“Dis Game Get Yagba” And Other New Additions to Sierra Leone Dictionary
Some words have got incorporated into our local dictionary in recognition of our own unique and distinctive style of doing certain things in Sierra Leone. Every now and then, new words are added to the street vocabulary while the older words are easily relegated to the background.
These words, though fleeting, are required in our “hustling” vocabulary either to improve street credibility or are inspired by our local politics. A few years ago, I wrote an article on “A New Sierra Leonean dictionary” and expatiated on a few of our words, phrases and slangs. The war brought a lot of new words or brought new meanings to oft used words and one of them was “Awareness”, which I defined thus: “Awareness is the skintight short, in other places worn for athletic purposes but in Sierra Leone worn by women to make rape difficult. Also comes in very handy if you want to make a quick escape from trouble. Handy for women but disliked by “peeping toms” and rapists.”
Well, I have a few new ones and here they are.
“Ah hole word”
Actual meaning: “I have heard your request I will reflect on it.” This is now trending because of the response by NGC leader, Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella (KKY) to President Bio’s invitation in Kambia District to “come back home” and join him in the SLPP.
Somebody commented on the Mende equivalent of this statement by saying, “Ndakei, KKY na Mende man habit e show de president so. Way Mende man say “ngi daa nehmahun”, this is the same as “Ah hole word”. E mean say e nor ready for gee yu answer yate en e nor wan commit imsef wan way or de other. In KKY’s case, I think (not sure!) he was holding out for more specifics! This may be good or bad, depending on whether or not you are “glass half full” or “glass half empty” guy.” Oh den politician den ya!
I will refrain from commenting on the political purport of this famous invitation and response, which has set many a tongue wagging. I would rather allude to a hypothetical case of a prospective husband who wants to get engaged to be married in order to shed further light on the real meaning. A prospective husband who incessantly beats up his girlfriend and potential wife during courtship, adds his potential mother in law to the beating list and shuns her brothers and sisters is bound to be met with the answer “Ah hole word” when he makes the engagement request to the parents. A prospective husband will be foolhardy not to have received a nod from his girlfriend, especially if they have been having problems here and there first, before posing the engagement request to her in public. A prospective husband should rein in his family members that may want to tolerate the relationship with the potential wife but hate her prominent family members to the extent of attacking them in public at every single opportunity and saying they are irrelevant. The answer to his engagement request will be “A hole word”. On the other hand, if the prospective husband is well endowed with riches and has future prospects or if he expresses genuine regret as to what may have transpired before, the potential wife may say “A hole word” but later say “A gree pan am”, no matter what negative things have transpired in the past. It does not however help the prospective husband’s cause if there are other suitors waiting in the wings also wanting to get engaged to the same woman. She may COP out (excuse the pun) of the relationship
“Dis game ge yagba”
“Yagba” usually means extreme effort beyond the normal to accomplish a feat. The reward may or may not be positive. If you “yagba” your opponent, you confine him or her to unnecessary work, often done in futility. In politics your modus operandi might be to so propel your party forward that the opponent, despite a herculean effort will only be playing catch-up. Our First Lady has made the phrase “We day yagba dem” very popular. “Yagba” can however yield positive results. “D game ge yagba” means if you work hard enough positive dividends might be gained. Africell Sierra Leone and African Young Voice Television (AYV TV) in their sponsorship of Housemates Salone Season 3 recently dubbed the Reality TV Show as “Di Game Get Yagba, If You Nor Able Na for Pull Hand”.
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“Roto Rata” aka “Boto bata”
“Roto rata” means “nonsense” or “rubbish”. The use is very common nowadays when referring to utterances by political opponents you don’t like or criticising positive utterance by someone else about political opponents you disdain. Roto rata and Boto bata are interchangeable. When utterly exasperated with the utterances, you may even add Boto bata to Roto rata.
“Changing the narrative”
Every new party or movement now claims they will “change the narrative” when given power. Even governments in power claim they are “changing the narrative”. In actual fact, since things always stay the same or we run to stay in the same place in Sierra Leone, changing the narrative may be a pie in the sky. What we have seen in Sierra Leone however is incremental changes with the occasional reversal. “Changing the narrative” is synonymous with changing the story which means either something has happened that changes things or you are making something happen. Usually those trying to change the narrative have a clear goal identified and know what they are trying to achieve and why narrative change is necessary, but no sooner do they ascend to power than they keep the narrative the same. “Changing the narrative” assumes there’s a progressive base you can reach who can then be mobilized to move the elected officials who represent them. Next time you hear a politician say they are changing the narrative, just shrug your shoulders and say “I have seen that movie before”.
The tool of trade for cyber warriors who are now aplenty. They have the advantage of being within easy reach of even the uneducated. Whilst many audios are harmless, the most popular ones are the political ones that vilify prominent politicians. Vile, colourful language helps spread the message. Audios by prominent politicians and commentators are religiously followed by their easily gullible followers who take what they say as gospel truth.
“We move” is normally a phrase for “when you just keep chugging on, no matter the circumstances”. Missed your flight? No matter, we move. It can also be used as an alternative for “yes” when asked to hang out. People say “we move” in response to something challenging to reiterate that they will persevere despite the circumstances. It is meant to be a positive and encouraging rallying cry. The saying became popular in 2020 and comes from the sentiment that you need to keep pushing forward when you encounter obstacles. More recently in Sierra Leone it has become a defiant call especially in political circles to mean—“ We don’t care two hoots about what you think about us. We will just keep moving and will be totally oblivious of your criticisms.” Adama Sillah, the FBC Student Union President in her historic campaign had the slogan– “Tunasonga Tunashinda – We Move We Conquer”.
“Tok and do”
The SLPP’s phrase for saying “We put our money where our mouth is. We don’t make empty promises in our manifesto. We do what we say we will do. We are a government of achievements.” It has got so popular that any Minister not saying “We are a Tok and Do government and our President is a Tok and Do President” will probably land himself or herself in hot waters. This replaces APC’s “Action pass intention”, which also claimed they do not spend needless time talking or planning but go straight to action to sort things out. “Action pass intention” or “Tok and Do” are pushed to the background when things go wrong-and they do quite often! In this case they invoke the “theory of inheritance”- “We inherited this problem from the previous government who were known for their egregious thieving.”
Ponder the revised dictionary. Ponder my thoughts.