Monday, December 01, 2008

“On the way coming” and other perplexing phrases from The Ginglish (Ghanaian-English) Dictionary

For the freshly arrived returnee, never-lived-in-Ghana Ghanaian or foreigner, communicating in Ghanaian English (Ginglish) can be quite challenging. One is suddenly confronted by a plethora of words, expressions and phrases understood only by Ghanaians. Some of these can leave you perplexed, worried and completely befuddled since the meanings are not always implicit. In her newspaper column and book The Imported Ghanaian , Alba Sumprim explored Ghanaisms with humour and cleared the fog for many of us. Anyway, here are a few Ginglish expressions I encounter on a daily basis:
  • “On the way coming” [meaning]: I am as far away from where you are as humanely possible but will lie and say I have already set off to meet you. So let's say you have to meet Jack at the Accra Mall at 8am on a Saturday morning. When you call his mobile at 8:15am, He could tell you he is “on the way coming” which in reality means Jack is lying comfortably in bed at home with 1 hour to leave and a 2 hour ride in heavy traffic up ahead. Jack will show up at 11:15am and blame it all on the traffic.
  • “Filla” [meaning]: gossip, news, rumour
  • “Chop” [meaning]: To eat, enjoy, have. One can chop food or even money.



  • “Chale”/”Charlie”: probably the most common hip Ghanaian expression but which does not really have any meaning….it is like adding “Dude.” To the start of your expressions.
  • You are invited” [meaning]: I’m pretending to be courteous by extending an invitation for you to join me as I eat my food but if you come anywhere near me and food, I will skin you alive.
  • “You, if anything, I’ll call” [meaning]: Stop harassing me with your calls! You are about to make me avoid you like the plague. Watch me never call you again.
  • “You go come” [meaning]: I’m about to give you the biggest run-around of your life. Call me tomorrow and I will tell you to call me the next day. Call me the next day and I will tell you to call the next (next) day. This will go on and on and on until you get tired.
  • “How far?” [meaning]: How much progress has been made on that thing I keep incessantly pestering you about?
  • “Don’t bring yourself” [meaning]: Mind your own business
  • “Don’t mind him/her [meaning]: Whatever him/her says ignore it
  • “Try for me” [meaning]:I want you to do the impossible ….for me. Move mountains, turn water into wine and bend over backwards….just for me.
  • “Consider me” [meaning]: similar to try for me. I want you to do the impossible ….for me. Move mountains, turn water into wine and bend over backwards….just for me.
  • “That Abena she is another!”: this is one phrase that leaves me begging for more…Another what?! All I have been able to establish is that it is not meant in a positive light
  • “She/he is someway” : Just like being another, this phrase leaves you on cliff-hanger…which way? It basically means I don’t understand She/he's behavior!
  • “Vocabs” [meaning]: The English language repertoire that an individual has. Or can also mean ability to speak English.
  • “Slang”: Don’t be fooled, this word is not referring to local jargons, patois, pidgin or creole, [meaning] To speak with some sort of a foreign accent which could be a locally acquired or a genuine foreign accent. Yes, when I first made my Ghana debut all those years ago, I was told incessantly that I had “slangs”.
Chale, I gradually got used to Ginglish and once everyone could understand my slangs I started chopping Ghana life and enjoying all the filla. Anyway fair readers, if you have other Ginglish expressions, Ghanaisms or feel my definitions are some way, please feel free to comment!

22 comments:

posekyere said...

Love it, love it, love it!
You've got me in stitches.
Now,Abena, tell me: what must I do to stop the laughter-induced pains?

Nana Yaw Asiedu said...

Posekyere, you have to sit down 'small' [another term from GHE].

Maya said...

But you, you are really something paa! I think the only one I can add to your list is 'outside', as in 'she's from outside', meaning she's from another country, abroad. (Oh dear, that's just made me remember all the prefixes used in reference to abroad on news and so on, e.g. 'Doctors in abroad...', 'I'm going to abroad'!).

But being from outside, you can't be expected to know all that...

Oluniyi David Ajao said...

lol. There is something called "pidgin english", you know.

What you have just expressed are some of the terms used in the Ghanaian version of Pidgin English.

I enjoyed reading it.

Abena said...

*LOL* Posekyere, you are too funny!
Nana Yaw, how could I forget "small". "Wait small" usually means wait forever and ever.
Maya: Ah yes and there is the 'outside' factor. Considering I'm often accused of being "from outside", that is one I should not have forgotten. There is also the whole abroad place being referred to as 'uptown'.
Oluniyi: Yes, indeed. Many are derived from pidgin such as 'how far' and most are direct translations from twi..

Here, There, Elsewhere... and more said...

Brilliant..!
Love your wit - I'm going to link my blog to this if that's OK with you...
Ekua (my Twi day name)

Abena said...

Thanks Ekua, please do. BTW, your blog is amazing!

Kajsa Hallberg Adu said...

Im joining the list of people who enjoyed this post. I also enjoy the unprecise Ginglish ways of "informing" people on their whereabouts..In addition to "on the way coming", I can add "he has travelled" meaning anything from he's gone to a funeral and will back tomorrow, to he has left Ghana for a 5 year PhD course in the US. I use it frequently when my significant other is not around, and always get an. "oh, ok!" like I laid out his itinerary...

Abena said...

Kajsa, It is all about being as vague and imprecise as possible and that's why "he has travelled" seems to work well!

Fida said...

you thoroughly entertained me – Thank you. I’ll come back for more, and I need that book :-)

Anonymous said...

Having stumbled on your blogg, I really liked this post. Very funny and useful!
I should get the book you mentioned for my sister, who really is coming to Ghana soon; her furniture is being loaded into a container right at this minute.

N

Abena said...

Hi Fida and Anonymous, it is a hilarious book:)

pablo said...

This post was sooo entertaining I thought I was the only one who thought like this.

Ghana where yes means no and no means maybe

Abena said...

Yes and No Pablo :)

novisi said...

i love the 'chop'. it's a lovely one. 'chop somtin'!

beautiful rendition. wow...i see you blow it!

cheers!

novisi said...

yeah... i just remembered that there's this one too...
'make'!
meaning manufacture (hahahaha) whatever! ...well not really!
so for example: 'make you bring the food', which really makes meaning without the 'make' 'prefix', so simply 'you bring the food' or 'bring the food'.

wow...ain't we just fab???

pablo said...

Taken: "what have you taken?"

When i heard this i thought i was being accused of robbery


I found out it means "What have you eaten?"

Abena said...

*LOL* Thanks Novisi and Pablo for your contributions. They really put a smile on my face!

Nana Kofi Acquah said...

You made my evening with this one Abena, and to add to the collection, looks like it is now the NDC's turn again to come and "blow" some money.

And trust me, Akuffo Addo visited the houses of all the electorates but he "met their absence".

Abena said...

*LOL* Nice ones Nana Kofi.....it is indeed the turn of the NDC to come and "blow" plenty cash!

Gyatekumah said...

oooooohhhhhhhhhh.....lol........so funny....dese r de kind of things we need 2 represent GH......u shug write a buk......my fav "she/he is someway" and "that Abena, she is anoda"........lol.....anoda wat.....hahahaha.......av had 2 endure all this nonsesne....but it just makes life here more interesting I think....lol..

Abena said...

LOL! thanks Gyatekumah. Will think about compiling the oddities that come from being Ghanaian!