Accra – 1977
Kwasi: Ei. Rex. You are back. Akwaaba.
Rex: Yerhs! I jess gort balk into tern tha oddar der.
Kwasi (confused): Uhhh…Ok. Oh! How is your mother?
Rex: Orh! *Hahaha*! Sher’s foine, y’knaw? Yerhs. Doin’ rally well. *Heheheh*!
Kwasi (annoyed): Chaley, Rex. In fact, I don’t understand what you are saying. Why are you talking like that??
Rex (condescendingly): Orh? You kent herr what I’m sayin’? I talk like thiz nah because I t’ink like a White man.
That was a conversation my dad had with Uncle Rex when he had returned from London after living there for 2 years. Many things had changed about Uncle Rex, but very few more than his accent. As he said, he now thinks like “a White man”, and it would only be befitting for his mode of discourse to (very strongly) reflect that fact.
One of the most amusing things about a select group of Ghanaians is their innate need to ‘slang’ or ‘slur’ their English whenever they encounter anyone with slightest whiff of something foreign about them. It could be the way said assumed foreigner dresses, eats, does their hair and/or above all, speaks. As if instinctively identifying that this ‘poor soul’ is lost amongst the bush natives of the land and needs to communicate with someone who can finally understand their superior brand of English, the discerning slanging Ghanaian haughtily ascends and offers his/her services by launching into a nonsensical conversation that is made only more painful because the speaker sounds as though they are chewing a combination of rocks and broken glass. The need to slang is almost primal in this sub-group.
A friend of mine has a presidential body guard who is ‘running’ her. They were set up on a blind date, having previously only spoken on the phone. They agreed to meet at Frankie’s in Osu. As the massive 6’2″ man entered the restaurant, he adjusted his suit jacket (worn over jeans) and pushed his Chanel shades up on his forehead.
His women’s Chanel sunglasses.
Incidentally, my friend is of American American decent, and despite years of living in Ghana, still has undertones of an American accent. This delighted the body guard to no end. He spent the most part of the afternoon talking about everything and nothing, sprinkling his conversation with the appropriate “y’knaw whad I’m sayin’?s” and that ridiculous throaty chuckle that all Black American men are assumed to infuse in their conversation. Come on. Ghanaian men don’t chuckle. They roar! They guffaw! What is “eheheheherr…“??
But the icing on the proverbial cake had to be when the pair went downstairs at Frankie’s to get some ice-cream. My friend stood by, bemused and silently laughing inwardly as the bodyguard ordered ice-cream. As if reading her thoughts, he turned and looked her in the eye.
“Do you like my slangs?” he asked, smirking with pride.
I don’t know what her response was, because at this point in the narration, I immediately erupted into a fit of uncontrollable laughter at his audacity. Slangs indeed!
Perhaps I’m biased, but I am of the opinion that the Ghanaian accent is of the most melodic and audibly pleasing of all the West African nations that speak English. It’s like a delicate souffle. And just like this delicacy, it will be ruined when too much heat is applied – and nothing is a hotter mess than a Ghanaian that is trying too hard NOT to sound like a Ghanaian.
The other night, I had my own encounter with a ‘forcer’, as my friend Nana calls them. ‘Forcers’ are those guys who have traveled to New York, Atlanta or LA for about 2 weeks, and come back dressed in LV from head to toe so that you know they’ve been abroad. Of course, in the 2 weeks they’ve been away, they have also picked up the necessary slangs to facilitate smooth conversation. How else are white people and the hip hop community supposed to understand them? Surely not with their natural African accent!
I was picking up a CD, and was directed to this guy who is a pretty big deal in the hip life community. He didn’t answer his phone. Instead, I was greeted by friend with whom I had a 5 minute verbal wrestling match. His friend (the forcer) said he would call me back. 20 minutes later:
Me (cautiously): Hello?
Forcer: Yarhhh…You are the wan who wanted the sirrdeee, eh?
Me: The what?
Forcer: The sirrrdeee.
Me (the hell?): The WHAT?
Forcer (becoming irritated): The sirrrdeee! The sirrdeee! The wan with da hip life on it!
Me: Oh!!! The CD! Yes. I’m the one. Can you meet me at the cafe today so I can get it from you? You said it was in your area, right?
Forcer: Yarh, yarh. I ken dew dat. Imma call yew lader when I get clossa? A’ight?
Me (surrendering): Hmmm. A’ight.