Thursday, 6 March 2014

57 Words For Ghana Livin'

So you've heard about us Ghanaians. We are the lively, captivating bunch who light up the west coast of Africa. You've seen us banter with each other on various social media platforms and been entertained by some of the more dotty stuff. Your timelines occasionally flood with 'in country' jokes that everyone else is in on. Well, continuing the blog tradition of a Ghana-centric post on 6 March, here are 57 words for Ghana livin' and lovin'.

1) Akwaaba 
We bid welcome with this word that rolls pleasantly off the tongue. Although it is an Akan word, Akwaaba is that warm outstretched hand of Ghanaian hospitality which you'll see all over the country.  

2Abeg (I beg)
Think 'Oh, please!' or 'Yeah, right!', and occasionally, 'Wow, impressive!' 

This is a verbal pat on the back that means 'well done!'

These days, your dance moves are seriously lacking if you haven't learnt how to pull off the arm-raising, hip-moving, knee-bending, leg-twisting dance that is Azonto.  

5Bele Bele 
You've not met a more industrious hawker than one who changes their wares in response to supply and demand. Bele Bele is small-time hawking of just about anything that is hot right now. It is loyal to no one product or place and brings new meaning to bric-a-brac.

6Bronya ade
During the festive season, peace and goodwill to all mankind won't suffice. You must also expect to be asked for bronya ade (Christmas gift) by just about anyone, including relatives, friends, the waakye seller, the tailor, the taxi driver, the mechanic (fitter), the hairdresser, the trader in the get the point.

7) Boss
Yes, you could be talking about your superior at work. But because the word 'boss' is..well, such a boss, you could also use it in the context of 'buttering someone up', 'cajoling' or 'coaxing.' Think flattery, without too much insincerity.

8) Blow
As a student, academic excellence comes in the form of 'blowing your exams', which is simply to say you have passed with flying colours. Rather neatly, this takes us to the next word. Because in order to blow your exam, you must first be a...

9) Shark
Sharp-toothed as those marine fishes, and brimming with general brilliance. 

10) Bend down boutique ('Fose')
 Second hand clothing usually spread out on mats in the market, hence your needing to 'bend down' in order to make a selection.

This is not the onomatopoeic dance of Latin-American origin, but gambling in local parlance. 

12) Check-Check
Bright, and, often, crudely designed kiosks from which a lucrative fast food business booms. Check-Check joints are local and lively, with regular customers who are enticed to this street food establishment because of convenience and affordable pricing. 

13) Chisel
If you are miserly, you are a tool. You are chisel!

This is a wooden square box for storing food or 'provisions' when a student goes to boarding school. It is a crucial accessory for survival if your school kitchen staff are notorious for serving what is meant to be food, but actually looks like an Unidentified Floating Object. 

15) Chop Money 
Before you brandish a weapon that hacks through paper, chop money is allowance that a spouse provides for the upkeep of the home. 

16Chale wote
You've never seen a more ubiquitous footwear than chale wote. A Ga language word for flip-flops, chale wote revels in its duplicity as the one footwear all Ghanaians own, whilst also doubling as a local slang for 'Homie, let's go!'

17) Chew and Pour
While this phrase has been coined with characteristic humour, 'chew and pour' is the systematic learning by rote in order to regurgitate on paper as demanded by one school examination or other. The gamut of challenges Ghanaian students face in the education system contributes to the survivalist attitude to simply 'chew, pour, pass and forget' without appreciation for critical thinking and evaluation. 

Born again Christian. 

Someone who is perceived as spoiled and pampered because of their moneyed background. 'MamaBa' is used interchangeably with DadaBa if applicable.

20) Dropping
Local transportation in Ghana is peppered with inside jargon, and 'dropping' is one such. This simply means chartering an empty taxi to get you to your destination as opposed to sharing with other passengers at a station or bus stop. The crucial thing to remember about dropping is that price must be agreed beforehand as taxis in Ghana are not metered. So if you feel as though the taxi driver has plucked the fare from somewhere in the stratosphere, it's because he actually has. Ready, set, time to negotiate!
Did you know the Electricity Company of Ghana puts disco lights in the homes of Ghanaians? Load shedding is the official term for the rationing of national electricity supply, but 'dumsor' is the term that everyone calls it to signify the on-off nature of electricity supply. And there you have it, disco light electricity. Now you see it, now you don't.

22) Feeli Feeli
As in, 'Barack...honey, I saw you two feeli feeli! Flirting! Oh, and a selfie at a funeral?!' Are you thinking feeli feeli means 'with my own eyes', 'live', that sort of thing? You're absolutely on the right track.

23) Flex
Being showy with seeming understatement, or standoffish. Context is golden with this particular slang.  

24) Fix us
Give us a treat.

25) Flash
Not indecent exposure or anything even to do with lighting. Unless you count lighting up the screen of someone's mobile phone with the briefest of flash to signify 'you called', which, in this case, is totally what it's about. In Ghana, you will hear people say they only have 'flashing units' on their mobile phones. 

Ghana's rich mineral wealth is well-known. Unfortunately, so is the process of illegal mining known as Galamsey.

27) Guarantee
You know those shoes with soles so high they put you on another platform altogether? We call them 'guarantee.' I don't know why either.

The stuff of good home cooking that ministers straight to the soul. Can I get an amen?

A genre of Ghanaian music that is a fusion of highlife and hiphop, with a bit of dancehall and reggae in the mix. Often recorded in local languages, most popularly in Akanhiplife has arrived to titillate your tympanic membrane and give rhythm to your dancing feet. Enjoy.

30) Item 13
Not a wordy amendment to the Constitution of Ghana or any such highbrow documentation. Item 13 is refreshment, and your party or gathering better have plenty for all attendees to eat. 

Ga word that describes young females who ply a trade in major markets as porters, carrying goods for a negotiated fee.

32) Knocking
When a dating couple have made the decision to marry, the man's family uses the all-important 'Knocking' ceremony to formally inform the woman's family of his intention to marry her. The term 'knocking' comes from the Ghanaian tradition of knocking on someone's door before entering their premises as a visitor.

Is a slang for police officers, whether they are on the beat in the sweltering heat, or at the charge office waiting  to give you an unforgettable 'counter back' experience.

There was a time when your evening meal didn't digest until you had taken a walk to the nearest kyibom stand and made an order. Kyibom is omelette, but enterprising sellers have expanded their offers to include all manner of hot pastries and drinks. Crucially, no kyibom seller worth their eggs sets up stall in the morning, because trust me, kyibom is a roaring joint for the nighttime in much the same way kelewele brings life to a dull evening. 

35) Mate
They are not your chummy buddies with whom you break bread. Mate is the savvy, no-nonsense right-hand man who monitors passenger pick-up and drop-off, and collects fares on the trotro

36) Our Day
Children in primary school celebrate 'Our Day' on the last day of term, bringing in food and drinks to share with their friends. However, it is also very possible that the jollof rice, biscuits, chicken, cake and whatnot that mother has slaved over will end up in carrier bags which a random teacher has brought especially for looting on this day of food and feasting. Our day? You bet.

This must be delivered with the righteous gloating of someone who predicted a particular outcome and was roundly ignored. Because oyiwa means 'I told you so!'

Technically, obroni means white person. But if your complexion is approaching anywhere that society at any point in time may consider 'fair', then you too are 'obroni.' 

Friend. Buddy.

40) Papa
You could be talking about any one of the following - Father (Papa), stressing the effect of something or someone (This annoys me papa!) or any object that can be used as a hand fan - and the word 'papa' becomes handy. All it takes is context and intonation. Some words are just born versatile.

41) Phobia
In Ghana when you say 'Phobia', you're really talking about one of the country's biggest football club sides, Accra Hearts of Oak, whose popular nickname can be traced back to the sixties when their prowess on the field put 'Hearts' fear in opponents. A fiery rivalry with Kumasi Asante Kotoko has kept generations hooked on their football antics, and to yell 'Phobia' is to stretch it till the letter 'O' begs for release. Phooobia!

Oh, you will have memorable birthdays with this one. The tradition in school is to be 'ponded' by your friends on your birthday, during matriculation or any other excuse on university campuses by more senior students: and the gist of what goes on is in the name. Think water, immersion, soaking wetness/ pummelling, and the guffaws of friends enjoying your every reaction. Fun.

43) Post Kaya
It is that person - sometimes at school, sometimes at work - who wants to curry favour with the powers that be by jumping on every task with alarming, ingratiating alacrity. 

44) Raps
Beware the sonnets of a smooth-talking chancer who promises you the sun, the moon, the stars, the Northern Lights  and the nine planets. He is giving you 'raps'. Go figure.

45) Shine!
The streets of Ghana resonate with a rhythmic tapping that the trained ear immediately recognizes as belonging to a passing cobbler. Shoe shine boys, as they are known, often ply their trade on nimble feet, stopping by homes and stores as and when their services are called upon to polish or mend shoes. Before long, a patron will be shouting 'Shine!' in response to that tap! tap!

This double entendre, on one hand, refers to a head completely shorn of hair (baldness), and on the other hand, anything (usually a meal) that is woefully lacking...something - example, koko sakora.

Sankofa is an Akan language word usually typified with an Adinkra symbol of a bird reaching backwards. It signifies the importance of learning from the past in order to forge ahead in the future, and literally means 'go back and get it.' 

Hater. You know, those people others tell to 'go sip on some Gatorade and stop the haterade.' 

49) Some way bi
Something that is not clear cut. Most recently, the term has been popularized by Ghanaian rapper and songwriter, M.anifest.

50) Small chops
...because who can be bothered to say 'hors d'oeuvres?'

Could just be the piggy bank where loose change is grown, or an informal collection and saving scheme operated by any group of people, society or club that is set aside for the proverbial rainy day.

52) Takeaway
The thing about takeaway is that here we aren't talking about food from a takeout restaurant. No, it's the surplus that must also be budgeted for at a private party so that even after guests have eaten their fill, there must still be enough for them to 'takeaway'. A party bag, if you will.

A story that may or may not be as far removed from the truth it purports. Don't fall for it. 

tro-tro is a minivan that typically carries anywhere between 16 to 50 people (or more). It is a crucial link between people and their destinations, packing experiences such as petty squabbles, heated debates, foul-smelling armpits and amusing times into one journey. See more here.

55) Too-Known
All-knowing, all-seeing, all-annoying. Relax, you don't know everything.

Until recently, 'tweaa' was the go-to word to express disdain or derision. Now it is mired in political wahala and has even risen ranks to be a banned word in Ghana's parliament. How's that for notoriety? As usual, my people are having a laugh with this one. 

57) You don't know what is happening in Dodowa Forest
Who knows? It's all a mystery...

And there you have it, some of the words and phrases colouring our speech 57 years after 1957. I love you, Ghana. 



Victor said...

Girl you're too much! I'm loving this a lot! Ayekooo....!

Kelvin said...

Chale wo ye gam!! Me feeli wo tu!