Today is Independence Day. Hurray! Happy 59th Birthday to the motherland Ghana.
To celebrate, we want to take a trip down the proverbial memory lane, to a time when Ghana and for that matter Kumasi was still under British colonial rule.
The story below was written by Ebenezer Bonsrah, who happened to be the SRC President of KNUST for the 2012/2013 academic year. It is based on an account given him by the tour guides at the Armed Forces Museum in Adum, Kumasi. It’s a brilliant read, but don’t take my word for it. Here we go.
The image below is a picture of the British 75mm Field Gun called Parry-Martin / Martin -Parry. It’s on display at the Kumasi Armed Forces Museum.
During the colonial times, it would be fired at exactly 12 noon every day. To the indigenes, it was a way of telling 12 had ‘o’clocked’. So “Parry – Martin ato” came to mean simply, 12 midday.
But Parry-Martin was too slippery, too heavy, and too sharp, for the tongue of my ancestors. Unconfirmed reports suggest it caused excessive gum bleeding, swelling and inflammation of the tongue and even loss of teeth in their brave attempts to overcome this devil of a word.
Try as they might, the ancestors were losing teeth every midday of their lives. But my ancestors were warriors; they weren’t going to give up on the challenge.
Eventually, Parry-Martin ato, atrophied to ‘Premo Ato’.
This is why you hear ‘premo ato’ whenever the midday news in Akan is on.
So whenever you hear Nana Agyei Sika Pa or Vimlady say “Etiefuor, Ghana Adehyeman Mma, premo ato”, know that it is the courageous bravery and unrelenting determination of the forefathers to overcome devilish English grammar; which is still causing chaos among Ghanaian celebrities today.
Moral of story: Before you criticize someone’s grammar, know their history.
Ah, mmanyinfo kae ampa se, tete wo bi kyere. There is a lot to be learned from history. Add this to your arsenal (pun intended) of stories that are guaranteed to be surefire hits.
After a little digging, I learned that firing of a gun at noon was not peculiar to our city. Indeed to this day, the Noon Gun in Cape Town, South Africa fires every day at that very time, from the Signal Hill. It has been doing so since 1806, and was used by ships to check the accuracy of their marine chronometers. No word yet on what effect the Noon Gun has had on their dialect!