poor nigger who is struggling to make a living over the seas. He is not rich at all. They believe they are the rich guys. They believe they can have anything. But really, do they? Can they buy a settlement or say, a colony in Space? I don’t think so. Those who can do that are those who don’t even know what it means to be poor.
Let’s go higher. There are some crazy guys who top the Forbes list every year. They dress simple. A black suit with a colourless tie. A grey vest on jeans. These are the guys who have the money in the bag. According to these guys, we all are poor. The old man. The hawker. You, Jordan. Your uncle. The owners of the houses in Ikoyi. To these guys with a low fashion IQ, we all are poor.
What then is the use of this word poor if half of the world uses it for themselves? Or if it is used for them?
I’m not writing this to tell you to be content. I’m not writing to remind you that there are people more miserable than you are. Of course there are. There will always be. That doesn’t mean you should not aim high. I’m not telling you that you are not poor. In fact, Jordan,I am not writing to you at all. I’m writing to the English community. Dear grammarians, we need new words.
Words like cashless, millionaire, billionaire should mean what they mean. Some of themdo already. Some don’t. Cashless shouldn’t mean you are poor. It should mean you have no cash at hand. And then, other words must be coined. Words like ‘empty-bank’ which will mean that you have nothing in bank. Eg. Right now, buddy, I’m not cashless but I’m empty-banked.‘ Sounds cool, right?
Also, words like thoudandaire and hundredaire should be used more often. Yes, these words exist so they can be used, not to make my Collins dictionary bigger.
I’ve been searching for the word tennaire for centuries and I still haven’t found it. Pourquoi? We need these words. If the use of these words is encouraged, then the word poor will be used less and therefore regain its lost glory.
So before you ask for more cash, are you cashless or empty-banked or both? Before you say you are poor, are you a thousandaire or a hundredaire? Or are you a tennaire.
Know who you are and proclaim it. Don’t use the word poor. It’s a useless word and from now on, I banish it from my vocabulary
PHOTO: What do you see? A brush? Spaghetti? It depends on you. Me, I see dreadlocks.