‘CEO’ and other words you’ve been misusing

Language matters; it is basically the soul of marketing communications. But we think, and you might agree, that certain words seem to have a different meaning to the Nigerian market, from how they are used abroad. For example, it can be confusing – when a one-person business has a CEO or when food costs national minimum wage at a bistro.

So, welcome to this special article – we are taking on the consumers’ perspective today. Send our URL to defaulting parties, and let them know they cannot be confusing everybody. What are these words that require reexplanation? We have listed them alphabetically. 

  • Agent

An estate agent is a person or business that arranges the selling, renting or management of properties and other buildings. In some countries, real estate agents are licensed professionals. Well, not in Nigeria. Here, everyone who points you to a property is an “agent”. Everywhere though, agents are compensated by a commission – a percentage of the property’s purchase price. The property’s purchase price. Not as an add-on to costs after you have finished paying heavily for rent, utilities, and services, for a cubicle in Lekki Phase 2. Also, what is that 10% agents now collect? Are they God? Is it tithe? 

  • Apartment

“Apartment” is American English, the British version is called “flat”. Yeah, apartment and flat are the same things. A flat is not bigger than an apartment. Somebody should please tell Nigerian landlords. An apartment is a self-contained housing unit that occupies a part of a building. This unit is supposed to contain its front door, kitchen, toilet, and bathroom. That is literally what the dictionary says. If the apartment you are offering has no kitchen, it is not an apartment. Maybe it is “apart-”.

  • Bespoke

Bespoke means custom-made – made based on the specifications of the person ordering it. If you made the product before you met the customer, it is not bespoke. That is ready-made, bespoke is literally the opposite of that. Also, since bespoke dressing is made for a particular customer, the tailor must have their specifications (measurements). If the tailor has their specifications, why does “what I ordered” vs “what I got” exist? 

  • Bistro

A bistro is a small, inexpensive restaurant. Emphasis should be on inexpensive. Inexpensive is relative, dependent on the particular market; but this is Nigeria. Previously, we mentioned that 40% of Nigerians live below the country’s poverty line. That is, 83 million people do not make N137,430 ($335.48) per year – N11,452.5 a month. Nigerians are poor. A meal should not cost a month’s salary at a bistro, should it? 

  • CEO

A Chief Executive Officer is a corporate executive in charge of managing an organization – especially an independent legal entity such as a company. This is a Wikipedia definition. It seems like an organization has to exist before there is a CEO. Can you be a CEO of a one-man business? It doesn’t seem so. Especially when this business is not registered. Instagram vendor, are you there? Can you hear? And what’s these “we” and “us” people use when they are literally the only person in the business. Is it faith?

  • Competitive prices

Competitive pricing is the process of selling your products or services at the same or a lower price than your competitors. When you promise competitive prices, you mean similar or lower prices, not higher prices. Never higher prices. Who would you be “competing” with then? 

  • Influencer

Influencer marketing is a form of social media marketing involving endorsements and product placement from influencers – people and organizations who have a purported expert level of knowledge or social influence in their field. In 7 surefire ways to sell to Gen Z, we explained that influencers influence what others buy. So, followers and bomb pictures are not enough. Influencers aren’t just popular people. No knowledge of or social influence in the market = no influencing. 

  • Instalmentally

The word, “instalmentally” does not exist, it is “Nigerian English”. You do not pay instalmentally, you pay in instalments. An instalment is a sum of money due as one of several equal payments for something, spread over an agreed period. Creditor, you cannot ask for installments at once. Debtor, when you agree to pay in instalments, you are supposed to pay during the agreed period. Pay oh, onigbese.

  • International 

A thing is international if it is existing, occurring, or carried on between nations. An organization is international if it involves more than a single country. We are not sure why most Nigerian schools have “international” in their long names. Do they have foreign branches that we are unaware of? Do they have international students? Question for the gods.

  • Luxury 

Luxury is a state of great comfort or elegance, especially when involving great expense. Great expense? The Nigerian market agrees. Great comfort or elegance? The Nigerian market left the group chat. Luxury in Nigeria is mostly refined sufferhead, that people pay a lot for, only so that they can say they did. 

  • Mall

A mall is a large indoor shopping center, usually anchored by department stores. A mall is large, it is indoor, and it is full of separate stores. A mall is not a store. A mall cannot be outdoors. Weeks ago, we wrote about Shoprite malls around Nigeria. Shoprite itself is not a mall. However, it is usually lodged in a large building that houses many other stores. The entire building is the mall. Capiche? 

  • Montessori

The Montessori method of education was developed by Italian physician, Maria Montessori. It emphasizes the independence of children – they learn on their own, surrounded by a peculiar, enhancing environment. Hmph. Also, the Montessori method discourages conventional measures of achievement, such as grades and tests. Do Nigerian schools know this? We could have sworn tests are given, grades are awarded and results published in Nigerian Montessori schools. 

  • Thrift

Thrift is the quality of using money and other resources carefully and not wastefully. Thrifty people want to spend money carefully, usually because they do not have a lot of it. A thrift store usually has low business costs, so items can be sold at competitive prices. Again, Nigerians are poor. You don’t have to call your store a thrift store. If you do, items should be cheap, in the Nigerian context. Don’t be annoying. 

  • Ultra-modern

Ultra-modern means extremely modern; advanced. Ultra-modern houses are supposed to be modern, extremely so. Modern means “characterized by or using the most up-to-date techniques, ideas or equipment”. If a house costs a billion naira, perhaps it should be ultra-modern? Realtors must have used the most up-to-date techniques and equipment. Right? Hmmm, because what we are seeing out here is not adding up.

Anyway, this is the end of our list. A word is enough for the wise. A correct definition is even surplus. If there are more words you would like us to add in a possible part two of this post, drop them in the comment section. 


  • Hephzi-bah E
    May 29, 2021 at 8:21 am

    I love it! More of this.

    I can now say I know what ultra-modern and Montessori really mean.

  • Vicex Empire
    August 8, 2021 at 12:02 am

    Thank you so much for this write up, I am really edified right now, I just did a lot of learning and unlearning.

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