Abridged Ghanaian English – American English Dictionary: 2nd Ed.

Abba!: WHY? Used mostly to express frustration. Best if both syllables are pronounced distinctly (AH—BAH!)

‘It’s the 3rd week in the term and the students still have not come to school. Abba!’

be free: to openly talk with someone, to be honest, to be someone’s friend (in the American English sense, see: friend)

‘Sister, you see how we are free with each other. That is all I want, just to be free with you. Also to take you as my wife’

chop: to eat

‘Is it true that in America you don’t chop dog? Be free with me’

dodge: to avoid, can be used in terms of people, inanimate objects or concept

I walk into a spot and the lights go out ‘AIE the electricity is dodging you’

  ‘You are dodging the point, which is that you are not a prince and therefor I will not marry you’

   ‘Charlie! It’s been a long time! Have you been dodging me?’

ehhhhhhh-hehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh (very drawn out and nasal): I understand, or, finally, you understand (best when accompanied by an up and outwards movement of both hands)

‘So you are saying that because I am not a prince you will not marry me?’ ‘ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh-heeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

foot: to walk

‘The tournament won’t start for small time because the other team has a long way to foot to get here’

friend: sexual partner. Not to be confused with ‘friend’- asexual partner, the difference can be confusing for non-native speakers, however when spoken in reference to a white lady, it is most likely the former. When referring to the latter, it’s best to stick with “brother” or “sister”

‘Silominga! I want to take you as my friend!’ ’Charlie, we’ve discussed this, and my father has yet to receive the cows in America so the answer is still no.’

 ‘This man is not my friend, he is another PCV and my brother.’

hot: angry, or painful

‘The coach the hot ohh, his team is losing.’

‘Aie, I have been playing futball all day without shoes or shin guards, my feet are hot ohhhhhhhh!’

          Editior’s note: this is a hypothetical situation imposed upon the people of Ghana by the author, they don’t actually complain about their feet hurting after such activities even if their toenails are all bleeding and/or falling out. Also, because I’m here I might as well add that I have a 6 week-old kitten on my lap right now.

how is/was back?: How is it at the location I used to be at but am now away from, or have recently returned to

On the phone with a teacher while at a meeting in Kumasi ‘How is back? Have term 2 classes started yet?’

After returning from the Bolga market, ‘How was back?’

lights out: power outage

‘It’s lights out for the 10th time today, good luck charging your phone.’

me my: my

I am going to me my classroom to teach.’

serious: bad

 ‘The Harmattan winds are serious today! There’s so much dust you can’t see more than 50 feet!’

 ‘Ghana lost the futball match last night, it’s serious ohhhh.’          

shit:  well,…ok….so the meaning is the same as in American English BUT it’s not a swear here. It still catches me off guard when the small children use it.

As spoken by 3-year old Anita (who can’t say her L’s) – ‘Sister Yaren, is this box is for the cats to shit?’

As spoken by a fellow teacher during a professional staff meeting – ‘All the children are shitting in the cornfields because our latrines are full again.’

small time: long time (if accompanied by an invitation to sit down, expect at least a 2 hour waiting period)

‘Silominga, sit here on this bench, the tro tro will leave in small time’ (1 hour later) ‘It will just be some small time more, sister’ (2.5 hours later) tro tro leaves

suffer: A more diluted version of the “suffer” used in American English

 ‘Me my cat never stops begging me for food, do you see how I’m suffering? It’s serious ohhhhhhh!

take the lead: to leave for a mutual destination before someone else, even if you are not going to meet with that person when reaching the destination

When I foot to town and a teacher or friend passes me on their moto, which I cannot ride (I hope you’re reading and appreciating this peace corps!) ‘Sister Lauren, we will take the lead to market.’ – 30 minutes later, on the same road meeting the same teacher, now on his way back to school, ‘Sister Lauren, you still haven’t reached town? Ok, we will take the lead to school’

that: doesn’t really mean anything, but a lot of people start every statement with it.

‘That I should help you with your washing.’

tomorrow next: in two days

‘When is the next market day?’ ‘That it is tomorrow next.’

wee-wee: to urinate. Used by completely straight-faced adult professionals and children alike

‘Sister Lauren, that I want to go wee-wee.’ (it’s common for people to make such announcements about their bladder and/or bowels)

you are invited: you are welcome to come and eat my food. It’s insulting if you don’t invite someone to your food every time you’re eating, no matter what it is, where you are, or how many people you’re inviting

After buying a pepe egg off the top of someone’s head while waiting in your tro for 3 hours for it to fill (to the person sitting next to you) – ‘you are invited’

After receiving your food at a chop bar (to every other table of people in the bar) – ‘you’re invited’

After cooking your last coveted box of Annie’s Mac and Cheese your sister brought you for christmas (to the neighbor that knocks on your door) – ‘you’re…..you’re…….DAMMIT! YOU’RE INVITED.’