My brothers and sisters, first and foremost, I think basically that Ghanaians are a great bunch of people. We have our own expressions that are understood only by us. They come in various ways. We like to ‘happy’ ourselves. Is that true for all Ghanaians, you may ask. My response? “Who told you?”
As a matter of fact, when you are contributing to a debate, you may get a response from a panelist to suggest that your argument does not ‘wash’ because your presentation of the issue is neither here nor there. ‘Should in case’ you try to correct him, he will stand his ground, that his point is the ‘gospel truth’, actually the true fact. Should you try to interrupt, he will insist that you let him ‘land’. Otherwise, he will shout, “Please, give me a break!”
Try putting in a call to the ECG consumer care line (does one exist?) to complain about an issue. The standard response: “We are working on it.” Walk to the complaint centre and you may meet workers there who would tell you ‘we are on break’. Break can last for three hours. Try telling them that it is not good customer service and the response will be “my friend, what is your beef? This is not America. You are even lucky we have not closed at 2 p.m.”.
Supposing you work in that establishment and want things to be done differently, you would be asked ‘Is it your father’s work?’ Don’t push too much, because you would be branded as ‘too known’. Then, you need to be careful because the next time you misbehave, a superior could show you ‘where power lies’. A colleague may even warn you to be careful – “you diε, you no know!” The thing is that you may end up being dismissed.
As far as these service providers are concerned, we have gone to the drawing board for too long; I wonder the efficacy of the modalities that have been drawn to move them forward. In this democratic dispensation, our leaders need to expedite action to get them to be efficient; already we are reeling under the effect of the ecomini. Then, and only then, can we say ‘Thumps up!’
In Sikaman, when you seek clarification on an issue from an older Ghanaman you don’t ask ‘what do you mean?’ It is considered an insult. You can say ‘I beg your pardon?’ Otherwise, you could be branded a ‘bleddy’ fool!
The rainy season in Ghana brings with it various excuses to skip work, especially for those in the civil service. You will find the guy pulling his cloth around himself the more, as the rain hits his roof. The standard expression is “The weather bring himself! As for this weather, hmmm.” In other words, the probability of this guy showing up at work on such a rainy day is zero! Frankly speaking, he is not going to work!
“Chop, make I chop some”; now that is not referring to an experience at an eatery or in local parlance, a ‘chop bar’. It is the practice of ‘hand-go-hand-come’, corruption spread thinly so everyone is settled. If you attempt to swerve any member of the team, you would be asked “Charlie, where is my share?” Sometimes, one officer takes the lead in the corruption move and gives the rest back passes.
When a trotro approaches where a passenger wants to alight, you could hear “B-u-u-s stop! I will drop here!” The driver’s mate should by now be ready with the passenger’s change. If you don’t give the mate enough notice before your stop, then be ready to experience a jolt as the driver applies aponkye brake!
“Ei, Kwaku, I see you kyεr o!”
“Yes o, Akwasi! Do you know something? The last time, I was sitting my somewhere when I got a call from Bruno, you remember him?”
“Oh no, please remember me of him or please remember him for me.”
“Ah, this boy who was in House One!”
“Ahaa, I remember. But when you see him, will you see him?”
That means that because it’s been such a long time, it could be difficult to recognise him.
“OK Charlie, we will crush tomorrow.”
I like booklong people. They like book and they love to read. But the Ghanaman is likely to ask you why you are booklong like that, if all you do it to study and quote ‘big English’.
When a statement seems too good to be true, the Ghanaman will exclaim “As for this one paa diε!” However, if the matter sweet him, he will say “Say it and say it again!” If the issue is worrying or irritating, you will hear him say, “What kind matter koraa be this?”
When I attend events and the MC starts by saying, ‘without much ado’ (some actually say ‘without much I do’), suggesting he will be brief, I laugh; usually the opposite happens. When a speaker opens with “I won’t take much of your time”, watch out! In some churches, when the pastor states, “in conclusion…”, be prepared for one more hour of the sermon, particularly if he is in the spirit. You will never be the same, again. All too soon, which does not come soon enough, the pastor will touch on his ‘last but not the least’ point and you may heave a sigh of relief.
Ingenuity is a strong characteristic of a Ghanaman. ‘Take away’ used to be available only for ‘check-check’ or fried rice. These days, you can do take away from chop bars, with fufu and light soup koraa. When you leave the food joint, don’t be surprised to hear the proprietor say ‘Please return back soon’, a sign of his good customer service. However, if you change your mind about patronizing this eatery, perhaps due to insanitary conditions, you could give an excuse that you are not going away totally, just going to come. Express your opinion about the insanitary conditions, and you may hear someone who disagrees with you saying ‘but you why?’
With ECG’s dum-sor-dum-sor antics, we usually don’t have the opportunity to off the light in the mornings.
Ask a Ghanaman how he is doing. “We are managing o”, “It is not easy o” or “By his grace o”. Home hard usually, raining but the ground is still hard. But how for do? Small-small, small time, e go be. ‘God dey, we dey’, as my friend Yaw Duose would say.
We are noted for our courtesy, especially in addressing older folks. The combinations are endless and sometimes needless: Bra Oldman, Sister Girl, Auntie Sister or Uncle Dada.
Some people just love to eat. Ghanaman will call such a person a foodian. When a foodian is your buddy buddy and visits you at meal time, be careful about an invitation to the meal, ‘you are invited’ or ‘you have met me’. He could take over your meal and also ask silly questions like ‘was the akrantie shot or killed in a trap?’ A good answer, particularly if you are not amused, could be ‘lightning killed it!’ You will talk true! Shine your eyes about such friends.
As kids, we knew such friends, so when they found us eating, we would jokingly say, “All hands are invited except those who will eat!” Some foodians were not shy koraa, they would still join in!
Don’t cross the big men in our society. “Do you know who I am? Who are you? Who born dog? Who born you by mistake?’ are some of the expressions you could hear. If you are bold to stand up to them, the really annoyed one can tell you ‘Go way you! The cheek of it!’ and ‘nonsense on high heels!’ Please increase the distance between you and that big man, otherwise you will smell pepper and be laughing at the wrong side of your mouth.
In relationship and marriages, choices differ. Some of the ladies like thick tall men and some like slim machos. Some men like women with enough body.
I was listening to a Twi commentary on radio. Kotoko was playing against Hearts of Oak. It was a cagey encounter. “Mine oh mine,” the commentator kept repeating. He gave the commentary in between adverts for the many sponsors; most of them locally produced blood tonics. I wondered whether the players took those tonics instead of water on the field of play.
Watch repairers, tailors, seamstresses, radio repairs – these are amongst the artisans whose words are taken with bags of Annapurna salt. You visit their shops to check on the progress of your job. “Oh small time, I will finish; e lεf small.” When they ask you to look up, look down, otherwise a piece of wood will pierce your eyes! When they see you approaching their shops, they pick up your article or equipment; once you leave, they switch to another’s. You got to love the Ghanaian mechanic. When he doesn’t understand what a component in the engine is supposed to do or can’t repair it, his first action is to disable it. His reason? ‘This is not required in hot climates – they use it only in abrokyire’.
Thief man thief thief man, no one vex! A simple law in Ghana. Similar to the law that says “you do me, I do you”. All die be die!
When I went to Form 1 for my secondary education, it was a whole different world. On the walls of my dormitory, I found out that some students who passed through the institution had inscribed their names written on classroom walls and ceilings, as a reminder that they were there some. Apart from that memorial on the walls, no one remembered them. Some would come to visit the school, expecting some sort of remembrance. Zilch! They would ask the little ones :”When we were we, where were you?” Excuse me to say, we were in ‘cyto’ and preparatory schools. They may have been ogbontias in their time but they forgot that ‘no condition is permanent.
Dining hall food made us miss home-made ‘cho’ all the time. Except for the ‘mama-bas’ and ‘dada-bas’ who were visited every weekend.
Some of the concoctions we were served in school defied characterisation. Some swore that the kontomire stew we were served with was actually made from cassava leaves. Once a week, we got one egg each, for breakfast. It went with bread and Milo Tea. Sometimes, we experienced scattey in the dining hall. Free for all. That was the only time the junior boys got more than a paltry portion.
One day, there was scattey. This friend of mine got an entire table’s portion of bread. This guy was a good runner. He could run like something. He really tried, his skin caught him papa, but he survived the chaos in the hall. After managing to exit the hall with two surviving loaves, an intelligent senior boy standing by the entrance just called him over, took the two loaves of bread and just gave him that hard end of one of the loaves. Agyeiiii! Monkey dey work, baboon dey chop! My friend was livid. “Nana, my eyes are red, but how for do? I can only hit him stick.”
In Ghana, people are willing to give you directions when you ask. However, there are basically two problems. First and foremost, if the person does not know the directions to a place, he will not give any indication that he does not know. Secondly, the instructions are rarely conclusive. Check out these directions to the post office: “please go straight a-a-a-a-h, you will see a mango tree, pass in front of it and turn left, go straight again and ask anybody you see.”
Ghana Metric Time (GMT)
Then, there are those who never keep to their time. They follow the Ghana Man Time. Bob Palitz calls it the Ghana Metric Time, arguing that for the Ghanaman, 100 minutes make one hour and a minute consists of 100 seconds. You have an appointment with and he calls you a few minutes to the time. “Charlie, I dey traffic inside o!” or “I am in a long line at Circle.” Meanwhile, Ghanaman has not even left his house. If such a person is a friend, you have to manage the relationship well, otherwise you soon will not be on speaking terms with him. Usually, it is better to speak your mind and tell him, “Massa, this your habit is not fresh koraa, you got to change.”
When it comes to such conflict in friendships, usually female struggle the most. Small time nn-o-h, then one would say to the friend ‘we are not on speaking terms, don’t speak to me again. Aka aka aka, akaa dompe!’ Otsokobila!
There are friends who promise to touch base with you, to call you on phone, but only ‘flash’, especially when they are on a journey. “I will bell you when I catch there.” They never have credit on their phones. You try calling them and they won’t pick up. Their excuse? “My phone was on charge.” When you get them on the phone and they don’t want to talk to you, they go: “Hello hello, the network is bad o.” Reminds me of this guy who had a stomach upset, was in the loo when a call came through. “Hello, hello,” he said, “please call me later; I am in a serious meeting!” Indeed, ‘thumps up’ to this smart guy!
“You fool too much”, some may be saying. Well, this is true Ghanaman talk. I taya sef. I am going to come, catch you later. Perhaps, we will crush moro, abi? I have to run, I am taking my little girl to the hospital for weighing.
‘Weighing’ and tom brown
Ah, weighing. In the good old days, sending your child to the Polyclinic for immunization, basic growth checks and weighing was pleasantly anticipated. You got ‘tom brown’ if you took your child for weighing. I can’t remember whether the tom brown was for the child, the mother or older siblings. The nurses also took a lot of it home, which is how I got my supply for school. Sometimes, the tom brown came with powdered milk. Kai! That one could produce a steady stream of gas from the human exhaust pipe. We called that milk ‘dinat’- eat it and flatulence was koko!
Opiana got a call from his friend Ascona.
“Massa, did you listen to Cool FM today?”
“Why? What is the matter?”
“Honorable Menum alleged that you have taken bribe.”
“Me? Ei! Does he have proof?”
“He said he has documents and a tape.”
“I will call the radio station, then. I challenge him to produce the tape (ah, do people still record on cassette?). Today be today, he has been having verbal diarrhoea for so long! That statement is far from the truth, my honesty is as crystal as glass.”
“Opiana, he said that you rather have to prove that you are innocent.”
“Twe-a-a, na lie! I won’t! If he doesn’t provide the evidence, I will leave him to God.”
The land where any allegation can be made. I dey feel the country!
In fact, Ghana dey be! I feel you, Ghanaians.
Oki-doki, I got to go now, we will crush later!
By: Nana Awere Damoah
Author, I Speak of Ghana