Glossary

Pronunciation of Ghanaian words

gy, dj and dz are pronounced like “j” as in “just.”
ky is pronounced like “ch” as in “church.”
E is rarely if ever silent.

Terms

Abeg (ah-beg): corruption of ‘I beg you’.
Abolo: baked or steamed corn dough
Adinkra: symbolic designs or logos used to decorate colorful patterned cloth, often expressing concepts such as bravery or loyalty. Originally used for funeral wear, but now acceptable for other occasions and a tourist item.
Akasa: porridge made from slightly fermented corn dough.
Ampe: a girls’ rhythmic jumping and clapping game in which the participant scores points according to which foot she puts forward at the end of a sequence in relation to the other player’s foot (reminiscent of “rock-paper-scissors”)
Ayeko: congratulatory word recognizing an achievement or hard work.
Banku: Fermented corn-cassava dough mixed proportionally and cooked in hot water into a smooth whitish consistent paste.
Basabasa: worthless, faulty, or shabby.
Bleddyfool: Bloody fool.
Bulla: vulgar for ‘penis’.
Calabash: dried, hollowed out gourd used as a container.
Cedi: Ghana’s monetary unit.
Chaley: friend, familiar term only, as in “buddy”.
Chaley-wate: sandals made from old, discarded rubber tires.
Chinchinga: Ghanaian shish kebab.
Chop: food, or to eat food.
Chop bar: a small food establishment where quickly prepared dishes can be bought.
Cutlass: machete.
Dash: money given as a tip or bribe.
Ewe: major language of the Volta Region (pronounced “Eh-way”).
Fitter: auto mechanic.
Fufu: cassava, yam or plantain pounded into a soft, glutinous mass and shaped into a smooth ball usually as an accompaniment to soup, particularly palm nut soup.
Ga: predominant language of the Greater Accra Region.
Gari: starchy carbohydrate made from cassava, approximately the consistency of couscous.
Kawkaw-kaw: verbal representation of a knock on the door used to announce one’s arrival at someone’s home and to request entry.
Kelewele: ripe plantain cut in cubes and deep-fried with ginger and other spices till crispy.
Kontomire: stew made with cocoyam leaves, palm oil, hot peppers and other flavorings.
Libation pouring: at many important events, tradition of pouring small amounts of alcohol or other liquid on the ground accompanied by entreaties to the gods and/or ancestors.
Lorry: truck.
Ndo: Ewe word for “hello” or “greetings.
Okro: variation of ‘okra’.
Oware: a count-and-capture game of strategy played with pebbles on a wooden board with shallow pits.
Palava: trouble, an altercation. Altered form of “palaver.”
Tro-tro: passenger mini-van commonly used throughout Ghana for mass transit. From ‘tro’ for three pence, the fare charged during British colonial rule.
Small-small: just a little bit.
Toto: vulgar for ‘vagina’.
Weizo: Ewe word for “welcome”

Note on witchcraft

Although it may seem a fanciful subject to many western readers, witchcraft still holds importance in Ghana, where belief in magical powers coexists with acceptance of modern science and medicine. For many people, concepts of ancestral influence and the spirit world are important in everyday life.

Images

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