Tongue Twisting

Dear Nii Kpakpo,


Remember when we were in that Father Christmas school back in the day, a group came up in the United States with a hit and this group was called Bone Thugs and Harmony. As to how bones could be thugs and flow in harmony we never knew then. We didn’t even think about it because we were so young and naïve then. But then they brought in a new brand of music that was called tongue twisting. If it were these days they will call it tongue twerking but that is just by the way.

Kpakpo I remember their hit song, Crossroads, which made it to number one on the world chart for several moons. The song borrowed lyrics from metaphysical John Donne in The Road Less Taken but then the words were spewed so fast that we didn’t even hear them.

Yes Kpakpo, before coming to the savannah I was at a crossroads whether I was making the right decision to leave all that I knew and was comfortable with to move to a place that things were relatively slower. But I have never regretted becoming a savannah boy.

Now the main reason why I am referring you to the Bone Thugs is that I have come to realize in the savannah that the language is half as thick as the men here (you know savannah men are thick) and as such the local language seeps into any other language they speak especially English, sometimes to hilarious effects.

I have had to fine tune my ears sometimes to get exactly what a person meant to say to me.

Nii Kpakpo, the first time it hit me was when before the general thumb printing exercise of the nation when everyone was advocating and clamoring for peace. Your cousin you know still has to adjust to being in the savannah although she has been here longer. She woke up one morning and decided that she wanted to have cornflakes that whole week. So I had to go to the supermarket to hunt for Keloggs cornflakes which is the brand she likes.

So I went into this supermarket and there was this young girl. Then I asked her ‘please do you have cornflakes’? Kpakpo, the girl looked at me for almost a minute and I didn’t know what she was thinking so I repeated my question ‘I said please do you have cornflakes’. I didn’t know what her look was at first but she nodded and I asked whether she meant yes or no.

Apparently, this young sale girl did not know what I was talking about so she said it’s a big store so I should check myself. But before I went off to check I heard her muttering under her breath but loud enough for me to hear ‘conflict! Conflict! conflict! You Accra people everyday want about conflict’!

Nii Kpakpo she didn’t really mean the word conflict but her pronunciation of the cornflakes, in her local dialect accent, came out as ‘conflict’ and if she had even stopped there it would have been okay. But saying that Accra people want ‘conflict’ meant I was not the first to ask for it in that store.

 The timing of the situation as against the impending general thumb printing exercise made it so hilarious I left the supermarket laughing so hard anybody who met me on the street thought I was probably going crazy. I couldn’t wait to share my experience with your cousin when she got home and we both still laugh about it.

Now we even tease each other that we need a little ‘conflict’ with milk every morning before we both go to work.

The next time was when a few friends called me to buy them livestock for Christmas. I told you the lifespan of a goat in Accra is as short-lived as a government worker’s salary. Whenever there is an occasion, any livestock could be called upon to say the vote of thanks from the soup or stew.

However livestock is relatively cheaper in the savannah than Hustle City so sometimes on occasions I buy my livestock here and have it frozen and sent down south. And when I decide to do this I go into the livestock market myself, with the help of my friend Nurudeen, I choose an affordable goat and have it slaughtered, frozen and transported down south.

On one such day it was a hot day and me and Nurudeen had a long conversation since he was less busy that day. Nurudeen has a thick savannah accent and when he speaks English you barely hear what he has to say unless you have fine tuned ears. But we communicate just fine.

Kpakpo, this people do not joke with their fruits. No wonder they are so healthy. The time to best witness this is during their Ramadan fast. They break their fast every day, with a fruit party of different fruits.

Let me not digress. Let me get back to my story. So several foods came and Nurudeen I must say has one of the healthiest appetites I know. In the few hours I spent with him, he ate more than three times – all heavy meals and I can understand him. He works hard in the sun all day.

After one such meal a fruit seller walked by and Nurudeen summoned the young girl to give him an amount then he asked me if I wanted some: ‘Bosh! Shom wacha million?’

Nii Kpakpo Thompson! Damn you should have seen the look on my face. I could feel it myself. He calls me ‘Bosh’ (boss) that I knew but what the blazes was ‘wacha million’?

I was reading a book I had taken along since I knew I was going to spend quite some time there so didn’t really pay attention. It was only after I had seen the young woman take out the slices of the fruit and cut it to small pieces that I understood what Nurudeen was referring to.


 I just smiled and said yes and it even tasted better knowing I was having a million wachas.

Nii Kpakpo, I have lived among various ethnic groups in Ghana and you know how even in our family we have the “(h)Ammer (h)It my (h)Ed” problem, and our golden folks will always go for the ‘blowun bled’ before they give a command to ‘shoot into the crowds’ and the efos will give you their thick bass choral “hey my frend”.

But these are all clear and it is obvious what the person is referring to, sometimes. That is if you know from which background the person is coming from.

Here in the savannah you really have to fine tune your ears to hear what they have to say because the accents are thick. The very educated ones interestingly have no accent at all in their impeccable English and I wonder why that is.

Yeah Kpakpo! Before I forget, I found out an interesting name for funeral donations collected from family members when a person dies. It is called ‘toll toll’ obviously modeled on collecting tolls from the people as per colonial directives. What is really interesting is the way it sounds in the local dialect as relative to your language down south.

When I heard it the first time I pretended not to hear and let my colleague pronounce it several times.  It is just like when you hear our Nzema people pronounce the figure eight thousand eight hundred and eighty eight (8888) in their language and what it means in twi.

The ‘toll toll’ the way they pronounce it here, sounds like a long overstretched ‘toto’. The ‘l’ is silent.

Well, let me leave you with that boyish grin I can see on your face now.

Keep keeping well.


Your cousin in law

Savannah Boy.


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