Kla Lingo (Part 1)

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.

MUSEVENI

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.

Eatage

Bonna Balye

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!

People at the gym

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’.

burning-desire

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.

Jackfruit

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.

Gavumenti

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

Bernard
a.k.a Beewol
The Talkative Rocker
Follow @beewol on Twitter

Census Notes

While people in other parts of the world were going on with their boring and event-less lives, Ugandans for the past several days have been witnessing an interesting event known as the National Census. Now if you skipped Civics and Social Studies lessons back in Primary, you might not know what exactly this census was/is. If you are familiar with the Bible, you probably will remember the census from the book of Numbers and also around the time of Jesus’ birth. However, to make things less obscure for you, I shall help you understand the census.

The National Census was an event that involved counting all people within Uganda’s borders and it was conducted by strangely dressed Government representatives who moved from one place to another skipping over puddles, going through alleys and navigating their way from one village to another. I was not counted for reasons I am yet to find out but it is safe to say that most of the people I know were counted.

museveni1

No, Mr President; I haven’t been counted. 

I happen to personally know 3 people who played the role of enumerator and prior to the enumeration; I had asked them to take notes as they went about their census dealings. The plan was to share these findings with the awesome readers of this Blog. Last night they shared their notes with me and I am more than glad to share them with you. I must warn you though that there are some really bizarre findings.

Pauline in Rukungiri

Pauline did her enumeration somewhere in Western Uganda – Rukungiri District to be exact. Some of the homes she approached were not too enthusiastic about the census in the first place. One man feared that the counting was because the Government was planning to engage in a war and therefore needed to know how many casualties it would have to deal with. Another was worried that the NRM Gov’t was leaving power soon and needed to know for sure the economic situation of the people it was leaving behind. One of the families welcomed Pauline rather well, then each of the members laid hands on her – for exorcism. Apparently an evil demon had possessed the Gov’t and was consequently spreading around through the enumerators. One of the homes had a single father who kept grinning at Pauline the whole time she was asking questions. The guy later confessed that he was thankful to God for finally answering his prayer for a new mother to his two sons, and the Lord had done it through the Gov’t; Pauline was about to become a new mother and wife.

VisionHeading out to enumerate crazy Ugandans 

Julius in Banda

Julius did his enumeration in Kampala where it would be expected that the majority of the people were educated, informed and less prone to having strange assumptions. But Alas! People in Kampala were no strangers to weird assumptions and as Julius revealed, some of them were really ridiculous. Somewhere in Banda, a family locked all their doors and windows when Julius was spotted approaching. The old man of the home was not interested in revealing his family’s possessions to a Gov’t that was ‘in the hands of thieves’. Apparently there is so much corruption going on that the Gov’t has run out of money to steal and is therefore now embarking on stealing people’s property. Before this can be done though, the Gov’t but must first find out which citizens are worth robbing. Another person (still in Banda) was short of hurling stones at Julius. This person (who was later restrained by neighbours) was positive that his ex-wife had orchestrated the whole thing. Apparently after their divorce, the ex-wife did not get as much property as she had wanted and therefore sent this random enumerator to help her fight the battle. Just when I thought this was probably bizarre, Julius shared a story of a household somewhere in Kyambogo where the father insisted that his daughters would not be counted. In his opinion, if the girls are to fetch proper bride price in the future, they ought to be hidden away from the public so they can blossom. Julius was part of the public and had to be warded off at all costs.

dog

And then some families deployed angry dogs

Monica in Nebbi

Monica’s enumeration was somewhere in West Nile Region in Nebbi District. Monica encountered a number of problems including one of the homes not wanting her to leave because they felt that finally the Gov’t had remembered them and they were not going to let Monica leave until their problems of water, the fallen electricity pole and too many witch doctors were answered. Monica was therefore held captive for a little while until a few phonecalls and 1 or 2 cops later she was allowed to go. In one of the villages, Monica was received with what seemed like a real party. Everyone was dressed in what might have easily been their best clothes and the mother was particularly full of smiles. After a heavy and sumptuous meal, Monica got down to asking the questions – at which point everyone appeared shocked. They did not expect this pretty woman named Monica to start asking questions when she had been sent by the Lord to offer them salvation. Yes;  they thought Monica had been sent by the Lord himself. Turns out the father had had a dream about God sending an Angel; Monica and she was supposed to deliver the family from the apathy they had been languishing in for a while.

Yusuf in Nakasongola

Yusuf did his enumeration somewhere near the shores of Lake Kyoga, in a district called Nakasongola.  In a village called Galiraya, which is greatly a fishing community, most of the people’s assumptions were based around their favourite activity – fishing. In one of the homes, Yusufnwas asked about the contents of the bag he was carrying. Apparently the village had been told that Gov’t officials were coming to deliver wonderful fishing nets and it seemed like Yusuf had been sent to do just that. They even went ahead to state the problems they were facing with the fishing, right from the fewer varieties of fish to the overfishing by certain people in the village. In one of the villages, it became apparent that Yusuf had been sent by the Gov’t to settle a feud that had existed for several months. Both families felt they had rights to fish in a certain area of the lake. Yusuf did settle the feud but with more than just a chuckle being held back. One of the funniest stories in Yusuf’s notes was of a woman and her two sons who had religious reasoning behind refusal to be counted. Apparently they belonged to a sect that was totally against this census. Their gospel preached that the census would be conducted by the devil himself and therefore Yusuf was seen as Lucifer in the form of a strong, sturdy and well built man.

run away

And then they ran away from Lucifer

Reading through the notes from my enumerator friends, I can safely say that certain Ugandans are not just hilarious people but people with minds that are strangely creative. And while this blog post might seem to state that Ugandans are crazy people (which we are), one must not forget that these were but a few cases of people with bizarre assumptions about the census. The vast majority who were far from crazy, simply welcomed the enumerators, answered their questions, and went on with their lives – and so must you, after reading this Blog Post.

Winnie

My friend Winnie in Kiwatule even treated her enumerator guest to juice

“The true test of civilization is, not the census, nor the size of the cities, nor the crops, but the kind of man that the country turns out.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Bernard
a.k.a Beewol
The Talkative Rocker
Follow @beewol on Twitter