You loved it the first time, didn’t you?
You saw the link to the article: 8 English Words That Mean Something Totally Different In Kumasi, you clicked it and read it. And you loved it. Thanks for that, we appreciate it.
It really struck a popular chord among Ghanaians, and also some non-Ghanaian fans (here’s to you, Sean). If you came for more awesome Anglo-Siano colloquialisms, you’re in luck. For those new to this, Kumasi street culture has a distinctive way of borrowing words from English and putting a unique spin on them. This time, Life in Kumasi brings you 17 new awesome English words that mean something totally different in Kumasi. Ready? Let’s do this!
Original definition: To write something down quickly. Also, a jot is a small amount of something.
Siano version: Our definition deals with a great amount of smoke indeed. A jot is a cigarette. Tusker, Rothmans, Embassy, you name it. Why do I know these brands? Let’s move on immediately.
New definition: A younger version of Tony Stark who was recruited by the Avengers from a parallel universe, when Iron Man was indisposed. All this happened in Marvel comics, just in case you thought it was actual world history.
Original definition: Siano, we did it again! Long before the Marvel Comics of the world laid claims to this term, we were using it to describe, as GhanaWeb puts it, an up and coming youth who feels on top of the world. That’s what we the Akatakyie call the Prempeh boys. It must be really cold being on top of the world, North Pole and all. If you have the Amakye Dede song playing in your head as you read this, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Original definition: A long-bladed hand tool with a beveled cutting edge and a plain handle that is struck with a hammer or mallet and used to cut hard objects.
Siano version: I really love this term, even though it is fading out of use. If a girl tells you you are chisel, then forget it, she’ll never date you! A chisel guy is a miserly one. It’s funny but this word is hardly used on a woman. If a woman refuses to spend a lot, she’s careful with her money. If a man does same, he’s chisel. End of story.
Jack, John, Joseph and Charles
Original definitions: These are four fine names for gentlemen. Jack is the pet form of John. John in itself is a distinguished name (and the go-to presidential name in Ghana). Joseph is Jesus’s dad so it doesn’t get any better. And many a king has been named Charles.
Siano version: Forget everything you just read about those four names; we have a different plan for them in Kumasi. Fine, they are still popular names over here, but they’re far more versatile than that. Jack is a friendly informal term used in addressing a guy, especially a coequal. ‘John’ is not something you want to be called. It means you’re square, uncool, socially inept, etc. It’s not pretty, really. But don’t get mad if someone calls you that, they’re probably just messing around. Joseph and Charles bring a smile to my face (and to yours too, in case you already know what they mean). Joseph is a friendly term for a cat, and a not-so-friendly term for the meat derived from it. Similarly Charles refers to a pig, and the pork it so generously provides. These two are respectively said to be delicacies in two different regions in Ghana. However, because I nearly got a good friend of mine mad at me because of one of these terms (she knows herself – Happy birthday, dear), I’m going to move on real quick.
Rough and Tough
Original definitions: Rough means having an uneven surface. It also means, of a person or behaviour, violent or not gentle. Tough means strong enough to withstand adverse conditions, or, involving considerable difficulty or hardship.
Siano version: In the previous article, readers made me aware of the etymology of the Siano term ‘chef’ (it’s French for chief or boss). Help me out with these ones, if you can. Inexplicably, rough, used as a noun, means to tease someone, or mess around with someone. Used as an adverb, it means ‘extremely’ (quite similar to ‘brutal’). Why? I. Don’t. Know. Slightly more understandably, tough means to be well-built, or to have an admirably heavyset physique. You can also say to a skinny dude, “Wo y3 tough rough!” That simply means you think they really rock.
Original definition: A crown is the traditional symbolic form of headgear worn by a monarch as a power and legitimacy.
Siano version: Imagine this scenario –You are in the room of the man or woman whose affections you are trying to win over. Someone cracks a joke and you decide to laugh. At that very moment, your body conspires with the lunch you just ate, to embarrass you like never before. Thus, just when the laughter dies down, you release a socially unacceptable sulfurous gas, accompanied by an even more unacceptable noise. My brother, my sister, woayɛ ‘crown’ kɛseɛ paa. Big time. It is said that the term is a mispronunciation of ‘clown’. I don’t know if this makes it better or worse.
Original definition: Feel usually means to be aware of something through touching or being touched. It also means to experience an emotion.
Siano version: The Siano meaning comes close. But certainly not that close. In Kumasi, if you feel someone or something, trust me you’re experiencing an emotion all right. But not just any emotion. It is a strong emotion of affection and desire. A very tight one. Simply put, it can be used just like the word love, romantically or platonically. So ladies, if a guy tells you, ‘Me feeli wo’, don’t say he’s being too local. Eye odo nkoaa.
Original definition: Come on, you know what this word means, right? Let’s move on.
Siano version: This is where it gets confusing. This term has so many meanings it’s hard to know where to start. First, it means to feel ‘some way bi’. If you’re feeling ‘lie’, it means you feel embarrassed, or uncomfortable, or generally any feeling that you’d rather not feel. Lie can also mean a plan or a plot that you make with someone. Also, describing something as ‘lie’ means it’s cool and desirable. Conversely ‘no lie’ means unimportant and not deserving much consideration. I’m sure there’s at least one more meaning.
Original Definition: If this were a common English phrase, it would probably mean an intense and unpleasant feeling that you have on your skin.
Siano version: In sheer Siano creativity, this term is actually the transliteration of the Twi word ‘ahoɔyaa’, which means envy. So, you guessed it, skin pain in Kumasi means envy. You can also say general body pains, for a more dramatic effect.
Original definition: A guarantee, under any normal circumstance, is a formal assurance that certain conditions will be fulfilled.
Siano version: The ladies now want us to call them platforms or wedges or some other new-fangled name. But we know better. Those thick soled shoes will always be known as guarantee, to those of us in the know. Back in the day, as a lady you hadn’t ‘arrived’ until you turned up in a pair of guarantees. That was the way to make a fashion statement.
Original definition: An informal British term for a donkey.
Siano version: These shoes are known as court shoes or pumps outside Ghana. But here, those names just would not do. The first one sounds a bit too legal. And then, pumps are known to be devices used to fill stuff with air. Calling shoes with the same word, well that’s just too confusing. So what did we do? Why, create a new term, of course! The word moke is made famous by the scary urban legend of Madam Moke. Madam Moke is said to be the spirit of a dead teacher who wears all red, including a high-heeled pair of court shoes, or moke. She may be identified by the clickety-clack of her heels as she approaches. Yeah, and she hates people, especially kids, so if you hear her approaching, you better run. Run, please, or you’ll die. Chills course through my body as I write this. Creepy. I think this urban legend deserves its own post, in the near future, don’t you think?
Original definition: The Greek Olympian god of light and the sun, among other things. Talk about pretentious. Also, the famous NASA space program that resulted in the first moon landing by the human race, in 1969.
Siano version: Wise men say that around the time of the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969, Ghana suffered from an epidemic of conjuctivitis. That annoying inflammation of the eye that makes them hurt and turn red, scaring everybody in school. Some self-appointed scientists also vehemently insist that exposure to moon rocks first caused this disease and since then, the human race has been seeing red. For those who fell asleep during science class, yes, Apollo’s ‘brofo din’ is conjuctivitis. Write it down where water will not touch it. Good thing it’s not so common these days.
Original definition: The part of the body where the legs join together; the groin area.
Siano version: This one has got to be my favourite. Word of advice – Don’t go to Suame magazine speaking of your car’s clutch and how it’s giving you problems. In proper Anglo-Siano, we don’t take into account anything called clutch. It’s crotch. You know that driving technique that suspends the car in limbo, for easy take-off on a slope or in a traffic jam? No, it’s not half-clutch. Pay attention. It’s half-crotch. It’s common to interchange Rs and Ls in Kumasi, but crotch goes beyond that. If you say clutch to a die-hard Siano mechanic, he will not know what you mean. Please, just say crotch, will you? Thanks.
So there you have it! Seventeen solid English words that mean something totally different over in Kumasi. If we missed any of them, make sure you drop it in the comments, and let’s get the conversation going. Terms like half-crotch and others always bring back good memories and a smile. Sometimes, it’s little things like this Ghanaian creativity with words that make me love this place so much. Thanks for reading. Wo ye capo paa!