I told her to organize some boys to beat the bleach out of the chick’s skin, but she was quoting scripture, saying God will fight her battles.

I searched online dictionaries for bleach but the meanings don't explain the sentence. I think it's a slang word but I don't know the meaning.

So could you tell me please what the meaning of the sentence is?

The fuller text:

By the way, I heard Lola’s husband got his side-chick pregnant. She’s expecting twins.” [...] Thin Woman say, “I knew it would happen! I knew it. I warned Lola, didn’t I? I told her to organize some boys to beat the bleach out of the chick’s skin, but she was quoting scripture, saying God will fight her battles.”

The girl with louding voice by Abi Dare

Note: The author in an interview about her book says that: Nigerians speak something called pidgin English, and I knew I didn’t want to write in pidgin English because even the very educated people speak pidgin English. So I knew it wasn’t going to be that. I wanted it to be nonstandard English, whatever that meant.

For Her Debut, Abi Daré Confronts ‘Dreams and Intelligence That We Kill’


5 Answers 5


As you may well know, Abi Dare writes books about life in Nigeria, and a lot of the slang in her books are from the Nigerian dialect of English. Some of these expressions are just as unfamiliar to native British and American English speakers as they may be to you, but often that adds to the charm of a book.

I have tried to search for the term but can find no reference other than ones that take me back to the book you are reading. What I can tell you is that it is recognisably a term for a severe beating. Comparable expressions in BrEng or AmEng might be "to beat the devil out of..", "to beat the living daylights out of.." or "to knock the stuffing out of...". They all imply that someone was hit so hard it knocked something out of them.


It's known as a minced oath - a typically vulgar phrase in which the cuss word has been replaced by a more acceptable one. In this case, it's a variation on to beat the shit out of (sb).

Whether this particular substitution is meaningful really depends on the broader context of the quote. There is no established slang meaning of the word "bleach".

  • 5
    My guess would be that it may be a reference to the girls race, but I don't know Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 10:08
  • 1
    (+1) Given the context where the victim is being punished for getting pregnant by Lola's husband this seems the most likely answer. I think race is a red herring here.
    – mdewey
    Commented Dec 2, 2020 at 17:45

I'm not a native speaker, but I, like ededededed87 think the "bleach" part is a reference to the girl's ("chick's") skin color/ethnicity/race: namely, she's of European extraction (white-skinned). There's no evidence that is the case from the passage you cited, but expressions similar to this one are well-known and attested: "beat the white out of him", "beat the black out of her".

To conclude, I think the expression means "to beat (a white person) severely".

If that is the intended meaning, this expression might be considered (racially) discriminatory.


I personally think this might be the author's invention in order to use a 'personal euphemism' instead of bad words indicated by Astralbee and Maciej in the above answers. I wouldn't exclude that "bleach" has to do with race, but if in the context of the book, race has not been mentioned even once, then the word "bleach" as a connotation of race would really appear to come out of the blue.

The expression to beat something out of someone does exist indeed, and it is my intuition that the author might have used bleach instead of let's say "crap", just like someone would use heck instead of "hell", or Passed away instead of "Kicked the bucket".

Another possibility would be that the "chick" would be beaten until she would become as white as bleach (not necessarily because of race, but because of fear)


I'm not aware of any widely recognized meaning of "bleach" that makes sense in this context.

Maybe, possibly: Some black women, especially in the 1950s, would put bleach on their skin to make their skin tone lighter. For whatever reason, they thought this made them prettier. (Look more like white women in a culture where white people were dominant? I don't know.) So maybe this woman was a black woman who bleached her skin and she was saying that she wanted someone to beat her so hard that it would knock the bleach out. Of course that isn't literally possible but people say things like that all the time. Or even if this particular woman didn't bleach her skin, if she was living in a time and place where this was common, someone might say that.

Failing that ... I don't know.


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