Calling it what it is!

I wonder how it started, this act of calling your older siblings brother or sister, or its rather annoying version “aunty.” It’s annoying because, “Aunty is not Sister.” Some people think that it is a respect marker. “You call your older ones brother or sister. Simple.” No explanation.  In this same class is another set that think that it is a tradition that must be continued “I called my brother, broda, so when I have my own children, I also have to make them call their siblings that way.” Some say that it is part of our culture, this respect marker.

However, there is another school of thought that thinks that these respect markers are not good for us. First, it messes up a lot of things. “So many children get it all screwed up and are not free to relate with their siblings because they cannot call them by their names. It also makes the “called” assume some puffed up status that they really do not belong to, at least not yet,” says Kemi. It is observed that this act is common among Yorubas. You also notice that Yoruba language has the respect marker “e” that goes with the names; the culture also demands that you stoop and prostrate whenever you are greeting an older one. There is nothing wrong with these cultural practices.

Back to the main issue, it raises a question: does respect come with age? For Titi, “Yes it does, in the family setting because it just allows everyone know where they belong and not to overstep their boundaries.” Away from the family, it also seems that this drive for respect has found its way into the society, into the offices and the streets; how else do you explain calling someone younger than you “Mummy”? Or it’s younger more irritating version “Aunty”? Methinks, that it’s what the Yorubas themselves aptly call “oju aye” literally means “eyes of the world” or “eye service.” How do you respect someone that you have never interacted with? Oh, you respect the money or the big car, he or she is riding!

Oh yes, I am not trying to undermine the value of respect but hey not some “puffed up” thing that you are not. If someone respects you based on what you have, what happens when you don’t have it again? What happens when you don’t look the way you look today? Maybe, that’s why it’s not strange to hear statements like: Broda Taju, ori yin o pe sir? For my non-Yoruba speaking folks, brother Taju, your head is not correct sir.

To a great degree, it is an upbringing issue. Just as some older siblings demand respect and say things like “do you think we are mates?” some adults also demand it with looks, tones of the voice and sheer dismissal of who you are. The question remains, should respect come with age, status or is it gained over time? Do respect markers, Aunty, Madam, Oga, Brother and Sister, translate to true respect? How did the Aunty or Sister or Brother saga begin? Does it have any side effects on relationships? What do you think?

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