This is a rare moment. In my hands is my favourite mug, branded by the University of Ghana and given to while I was delivering a guest lecture there. The warmth of the mug catches the chill of the evening.
As I stand in my balcony watching the jealous sun of the West Side set, with my nose aroused by the romantic aroma of the hot chocolate in the cup sandwiched between the sugar at the base and the foam of cream at the top, my phone rings.
I know this number. It’s my uncle. The younger brother to my father. He is the muse of the family. Funny, disciplinary and without social restraint. He speaks his mind, takes no prisoners and will just as soon stab you with a toothpick for cigarette money. He is the quintessential “character in a book” kinda guy. A deep voice. A loud unforgiving step. Never in sneakers. Always wearing formal shoes. He pulls his pants half-way up his ankles every time he sits down.
We all have that uncle or aunt. The one that loves English and discovers his or her true linguistic abilities at the bottom of a bottle of Hansa.
Many years ago, owing both to his youthful exuberance and alpha male posture he lost his right eye in a knife fight.
Ask him of the incident, and he recites as if he were Superman narrating a story of the end of Lex Luther. Inkinga ngani bafana bami, ningamagwala!
“Sawubona bab’mcane. Kunjani?” I greet.
He immediately breaks into English. Broken. Inaudible. Illogical. But English none the less. “Vusi” he shouts, “ngizwabathi use-Coming to America mfanwami”.
This characteristic is through-and-through, my uncle. Swaps movie titles into sentences to express a moment or feeling he has about that place or thing. He loved the Eddie Murphy movie.
Word in the family was that my dad looked like Eddie in that movie, but a shade darker.
Ok. I confess. A few shades darker.
Ok. Fine. Much darker.
“Ngiyafona to can confirm!” he says probingly.
Hearing those words, “to can confirm” brought back such vivid memories of my upbringing. It brought back the over-attended family gatherings, my grandfathers home. Humble but well kept and always warm. All of us grandkids were running outside and finding mischief in the dark corners of the neighbourhood.
So here is the thought:
What are the things that your family members love to say in English? Especially when drunk.
Leave your comment below.
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