Thursday, March 23, 2017

Definitions of some of the Italicized Non English words and phrases in Imbolo Mbue’s debut novel, “Behold the dreamers”



Ashia/Ashia ya –Consolation meaning accept my sympathy. It could also mean “accept my condolences” in case of death of a loved one.

Bébé –Baby from French. It is used to fondly address a lover like Neni does to Jonga.

Benskins –Commercial motor bikes.

Bo –Fun word for friend or brother.

Bobi –Breast

Bolo –Work or Job

Bushboy –Village peasant boy

Boucarou –A business centre at Down beach, Limbe where fresh grilled fish, crabs, lobsters and drinks are sold.

Caraboat –A wooden house which is usually old and dilapidated.

Chai –An exclamation used to express huge surprise

Chakara –Junk or broken down as used in the novel

Chang shoes –Locally produced rubber shoes which are worn mostly during the wet seasons in Cameroon.

Chin chin –A crunchy deep fried snack consisting of a mixture of flour, margarine, sugar, milk and water. It is mixed by hand until a smooth dough is achieved and then put into cooking oil.

Contry mimbo –Any local drink, normally sold in villages.

Derrière –Behind from French. It means buttocks in the context of the novel.

Egusi stew –Melon seed stew, cooked with the desiccated ground seeds of melons.

Ekwang–A popular dish from Cameroon’s South West Region comprising thumb sized ground cocoyams wrapped in cocoyam leaves, smoked fish, palm oil, other spices and water.

Gongon leaf –Megaphrynium macrostachyum. A leaf used to wrap various foods in many African countries. These leaves are believed to impart a special taste to the food which is wrapped in them.

Helele –A word used to express something which is wonderful or a little shocking.

Jaburu–A type of smoked fish which is sold in local markets and used for cooking.

Kaba –A puffy gown usually made from local fabric worn by women, especially during pregnancy

Kai –An exclamation showing excitement or surprise

Kolo –One thousand Francs CFA

Kwacha –Locally brewed liquor

Kwacoco and banga soup –A traditional dish of the Bakweri ethnic group, consisting of ground cocoyams which are wrapped and steamed in banana leaves with palm nut soup.

Makandi –Buttocks

Makossa–A noted Cameroonian popular urban musical style which uses strong electric bass rhythms and prominent brass. It had a wave of mainstream success across Africa in the seventies. It was popularized globally by Manu Dibango with his song, “Soul Makossa”. The chant from the song, mamako, mamasa, maka makossa was later used by Michael Jackson in the song “Wanna be startin’ somethin’”.

Mamami eh! –Literally, My mother! An exclamation used to express surprise.

Manyaka ma lambo –A phrase in the Duala language meaning “wonderful thing”.

Masepo –A herb with the common name wild Basil or mosquito plant. It is used as a food spice or sometimes crushed into a type of juice and given to sick people to drink.

Mbamba –Grandfather or grandmother. The word mbamba is gender neutral.

Mbutuku –A worthless person.

Mukuta school bag –Back pack fabricated from a local brown cotton fibre.

Molongo –A whip cut from the Cane plant which is used for corporal punishment.

Ndolé –Cameroon’s national dish. An aromatic vegetable soup consisting of stewed nuts, bitter leaves indigenous to West/Central Africa and fish/beef  or shrimp. It is traditionally eaten with plantain or Bobolo/Miondo.

Ngahs –Literally girls. It also refers to girlfriends or wives in different instances in the novel.

Okrika –Used goods from abroad which are resold at local Cameroonian markets.

Papa God –Almighty father

Papier –Literally “paper” from French. It refers to immigration papers in the context of the novel.

Pays –Literally “country” from French. It means Cameroon when used by Cameroonians in the diaspora when they are referring to their home country. Imbolo uses it in the latter context in the novel.

Paysan –A Cameroonian. Used especially by Cameroonians in the diaspora to refer to people in Cameroon.

Porku-porku –Cartoon

Portorportor coco –Porridge cocoyam

Poulet –Chicken from French

Puff Puff –Deep fried golf sized dough balls

Sisa–To intimidate or bully

Soya –Grilled beef

Strong Kanda –A type of smoked fish with a tough skin.

Telleh –Television set

Ten nkolo –Ten thousand Francs CFA

Wolowose –A prostitute or promiscuous girl.

*Commot for my front before I cam jambox ya mouth; ya mami ya, ya mami pima! –Get out of my sight before I get there and get your mouth punched, your mother’s cunt!

NB: There are a few other non English words in “Behold the dreamers” like “Wahala”, “Attiéké” and “Moimoi” which I intentionally left out because they are well explained on many sites and even food blogs on the internet. I focused generally on the non English words which a non Cameroonian “Behold the dreamers” reader won’t find easily on Google. If there is any non English word in the novel which you didn’t find in this list and on Google then hit me up. I’ll edit, nkiachaatemnkeng@gmail.com.