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.
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.