Every community has got a code of conduct, set of unwritten rules and general way of life that guides and directs its dwellers. When visitors come to this community they are initially clueless about the way of life, until they receive orientation. Sometimes the orientation is brutal, other times it is very wonderfully presented.
One of the crucial parts of the orientation will include learning a few words and phrases that will help them survive being hacked to death for failing to figure out a thing or two in the local dialect. There are several words and phrases that one has got to learn when they visit Kampala. It is almost impossible to keep up but somehow one has got to think on their feet; you’ve got to touch down running.
For the next 3 weeks I shall be exploring a few of the words and phrases that one will most likely encounter when they are having conversation with an average middle class Kampala City dweller. Strap yourselves in and let us dive into the first of three parts of our exploration of the Kampala lingo.
Part 1 (A – H)
A – Another Rap
Uganda is one of the few countries to be blessed with a President who is not only a Vision bearer, cattle keeper, army man and problem solver; Citizen 001 is also a Rapper with profound skill and proficiency in the art of spitting rhymes. He may not have dropped an album or mixtape (yet) but rumour has it that he has made more sales from releasing one song than many people have made in 16 years of being upcoming artists. The demand for the Citizen 001 to release ‘another rap’ have prompted folks to coin this very brilliant two worded expression to infer that the big man is not yet done with his Rap Vision.
Mess Not with the Rap Qlik
Other A words / phrases – Aganaga, Amawulire ku TV, Amuru District, Ankole Cows, Akandwanaho Caleb, Amasiro
B – Bonna
Bonna is a Luganda word for ‘All of them’. This word, when added to several other words creates a situation of general happiness. Bonna Balye, Bonna Bagagawale, Bonna Bawangule, Bonna Banywe … these are all terms that are used to pull and pool people together for more comprehensive benefits. Naturally, the negative implications here would mean that phrases like Bonna Baffe, Bonna Baavuwale or Bonna Bagwe cannot be ignored. If Isaac Newton’s third law is anything to go by, for any action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Other B Words / Phrases – Bebe Cool, Bagishu, Beera Feya, Binsangawano, Bungoma, Banyarwanda, Bulaaya
C – Colgate
There are several brands of toothpaste in the market today. However, for reasons yet to be discovered, a good chunk of Ugandans will refer to every brand of toothpaste as Colgate. Now, while this may create confusion for a visitor, the strange thing is that Ugandans understand what exactly they are referring to even without mentioning it specifically. For instance one will say ‘I’d like the Blue Colgate’. The attendant on the other end will not even think twice or blink; they will know which exact brand the person wants. Pure telepathy!
They are all the same!
Other C Words / Phrases – Cassava, Cranes yatusala, Chips, Chicken and Chaps, Chameleon, China phone.
D – Desirable
Now for those who are on social media, the word ‘Desire’ is not as desirable as it originally was (pun intended). Thanks to a certain singer / socialite / sexy goddess, the word now means something entirely different. With just one pose, the sexy goddess created a new word altogether. Today, when someone says a lady is desirable, it is likely he has already undressed her, made her flash the v sign between her legs with one hand, cover one of her boobs with the other arm and smile sheepishly at the camera. Most of this happens in the mind and is termed as ‘the Desire Pose’.
Other D Words – Dembe, Drake Sekkeba, Damaged goods, Dryness,
E – Emaali
Emaali is referenced from one of the local dialects in Uganda. It is a word in Ateso that refers to ‘money’ or ‘property’. A profound local band (Afrigo Band) once performed a song in which they sang about ‘Ayawun Emaali Ore’ which is translation for ‘bringing money home’. This song has gone on to become a traditional club banger as well as a nice way to start off a conversation with anyone from that side of the country. It is also probably one of the finest songs ever produced by a band in Uganda. It is also one of the only five or six words of Ateso that people who aren’t from Teso know.
Other E Words – Eshabwe, Etofali, Epolon, Electricity thieves, Empako yawe, Emergency Door
F – Ffene
Probably one of the tastiest fruits on the planet. Most people around the world call it Jackfruit but in Kampala you will most likely be understood faster if you called it Ffene. This fruit is sold in various forms. Some people sell it as a whole, the way it comes off the tree, others split it and sell it in smaller bits while others go further to remove the seeds and sell it ready to consume. It has several health benefits including bettering your sense of humour. This is why half the people in Kampala are hilarious.
Other F Words / Phrases – Filimu ya Massai, Fina, Ffe mwe mwe ffe, Father Musaala, Family Planning.
G – Gavumenti Etuyambe
Ugandans have in the recent past attempted to attract the attention of the Government on a number of issues. These issues have stretched from big and serious like the economy and health to minor and small like bad breath and unfunny comedians. Basically whenever a Ugandan feels disgruntled in any way, there will be a silent (or very loud) cry of ‘Gavumenti Etuyambe’. Naturally the Gavumenti has been hesitant to involve itself in some of these cries because many of them are really trivial, nonsensical and plain ridiculous. However, the cry is simply a sign of bigger problems – the people think their Gavumenti should start actually kuyambaring (helping) it’s people.
Other G Words / Phrases – Global Fund, Gulu, Gyobera gyembera, Gombe, Gunyuma kiro, Generals.
H – Halo
98% of telephone conversations in this beautiful city will start off with the word ‘Halo’. People in other parts of the world will probably say ‘Hello’ or ‘Hi’ or anything else. In Uganda, it seems like on purchasing a mobile phone, the first agreement one has got to make is that they will answer each and every phone call with the word ‘Halo’. The courtesy that Ugandans have is so profound that even if someone was calling to insult or abuse you, they will start off by saying ‘Halo’. Very well behaved people.
Other H Words / Phrases – Hajjat / Hajji, Honourable, House party, House warming, Hot Katogo.
Next week we shall have Part 2 (of 3) of the Kla lingo. Until then, keep it together and please do not be a victim of language barrier in Kampala.
“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” ― George Orwell, 1984
The Talkative Rocker
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