Wednesday, August 26, 2015

(After Ethiopia) Top 10: Amharic Expressions that Fascinate, Amuse and Sometimes Annoy Me


While my Amharic vocabulary is bet’am tenish tenish, it exceeds ten words, for sure. Indeee! There’s the usual – selam no! konjo no! sinte no? chigeryelleum! – but I’m listing down 10 expressions that I hear all the time, and all over, spoken by students, colleagues, friends, strangers which are annoyingly fascinating.

10. Lulululuuu… (aka the ululation) First heard this in a genfo-eating ceremony at my  line manager’s house. I was only 2 weeks into my placement, and my first thought was: “Yeah, I’m in Africa!” Still what I think when I hear this, especially in the clubs. “Yeah, I’m in Africa!”(Then, shoulder-shakes.)

9. Minda no? (What is this?) This expression caught my attention early on because it sounds like a region in my country called Mindanao. A very useful phrase, it turned fascinating when I heard a friend repeatedly say it, after receiving his birthday gift and then hearing it from a neighborhood kid, fists raised to his chest ready to punch another kid. Minda no? Minda no?

8. Menamen, menamen. (Etc., etc. or blah-blah-blah…) Ever since I learned this word like only 6 months ago, it’s become one of my favorite expressions.

7. Ishee. (Okay.) This is the first Amharic expression that I learned and confidently kept saying, only to find that I’ve been saying it wrongly. “Say eushee, not eeshee”, a colleague corrected me. Ishee, ishee.

6. Aizoh!/ Aizosh! (Be strong! or chin up!) If I didn’t fall into an open sewer one night while chasing a force (the bigger bajaj), I probably wouldn’t know this word. It's since become one of my favorite expressions. See a student with trembling hands and quivering lips during a presentation? One word. Aizoh. 

5. Araaa?!? 4. Ancheee?!? 3. Indeee?!? (variations of the expressions in English: oh? whaaat?) Save for anchee which is you (female), I’m not sure of the meaning of the two. It depends on the context, I supposed. But I do a pretty decent indeee?!? (If I may say so myself.) I’m too shy and self-conscious to prolong it too much, though, to make it really legit. That annoys me.

2. Huh-huh-huh? (Huh?) What’s annoying is how huh is repeated something like 3 times. It gets me each time.

1. The hiccup! (Yes, I agree. / Go on.) This expression scares me. It really comes outs as too serious an agreement or concurrence that sometimes I wish for the opposite reply. An Indian colleague told me, the first time she heard the expression – she was scared – thinking she has scolded the student too much, he was hyperventilating.

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