“Food is not ready,” Iya Oyo informed me. “This is just a snack. I know you are hungry” In Yoruba she said “Fi eléyìí panu. Mo mọ̀ pé ebi ti ń pa ẹ́.”

She left me a bowl full of boiled groundnuts. I loved boiled groundnuts. It was still in the shell. “You can throw the shells here after cracking them.” In Yoruba , she said, “Pa èèpo ẹ̀pà ná à sínú abọ́ yìí.

It was that day, at that moment, that I realized that the word “pa” was virtually meaningless because it has too many meanings.

“Iya Oyo,” I called her attention, “You used ‘pa” in different ways just now.”

“I did?” she asked. :In what ways?”

“You said PAnu; which referred to snack; ebi n PA e, referring to hunger, and PA eepo epa, meaning to shell the groundnuts.”

“True, your observation is apt,” Iya Oyo confirmed. “Pa has so many meanings that it virtually becomes meaningless.”

She then went through various ways of using pa.

1. Pa ojú dé—to close the eye;

2. Pa ẹnu mọ—to shut up

3. Pa àlọ́—to tell or narrate a story.

4. Pa ara—rub (lotion) on skin

5. Pa ọ̣mọ̣—when a hen hatches chicken

6. Pa ọwọ́ dà—change styles;

7. Pa ààlà—create boundaries;

8. Pa ilà rẹ́—erase the line

9. Pa itan mọ́; closes the laps

10. Pa ara pọ̀: unite

11. Pa ariwo: shout

10. Pa ni lébi—cause hunger

11. Pa àwàdà ti: stop kidding

12. Pa atewo: clap

13. Pa ìdí pọ: conspire

14. Pa àrọwà: plead.

15. Pa kuuru: dart forward

16. Padà sẹhìn: turn back

17. Pa èèpo igi: remove the bark of a tree

18. Pa ni lẹ́kún—cause sadness and tears

19. Pa ni lẹ́rìn-ín—invoke laughter

20.. Pa ènìyan—kill people.

“Ó pa ọmọ, therefore, could mean that a hen has hatched some chicken,” Iya Oyo said. “But ó pa ọmọ ọlọ́mọ means someone has committed murder. Pa, therefore, is a word that brings joy when the chicken are hatched; or tears, when people are killed.”

Yesterday, I recalled the meaninglessness of the word “pa” and the senselessness of killing, as unknown assailants raided a Catholic cathedral in Owo, and massacred scores of innocent worshipers.

I remember Iya Oyo’s prayer that day. She said, “May today bring us joy and not tears, meaning Kí ọjọ́ òní pa wá lẹ́rìn-ín, kó má pa wá lẹ́kún. Kí adìyẹ wa pá ọmọ, kí aráyé má pa wá lọ́mọ.”


Photo shows me at the cinema yesterday, to watch a light movie, to cover the bad news from home.

Ẹ PArapọ̀. Ẹ PAriwo.

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