Ghanaman Prose

Tue, 24 May 2011 Source: Damoah, Nana Awere

My brothers and sisters, first and foremost, I think basically that Ghanaians

are a great bunch of people. We have our own expressions that are understood

only by us. They come in various ways. We like to happy ourselves. Is that true

for all Ghanaians, you may ask. My response? “Who told you?”

As a matter of fact, when you are contributing to a debate, you may get a

response from a panellist to say your argument does not wash, because the issue

is neither here nor there. Should in case you try to correct him, he will stand

him ground, that his point is the gospel truth, actually true fact. Should you

try to interrupt, he will insist that you let him land. Otherwise, he will

shout, “Please give me a break!”

Try putting in a call to the ECG consumer care line (does one exist?) to

complain about an issue. The standard response: “We are working on it.” Walk to

the centre, and you may meet workers there, and not get any response because ‘we

are on break’. Break can last for 3 hours. Try telling them that it is not good

customer service, and the response will be “my friend, what is your beef? This

is not America. You are even lucky we haven’t closed at 2pm”.

Supposing you work in that establishment and want things to be done differently,

you will be asked ‘Is it your father’s work?’ Don’t push too much, because you

will be branded as ‘too known’. Be careful, because the next time you misbehave,

a superior could show you where power lies. A colleague may even warn you to be

careful – “you di3, you know know!” The thing is that you may end up dismissed.

As far as these service providers are concerned, we have gone to the drawing

board for too long; I wonder the efficacy of the modalities that have been drawn

to move them forward. In this democratic dispensation, our leaders need to

expedite action to get them to be efficient; already we are reeling under the

effect of the ecomini. Then, and only then, can we say ‘Thumps up!’ to them.

When speaking to a Ghanaman, especially an older folk, and something is unclear,

don’t say ‘what do you mean?’. That is an insult. You can say ‘I beg your

pardon?’. Otherwise, you could be called a bleddy fool!

The rainy season in Ghana brings with it various excuses to skip work,

especially for those in the civil service. You will find the guy pulling his

cloth around him the more, as the rain hits his roof. The standard expression is

“The weather bring itself! As for this weather, hmmm.” Frankly speaking, he is

not going to work!

“Chop, make I chop some”; now that is not referring to a chop bar experience. It

is the practice of hand-go-hand-come, corruption spread thinly so everyone is

settled. If you attempt to swerve any member of the team, you will be asked

“Charlie, where is my share?” Sometimes, one officer takes the lead in the

corruption move and gives the rest back passes.

In a trotro, when the vehicle approaches where a passenger wants to alight, you

could hear “Bass stop! I will drop here!” The mate should by now be ready with

the passenger’s balance. If you don’t give the mate enough notice before your

bass stop, be ready to experience a jolt as the driver applies apokye brake!

“Ei, Kwaku, I see you ch3 o!”

“Yes o, Akwasi! Do you know something? The last time, I was sitting my somewhere

when I got a call from Bruno, you remember him?”

“Oh no, please remember me of him.”

“Ah, this boy who was in House 1!”

“Ahaa, I remember. But when you see him, will you see him?”

That means that because it’s been such a long time, it could be difficult to

recognise him.

“OK Charlie, we will crush tomorrow.”

I like booklong people. They like book and they love to read. But the Ghanaman

is likely to ask you why you are booklong like that, if all you do it to study,

and quote big English.

When a statement seems too good to be true, the Ghanaman will exclaim “As for

this one paa di3!” But if the matter sweet him, he will say “Say it and say it

again!” or “Repeat it again!” But if the issue is worrying or irritating, you

will hear him say “What kind matter koraa be this?”

When I attend events, and the MC starts by saying, without much ado (some

actually say ‘without much I do’), he will be brief, I laugh; usually the

opposite happens. Or when a speaker opens by “ I won’t take much of your time”,

watch out. In church, when the pastor states “In conclusion...”, be prepared for

one more hour of the sermon, particularly if he is in the spirit. You will never

be the same, again. All too soon, which does not come soon enough, the pastor

will touch on his ‘last but not the least’ point and you may heave a sigh of


Ingenuity is a strong characteristic of a Ghanaman. ,Take away’ used to be

available only for check-check or fried rice. These days, you can do take away

from chop bars, with fufu and light soup koraa. When you leave the food joint,

don’t be surprised to hear the proprietor say that ‘Please return back soon’,

sure of his good customer service. However, if you go to such a joint and change

your mind about patronising, perhaps due to insanitary conditions and are called

back, you could give an excuse that you are not going away totally, just going

to come. Express your opinion about the insanitary conditions, and you may hear

someone who disagrees with you saying ‘but you why?’

In fact, Ghana dey be! I feel you, Ghanaians.

With ECG’s dum-sor-dum-sor antics, we usually don’t have the opportunity to off

the light in the mornings.

Ask a Ghanaman how he is doing. “We are managing o”, “It is not easy o” or “By

his grace o”. Home hard usually, raining but the ground is still hard. But how

for do? Small small, e go be. God dey.

We are noted for our courtesy, especially in addressing older folks. The

combinations are endless and sometimes needless: Bra Oldman, Sister girl, Auntie

Sister, Uncle Dada.

Some people just love to eat. Ghanaman will call such a person a foodian. When a

foodian is your buddy buddy and visits you whilst eating, be careful about

telling him ‘you are invited’ or ‘you have met me’. He could take over your meal

and also ask silly questions like ‘was the akrantie shot or killed in a trap?’ A

good answer, particularly if you are not amused, could be ‘lightning killed it!’

You will talk true! Shine your eyes about such friends.

As kids, we knew such friends, so when they found us eating, we would jokingly

say, “All hands are invited except those who will eat!” Some foodians were not

shy koraa, they would still join in!

Don’t cross the big men in our society. “Do you know who I am? Who are you? Who

born dog? Who born you by mistake?’ are some of the expressions you could hear.

If you are bold to stand up to them, the really annoyed one can tell you ‘Go way

you! The cheek of it!’ Please increase the distance between you and that big

man, otherwise you will smell pepper and be laughing at the wrong side of your


In relationship and marriages, choices differ. Some of the ladies like thick

tall men and some like slim machos. Some men like women with enough body.

I was listening to a twi commentary on radio. Kotoko was playing against Hearts

of Oak. It was a cagey encounter. “Mine oh mine,” the commentator kept

repeating. He gave the commentary in between adverts for the many sponsors, most

of them locally produced blood tonics. I wondered whether the players took those

tonics instead of water on the field of play.

Watch repairers, tailors, seamstresses, radio repairs – these are amongst the

artisans whose words are taken with bags of Annapurna salt. You visit their

shops to check on the progress of your job. “Oh small time, I will finish; e lef

small.” When they ask you to look up, look down, otherwise a piece of wood will

pierce your eyes! When they see you approaching their shops, they pick up your

article or equipment; once you leave, they switch to another’s.

Thiefman thief thiefman, no one vex! A simple law in Ghana. Similar to the law

that says “you do me, I do you”. All die be die!

When I went to Form 1 for my secondary education, it was a whole different

world. On the walls of my dormitory, I found out that some of those who had left

had their names written there, as a reminder that they were there some. Apart

from the memorial on the walls, no one remembered them. Some would come to visit

the school, expecting some sort or remembrance. Zilch. They would ask the little

ones :”When we were we, where were you?” Excuse me to say, we were in cyto and

preparatory schools. They may have been obontias in their time but they forgot

that ‘no condition is permanent’.

Dining hall food made us miss home made cho all the time. Except for the mamabas

and dadabas who were visited every weekend.

Some of the concoctions we were served in school defied characterisation. Some

swore that the kontomire stew we were served was actually made from cassava

leaves. Once a week, we got one egg each. For breakfast. Went with the bread and

milo tea. Sometimes, we experienced scattey in the dining hall. Free for all.

That was the only time the junior boys got more than a paltry portion.

One day, there was scattey. This friend of mine got an entire table’s portion of

bread. This guy was a good runner. He could run like something. He really tried,

his skin caught him papa, but he survived the chaos in the hall. After managing

to exit the hall with two surviving loaves, an intelligent senior boy standing

by the entrance just called him over, took the two loaves of bread (cut into

five parts, with the one hard end) and just gave him that hard end of one of the

loaves. Agyeiiii, monkey dey work, baboon dey chop! My friend was livid. “Nana,

my eyes are red, but how for do? I can only hit him stick.”

In Ghana, people are willing to give you directions when you ask. However, there

are basically two problems. First and foremost, if the person doesn’t know, he

won’t tell you. Secondly, the instructions are rarely conclusive. Check out

these directions to the post office: “please go straight aah, you will see a

mango tree, pass in front of it and turn left, go straight again and ask anybody

you see.”

Then there are those who never keep to their time. They follow the Ghana Man

Time. You have an appointment and they call you a few minutes to the time.

“Charlie, I dey traffic inside o!” or “I am in a long line at Circle.”

Meanwhile, Ghanaman hasn’t even left his house. If such a person is a friend,

you have to manage the relationship well, otherwise you will not be on speaking

terms with him soon. Usually, it is better to speak your mind and tell him,

“Massa, this your habit is not fresh koraa, you got to change.”

When it came to such conflict in friendships, usually the females struggled.

Small time nor, then one would say to the friend ‘we are not on speaking

terms, don’t speak to me again. Aka aka aka, akaa dompe!’

There are friends who will promise to touch base with you, to call, but only

flash. Especially when they are travelling. “I will bell you when I catch

there.” They never have units on their phones. You try calling them and they

won’t pick up. Their excuse? “My phone was on charge.” When you get them on the

phone and they don’t want to talk, they go: “Hello hello, the network is bad o.”

Reminds me of this guy who had a stomach upset, was in the loo when a call came

through. “Hello, hello,” he said, “please call me later, I am in a serious

meeting!” Indeed, thumps up to this smart guy!

“You fool too much”, some may be saying. Well, this is true Ghanaman talk. I

taya self. I am going to come, catch you later. Perhaps we will crush moro, abi?

I have to run, I am taking my little girl to the hospital for weighing.

Ah, weighing. In the good old days, weighing was not just weighing. You got tom

brown if you took your child for weighing. I can’t remember whether the tom

brown was for the child or the mum or elder siblings. The nurses also took a lot

of it home, that is where I got my supply for school. And sometimes the tom

brown came with powdered milk. Kai, that one could produce a steady stream of

gas from the human exhaust pipe. We called that milk ‘dinat’, you ate it and

flatulence was koko!

Opana got a call from his friend Ascona.

“Massa, did you listen to Cool FM today?”

“Why? What is the matter?”

“Honorable Menum alleged that you have taken bribe.”

“Me? Ei! Does he have proof?”

“He said he has documents and a tape.”

“I will call the station then. I challenge him to produce the tape (ah, do

people still record tapes?). Today be today, he has been having verbal diarrhoea

for so long! That statement is far from the truth, my honesty is as crystal as


“Opiana, he said that you rather have to prove that you are innocent.”

“Tweaa, na lie! I won’t! If he doesn’t provide the evidence, I will leave him to


Ghana dey be. The land where any allegation can be made. I dey feel the country!

Okidoke, I got to go now, we will crush later!

[Acknowledgments: Gideon Segbefia, Nana Sam O, Yvonne Amenuvor, Elijah Ekow

Atta-Aidoo, Kwabena Antwi-Boasiako, Tesa D Ayernor, Bernadette Adjei, Tawia

Addo-Ashong, Dzamesi Selorm, Kweku Eyiah, Maame Akua Boateng, Priscilla Budu,

Kay Frimpong Ankomah, Lily Afia Obirikorang, Bob Palitz, Qouphy Appiah

Obirikorang, Ewuraba Gorgeouss, Raymond Atta-Kesson, Arko Akoto-Ampaw, Emmanuel

Tehn-Addy, Fatahu Adam, Barbara Obempong, Nana Kweku Ankobiah, Kwame Ohemeng

Gyan, Yvonne Boateng]


Nana Awere Damoah,

Author, Through the Gates of Thought

(http://www.athenapress.com/book.php?ID=2997) / Excursions In My Mind





Email: nana.damoah@gmail.com

Columnist: Damoah, Nana Awere