You liked Part One of Ghanaian Vocabulary Fun so much that you demanded a second installment. So without further ado, here is…
Entertaining and Surprising Ghanaian Phrases, Part Two!
1.) “I was running.” – This does not mean that the person was going for a healthy sprint to stay in shape. No– it means they had raging diarrhea!
Ex: “Sorry I couldn’t come to class… I was running and didn’t want to leave the washroom.” (Makes a gesture with the hand on the stomach and gives a sheepish laugh.)
2.) (Said as the person is walking away) “I’m coming!” – You may stutter: “Wait, you’re not coming, you’re going away!” But this extremely common phrase actually means: “I’m leaving now but I’ll be right back.” Apparently it’s a direct translation from the Ewe language which doesn’t totally compute in English!
3.) “At-deeyendov-dahdaye…” – This is what it sounds like to my American ears when a Ghanaian says, as they often do, “At the end of the day.” The meaning is equivalent to: “When all is said and done,” or “In conclusion” and usually is followed by a wise lesson or rule about human interactions.
Ex: “At-deeyendov-dahdaye, if your “no” means “no” and your “yes” means “yes,” the students will respect you.”
4.) “Troublesome” / “Disturbs a lot” – I find these phrases really, really cute. They are used to refer to extremely annoying people (or animals) who you still kind of like.
Ex: “Oooh that Seth… he is sooo troublesome! He disturbs a LOT!” (Everyone laughs knowingly and lovingly.)
5.) “Bored with me” – This does not mean (yawn) “tired of me.” No– it means “ANGRY with me!” Enraged! I’m not quite sure why, but it does.
Ex: “Why should she get bored with me and slam the door if I simply asked her where she went?”
And now for some WESTERN words that make absolutely no sense in Sogakope, Ghana!
A.) Tampon – For a variety of reasons, women hardly ever use tampons in developing countries. In fact, tampons are nearly impossible to find in Sogakope, Ghana.
This means that, if you accidentally let that word “tampon” slip out of your mouth in front of a local woman, the woman will ask you what the heck you are talking about. You will then likely pull an exemplar tampon out of your bag to explain its function and use.
At this point, the woman will shriek, throw her hands over her eyes, and gasp something about the damage you are doing to your womanhood. There’s not much you can do at this point but laugh, say, “Well, many women in my country use them without trauma!” then slip the little cotton swab back in your bag.
B.) Jewish – Ghana is a very religious country (in a joyous, tolerant manner): Christian (predominantly), Muslim, and Traditionalist. But Jewish? Pretty much no one will know what you are talking about. The best success I’ve had in explaining it has been to say: “It is the religion that came before Christianity, and so it uses the Old Testament but not the New Testament.” (Though I did end up on a billboard for Synagogue Restaurant in Ghana…)
On this note, do you like the “G-d Provides Fast Food” and “Motto: Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” signs pictured? Ghana is full of such signs. Here, G-d proudly supports everyone, from barbers to refrigerator repair shops!
C.) McDonald’s / Hamburgers – Ooo how refreshing! While teaching “Vocabulary in Context” during reading class in Dabala, one student raised his hand. “What does “Hamburger” mean?” he asked.
“You’ve heard of McDonald’s restaurants, right?” I asked, certain that the multinational beast had tentacled its way deep into every country. Twenty-five eyes blinked blankly back at me. “Whoa–” I said, “You’ve never heard of McDonald’s?! Awesome!”
So there’s your international vocabulary lesson for the day. Let us now close with a most popular and wonderful Ghanaian phrase: “You are trying!” This lovely phrase means: “Well, you haven’t quite got it, but your effort makes up for it.”
Each day we strive, semi-successfully, to understand each other’s words and intentions without collapsing into helpless heaps of confusion. If we keep on trying, eventually we will get it! And in the process, we’ll surely have a good laugh or ten.
The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 4.2 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!