Sunday, March 16, 2008

Cool is still cool even in hot Morogoro

I am at a good school in a land that speaks good Swahili. But no matter where you are in the world, whatever language you are speaking, it has slang. Swahili is no different. Since most of our language teachers are college age or maybe just a tiny bit older we have the advantage of learning not only safi (clean) Swahili but some of the current usage. Here’s a little lesson in proper greetings…

Hujambo? (literally: you have no thing –issue-?)
Sijambo. (I have no issue.)

This is the equivalent of saying hi as you pass someone. You will notice the word jambo in both. That’s the word thing. Often used alone as a tourist greeting in Kenya, but not proper Swahili. Here however, someone might greet you with mambo? This is the plural of jambo. The answer takes me back to my youth: poa. It means simply: cool. If it isn’t enough for people to say in so many words, I’m cool. I have since noticed that our Tanzanian friends around here will often comment on conversation with poa. In other words, as you would be telling them your plan for the evening they will comment, cool man, cool.

I guess even though some slang goes in and out of style some of the classic slang sticks in English so well it finally makes its way to East Africa too.

That’s enough Swahili for today, but trust me there is plenty more slang where that came from.

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