Thursday, 16 December 2010

Lost in translation

Remember that episode of Friends? The one where Joey, feeling particularly conscious of being the least smart of the group, buys a dictionary so he can impress the others with new words he's learnt? Okay..you don't. Fine. Before he buys the dictionary, he remembers all the times he's faked understanding when the others chat about intellectual stuff, and how he joins in with the laughter at the right time so he doesn't give away how lost he actually is.

I am Joey.

I'm part of a funky generation of Twi-Nglish (mixture of Twi and English) speakers. A couple favourites: 'I think sɛ..', 'Eno deɛ ɛnnye problem..'. Who can forget JJ Rawlings' amusing mixture of the two languages? Vive Twi-Nglish! And Ga-Glish, and all the other 'Ishes'...

So language is fun, ever changing, and a constant sign of the times. But for all the fun, it is a bit of a minefield isn't it? I get lost in translation when I am with a group of friends, particularly at work. It is a place teeming with pretty young things, über cool youngsters like me (the part about 'young', not the 'über cool'), who I'm sure pull the strings on what the new 'it' word in town is. That's all well and good, but where does that leave clueless folks like me? That's why I become Joey anytime we congregate to the back room to chitchat or catch up on gossip. You see, they seem to be talking English, but what comes out is a confusing mixture of mainstream Patois, slang, English..and everything else in between. So after I have joined the general laughter with my fake, uncomprehending one, I ask the gang to explain all the slang they used to me. So I can catch up for real on what that group laughter had really been about. They're a good lot, my colleagues. When I first met one of them, he said I was 'blue cheese.' At the shocked expression on my face - because I was thinking along the lines of 'stinky', 'mouldy'..you know, words that could possibly be associated with cheese, and none of them was flattering! - he hurried to assure me that blue cheese was not your everyday cheese. I like to think he means I'm a rare breed of a woman...

Some common examples to tickle your ears, so you don't ever have to be a Joey in London: (note: not necessarily attributable to my colleagues)

Fit, bangin', buff - hot, cute, pretty, beautiful
Bred'rins/blood - friends, chums
Endz - local area, neighbourhood
It was bare jokes - it was hilarious, funny etc
Am I bovvered? - I don't care
A and B and the C of the D - above and beyond the call of duty
Bad - good
Sick/wicked - cool, interesting
Allow it - I'm STILL not sure about this one
Stop gassin'/stop chattin'/what you chattin' about - shut up, you're talking rubbish
Innit - isn't it? Really? You know?/you know! (Now this one is a classic. Proper versatile, innit?!)

So whether pidgin, staffroom chitchat or proper English, forgive my ignorance - I'm just looking to get down wiv the chat with my mates. Ha!

Oh by the way, I identify with the Asamoah Gyan definition of cheese these days - cheese is..simply sexy. As sexy as an African girl.
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