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May 12, 2018

"Gain weight" vs. "Add weight" in Nigerian English and Standard English

Nigeria is one of the countries of the world where English is used as a second language, and ever since the English language left its primordial base for countries like Nigeria, it hasn't remained unchanged. It has undergone (and still undergoes) all kinds of changes in such countries. English users in these countries have used the language in such a way that some of its standard expressions are no longer intelligible by native speakers of the language because of the odd meanings attached to them – meanings that are different from their standard or actual meanings. One of such expressions is "add weight".


Although the expression, "add weight", exists in Standard English, its meaning is quite different when used by Nigerian English speakers. In Nigeria, "add weight" is synonymous to "gain weight". That is why Nigerian English speakers say "You are adding weight" when addressing someone who is getting fatter or heavier as a result of the excess intake of fatty foods. However, as regards this, native English speakers will say "You are gaining weight." "Add weight" is the Nigerian English expression for "gain weight" in Standard English. Other Standard English expressions for "gain weight" are "add pounds" and "put on weight". It seems Nigerian English speakers formed "add weight" on the model of "add pounds".

In the denotative sense, "add weight" is used in Standard English to mean physically increasing the heaviness of something by adding extra stuff on it. For instance, if someone is carrying a half bucket of water, and you pour some more water into it, you’re adding weight to their load.

Metaphorically, "add weight" means "to make stronger". And native English speakers often use it in this sense. If something adds weight to an argument, idea etc., it makes it stronger. For example, "The man's refusal to see his son's corpse adds weight to the argument that he killed his son."

"Gain weight" vs."Add weight" in Nigerian English and Standard English
Longman (online) dictionary
It will interest you to know that although "add weight" is used by Nigerians to mean "gain weight", you will never hear any Nigerian say "subtract weight" or "take off weight" to mean "lose weight" probably because they have an adequate knowledge of the meaning of "subtract" or "take off". Well, despite the convincing reason(s) they may have for this, it is important to note that you gain weight since you can lose weight, and not the other way round.

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