Nigerian Wings Proverb


Stanley Kalu was raised in Nigeria. Since then, he and his family have lived in various African countries. He currently studies screenwriting at the University of Southern California. He is a friend of mine, and he has often told me stories about growing up in Nigeria. I asked him for folklore, and without even needing to ask for Nigerian folklore, he offered up several pieces, including two proverbs. When I asked why he gave me two proverbs, he said that his mother often said them to him, and that mothers and their proverbs are so infamous that there are meme websites dedicated to them that he visits when he feels homesick. Stanley only speaks English, and told me the folklore in English.


Stanley: Yo, it’s Stanley. Ummmm, so, when you’re misbehaving, you come home past your curfew, your Mom or your Dad will say, “oh, so you have grown wings, eh? We will cut them off.”

Owen: When did you hear this?

Stanley: Every time I went out, throughout my teenage years.

Owen: Where?

Stanley: In Kenya. But my parents are Nigerian. So they, and actually just everywhere we lived. Basically. Yeah.

Owen: So you think it’s a traditional Nigerian proverb?

Stanley: Yes. It is very traditional. Everybody says it.


Stanley explained to me that Nigerian mothers are full of reproachful proverbs. This one essentially means that if you’re misbehaving, there’s an assumption that you think you’re above the rules, that you literally have wings–ie. too much pride. Even though this is a Nigerian proverb, Stanley’s family took it with them as they moved several times. Stanley only speaks English, and this is how he told me the proverb.