Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


He is not a garden "boy"

27 June 2016, 09:59Cath Jenkin

That old adage of the pen being mightier than the sword is so often forgotten when we actually speak.

The notion of thinking before you blurt a word out into the world has been jarringly illustrated by the likes of Penny Sparrow, but I’m not here to rant about online stupidities.

He is not a boy

Instead, I’m here to get angry about certain white people’s refusal to change their thought and speech - and I think you are probably angry too. 
The terminology used to refer to people that’s still sticking around far beyond the days where we had segregated beaches is pissing me off.

And I’m not just talking about disgusting words like the one that begins with a K, I’m talking about milder, but just as far-reaching terminology. 

I see it in the instances where a 45-year old landscaper or gardener is called a “garden boy”. I see it in the way that a grandmother who washes dishes in the office and caters for meetings is called a “tea girl”.

She is not a girl 

Calling people out on it is difficult, because if the person who is referred to through an insulting term takes objection to being referred to in an infantilised way, they might land up jeopardizing their job. It’s fear that keeps these terms around and that’s not okay. 

Languages frames our world

Ferreting out this insulting language has to happen. When I call people out on this, I get told a bunch of excuses, from “it’s a habit” to “it’s the way things have always been done” to “she doesn’t mind”. 

But that’s the thing that most people don’t take notice of, or choose to ignore: the way we speak frames the way we see the world. The words you use in your everyday conversation are the ones that shape your entire world, and then seep into your interpersonal relationships and your everyday interactions. 

To NOT call people out when they use insulting terms (yes, they are insulting – would anyone call a CEO a boy? No, they would not) is also wrong, but I absolutely understand why someone would feel forced to accept it when their job could be in jeopardy if they were to. 

It’s not just a habit 

The excuse of “it’s just a habit” is really poor. It’s so poor I don't even want to give it any attention, but I have to because it’s the most common one that’s rolled right out when people get called out for infantilising someone they happen to employ. 

Language is a learnt skill, and one that parents pass on to their children. That’s why you’ll find enthusiastic parents being careful not to utter the F-word around their toddlers. In the same way, can we not eradicate these insulting terms from our national language? 

Can we stop accepting them as terms for actual, real-life human beings, and view it as a method for eradicating the insidious nature of racism? Because that’s what this is – racism – it is just (still and sadly) ever-so-blithely accepted as part and parcel of everyday language. 

But if we know anything about language, we know it can change the world.



Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...