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Speaking the Kampalan language

Tojja means you stand no chance…

KAMPALA: There are two kinds of Kampala. There is the fictional Kampala (the one that spends its time at work, drives to work, and then hangs out in the classy places). There is also Kampala Proper, aka the real Kampala, the one that stays clear of the accents, the English. This Kampala speaks a different language, aka Kampalan. The Kampalan language evolves day by day. Today, we give you a glimpse into the Kampalan language and its dictionary.

  1. The currencies

Every bank note in Uganda has a specific name. When Ugandans talk of a gorilla or ekizikke, they are referring to the 50K note. One million will always be known as the elder of money, aka akakade. Kisanja is 7K, Nambooze is 5K, Masanyalaze is 10K, Kasajja is 1K. Emboozi is 2K.

  1. The foods

Our street foods have evolved to have unique names. When we say rolex, we refer to the chappati and eggs. When we talk of nyanya mbisi, it is the variation of the rolex where the tomatoes are served fresh. When we talk of ‘kikomando’, we mean the chappati and beans. It derives its name from the commando movies. It is food for the warriors, the chaps with no time to waste.

  1. Tuli mu struggle

Kampalan always evolves. Tuli mu struggle can mean different things at different times. During elections, the struggle referred to the opposition and their fight against the establishment. When the elections ended, struggle can mean a hustle. But if you also see someone that is faking life, you can gladly say, “That guy is in a struggle.”

  1. Money

Ugandans have a million ways of asking for bribes and money. Ugandans always speak in the indirect form, in a proverbial kind. For example, a Ugandan will not call it a bribe, it will be akawogo. A Kampalan will ask; ‘wasomye?’ to imply whether someone has moved with the agreed bribe. When we say someone ‘yakolamu’, it means he has made some good money. Omubedde is also a person with lots of money and kadingo is a fake guy. If you are a broke guy, we say; “amasanyalaze gamukuba” or “Guy oyo yala.”

  1. Bleaching

In Kampalan, we never say someone has bleached. Instead, we can refer to them as ‘bilangilangi’, or ‘yakwata mu kizigo.’ If you want to know if everything on a person is genuine, you will ask, “ali ku original?”

  1. Tojja

In Kampala, there is a rule, if you cannot stand to gain from something, then spoil it for everyone (okwonoona). Thus, when Ugandan men see you simping in the hopes of standing a chance with the girl next door, they will usually discourage you with the word ‘tojja’. Tojja means you stand no chance regardless of your simping tactics.

  1. Oliwa/weyayu

If you ever respond to a call on Friday and the first words are ‘Oliwa?’, please do yourself a quick favour. Unless you plan on returning home the next day, the better thing is to switch off your phone immediately. Oliwa is a heavy statement in Kampala. It can take you from a house in Naalya all the way to a party in Jinja within an hour.

  1. Sala puleesa

Some people in Kampala are always on fire, they put others under unnecessary pressure and cause unnecessary panic. These people are always on ‘kasigiri’ and ‘bayaka nyo’. In order to contain them, we always ask them to kusala puleesa, aka to throttle their pressure and calm down.

  1. Names

As we have often revealed, in Kampala all guys have the same names. Some people are called boss, some are chaali, others are bulaadi, aka Blood, there is Chairman, there is Big Man, there is Sponsor, there is Professor for the guys with lugezigezi. And for our friends, we always sacrifice, aka ‘kuyiwaawo towel or omubiri’. When we say someone is ‘bwooya”, aka hairs, we imply that they are our close friend. Taano wange, aka my Number 5 is the synonym for close friend.

If you are a potential customer or passenger for a taxi, then you will be accorded titles such as, ‘Mummy, Brother, Auntie, Student…” Be warned that for Ugandan taxis, respect stops just before you board the taxi. The moment you enter the taxi, power shifts from the passenger to the conductor.

  1. Caution

In Kampala, we warn people against falling for a bad deal, aka okutomera. For someone to avoid bad deals, they must always have some sense reserved for themselves, aka ‘kwebeleramu’. It is basically another way to say a human being should not outsource their thinking.  But if you are certain of a good deal, we always say “Ali ku sure.” And for the men, if you know, you know when you give your transport money to a Sure.

  1. Traffic police

We do not have traffic police in Uganda, instead we have ‘obusajja’. When there is a roadblock ahead, we say “ekiddo.” We warn our friends, aka majje, to watch out. In other speak, traffic police are “Enkima”. The beauty with this Kampalan language is that it keeps evolving. When the ‘baloodi’ or ‘Bantu Bawagulu’ gain mastery of our language, we revise it. By the time you finish reading this, there will be a new Kampalan dictionary. When in trouble with the police, we say “kawedemu.”

  1. Kwetega

It is not by mistake that the person writing about kwetega is a one Ortega. Kwetega is about positioning, about setting your traps, and being ready for opportunities that may come your way. If you are single and there is a place where potential partners hang out, then you show up well and ‘kwetega’. If a rich person is coming by, you keep praising them; “kusudiya’ or “kuwujja their bunyama” as a kwetega tactic. The secret to success in Uganda is about kwetega/kwetegaring.

There is only one rule to the Kampalan language; it must be learnt and re-learnt with the changing times. Every season brings new words with it. When fuel prices are up, we can invent new words to reflect the zeitgeist. Do not be surprised when the new name for a bribe in Kampala becomes “Petrol” or “Diesel.” You will enter a government office and an official will ask, “How many litres have you carried?” Do not be naïve!

 Twitter: ortegatalks

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