This is Ghana! A country of great culture, heritage, and tradition. Where names and terms are given to things differently from what they are in other parts of the world.
Every first timer in Ghana is more than likely going to experience a few difficulties in understanding these terms. However, after a few days of interaction with the local folk, be sure to get a grip of all the terminologies.
The terms below are very popular but one may begin to wonder whether they are right or wrong. Personally, communication is a two way deal. Once there is an understanding between both parties, then the words used were right. If not, we can say it’s wrong.
Let’s settle this debate once and for all. Jumia Travel, Africa’s leading online travel website highlights you ten popular terms Ghanaians use daily.
1. ’Graphic’’ [ Newspaper] - It’s 6:30 in the morning and you are stuck in traffic on your way to that important business meeting in Accra. Maybe you are in a bus from Accra to Cape Coast on tour and you have no idea what happened yesterday or the day before. You are yearning to know what’s in the news. Look outside the window and you see a man holding a deck of newspapers screaming ‘’Graphic’’, ‘’Graphic’’, ‘’Graphic’’. Make no mistake, The Daily Graphic is a very prominent newspaper in Ghana. However, every newspaper is referred to as ‘’Graphic’’ and then when the vendor gets closer, you select the newspaper of your choice.
2. ‘’Pepsodent’’ [Toothpaste] - Colgate, Close Up, Maxam, Anitadent, and Yazz are all examples of toothpastes used in Ghana and all over the world. Early in the morning, when people want to brush their teeth, you almost always hear them mention ‘’pepsodent’’. Yes it’s a brand name for a particular toothpaste but presumably, it was the first popular toothpaste in Ghana hence people naturally call every toothpaste ‘’Pepsodent’’.
3. ‘’Omo’’ [washing powder] - Saturday mornings are usually reserved for laundry or cleaning the house. It is at this time that you hear words like ‘’omo’’. ‘’Omo’’ is a very popular washing powder and detergent used in most parts of Africa and Ghana for laundry services. Most people generalize every washing powder and call it ‘’omo’’. Never get confused when you want to buy washing powder and the vendor says ‘’omo’’.
4. ‘’Sure’’ [Deodorant] - Smelling good is an essential part of looking good and many people use products like deodorants to keep them fresh. One very popular deodorant in Ghana is ‘’Sure’’ for both men and women. This has resulted in many Ghanaians terming deodorants as ‘’Sure’’. A very surprising question you may encounter on the streets when you smell so good is ‘’which sure do you use?’’. Don’t be alarmed, the person only means to ask which deodorant you used.
5.‘’Key Soap’’ [Bar Soap] - The tradition goes on. This was a very common phrase sometime back in Ghana and it was a line in the popular TV advert of ‘’Key Soap’’, a local bar soap. So many years after that and Ghanaians term every bar soap as ‘’Key Soap’’. Indeed, the tradition still goes on!
6. ‘’Tea’’ [Beverages] - In europe and other parts of the world, people have different names for beverages. Be it coffee or a mixed solution, beverages are termed by their brand names or the composition of their mixture. You hear things like ‘’espresso, latte etc’’. In Ghana, every beverage is generally termed ‘’tea’’. Once the solution contains a solute, some sugar and water, you are drinking ‘’tea’’. This means when you walk into a restaurant or coffee shop, you have to be very specific and choose exactly the type of beverage you want.
7. ‘’Dropping’’ [Chartering a taxi] - In recent times, businesses like Eazy Taxi and Uber have become so popular in Ghana that people don’t charter regular taxi’s that much. Not too long ago, Ghanaians used to charter taxi’s when they had a lot of rounds to make and wanted to save cost while being comfortable. The chartering of a taxi in Ghana is called ‘’dropping’’ simply because the taxi picks you from one spot and drops you off at your exact destination.
8. ‘’Spot’’ [Drinking Bar / pub] - All work and no play, makes Ghanaians dull people. We love to have fun after hard work and stressful weeks. For a handful that can afford classy restaurants, cinemas and fancy night clubs, you may not hear this often from them. However, for the middle to low income earners, this is very popular. On a friday after work especially when we get paid, Ghanaians like to hang out in bars and local pubs. These joints are popularly called ‘’spots’’.
9. ‘’Trotro’’ [Commercial bus] - Undoubtedly, the most popular term in Ghana that most foreigners easily learn. The small commercial buses that ply from one destination to the other usually over short distances. It is cheaper and not without controversy and drama. Be sure to have a good laugh, witness an unnecessary fight or two and hear a silly comment on a short trip home. That is ‘’trotro’’ for you. If you are not in a hurry, then a ‘’trotro’’ is an affordable and entertaining means of transport you can try.
10. ‘’Agartha’’ [lollipops] - And then there is something for the children. All over the world, people call them lollipops but in Ghana we call it ‘’Agartha’’. There are many stories about the origin of this term but legend has it that the first woman to bring a lollipop to Ghana was by the name Agartha. Funny as it may sound, children do not even care what it’s name is. Just give them a colourful lollipop and they will obey your every command. Thank you madam ‘’Agartha’’.
There we have it. Right or wrong, Ghanaians have a unique way of naming different things which make meaning to us. Most of these terms have been used for years and are used daily. When you visit Ghana, be on the lookout and adapt quickly.
Learn these terms and you will fit in more easily. Read a ‘’Graphic’’ while you sit at the ‘’spot’’. On your way home you may decide to either go by ‘’trotro’’ or ‘’dropping’’ but don’t forget to buy ‘’agartha’’ for the kids.
Also make sure they use ‘’pepsodent’’ to brush their teeth and soak their dirty clothes with ‘’omo’’ before you wash with ‘’key soap’’. The next morning, after you use ‘’sure’’, remember breakfast is very important so get some ‘’tea’’ before you step out.
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