Dictionary book

Kenya: Hello to the Kenyan dictionary …

For the uninitiated, “Hey, long …” is a daily social media greeting for souls who lost touch several moons ago.

But a group of Kenyan lexicographers are asking you not to take this greeting at face value as it may cost you “something”.

According to aspiring word-makers who have studied diction in our online conversations, this loaded phrase is used “when a Kenyan wants to ask you for a favor.”

And barring your unlikely membership in the infamous Stingy Men Association (SMA), at the end of the winding discussions that often follow the request-laden hello, you most likely answered, “Let me see what I can do.” .

“If you get this response, just try your luck somewhere else because the help won’t come,” language experts say of the popular response with men who don’t want to do favors for their girlfriends and wives – the majority , the real and imaginary members of SMA.

These two interpretations are part of a growing list of meanings the two-man team of virtual lexicographers have given to local phraseology as they strive to decode Kenyans’ particular habits, lifestyles and approaches. not very straightforward problems.

For just over a month now, language enthusiasts have created The Kenyan Dictionary, an online resource that attributes witty, cheeky, comical and even silly interpretations to the words used in our daily online powwows. and offline.

The dictionary’s various language services include alternative vocabularies and their equivalents in Sheng, Kiswahili and English.

“We started in August 2021 and our goal is to explain the deeper meaning of the words Kenyans use in their interactions at home, at work, in business and even in relationships,” said Mr. Kevin Kamau, creative director of The Kenyan Dictionary.

“We embarked on this adventure after our research revealed that Kenyans say what they don’t think and think what they don’t say. They are quite special, I must say.

The Word Masters have created language labs on Facebook and Instagram, with a merchandise store to boot, as they seek to reveal the true meaning of the scripts in the now “coded” Kenyan language.

“We chose Instagram and Facebook because their algorithms allow for easy sharing of posts and it helps our content go viral, reaching more and more people,” says the 25-year-old former student from the Nairobi Institute of Technology who works with his friend Edwin Ngari, 23.

“In just 30 days, our content has spread across social media with many people opening parody accounts on Twitter, a platform we are not interested in, given its algorithmic restrictions.”

Boasting hundreds of thousands of subscribers on both platforms, The Kenyan Dictionary is described as “A Guide to Understanding Kenyans”.

“Learn something every day,” teachers say in emerging Kenyan jargon.

But unlike the work of the revered Oxford Corpus, a language project at the University of Oxford in England that serves as the basis for the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the eccentric Kenyan dictionary does not include aids for learning languages ​​such as parts of speech, spellings, word origins, phonetics and phonetics.

The open source dictionary is a medley of words, phrases, and sentences that increasingly creep into family, academics, businesses, and other official repartees.

“We’re still defining the parts of speech and currently we have ‘n’ for noun, ‘phr’ for phrase, ‘q’ for question,” explains Kevin, a freelance graphic designer.

And for weeks now, the #KenyaDictionary hashtag and its memes have been trending across Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp groups, with netizens sharing the collection’s content in beta format.

Some members of a burgeoning legion of fans have gone further to contribute to the resource by posting the responses they have received from family, friends, and even enemies.

Examples include Babyghurl (a Kenyan woman who wants nothing more than a princess treatment); Kiongozi (leader), which means you have to part with the cash; Unachoma (when someone starts spreading too many unnecessary truths) and Uko tu sawa (you look great) – a polite way of telling someone they’re ugly.

Others are Connections (friends who hold more power than a PhD from Harvard University), Sherehe (party) means music, weed, drinks and sex), Mubaba (sugar daddy or sponsor) and of course aki nipromise hautajam t be mad), which is used by a Kenyan woman who has cheated.

“Of the many we did, ‘I think I need space’ (I found someone better but will come back if the relationship doesn’t work out) is the most successful because it has gone viral. after receiving approval from celebrities and influencers, ”explains the creative director in charge of design and editing.

One of the recently decoded buzzwords is “Hustler” (a guy who lives in Karen and is guarded by 257 General Service Unit officers) – an offshoot of removing the mask on the security details and the multibillion shillings empire owned by self-proclaimed ‘Hustler’ Vice President William Ruto.

And as the weekend approaches, Kenyan dictionary phrases that are likely to be in fashion include Gin (the alcohol that has kept many Kenyans from suffering from depression); Mum amekusalamia (Mum said hello) – a lie used in relationships to make your partner feel special; Unaeza Kam Ukitaka (Come if you like) – the easiest way to make a Kenyan woman feel unwanted and Si Tupostpone (let’s carry on) – which means I found better plans.

While the ongoing conversation around the Kenyan dictionary serves primarily for entertainment purposes at the moment, language experts say the younger generation, the majority of whom subscribe to the language, are communicating volumes.

“Like Sheng in Kenya and Pidgin in Nigeria, Generation Z is embracing these words and phrases because they want to show how dynamic and innovative they are in their communication. For her, the older generations are too conservative in their use of language, ”explains Dr Hilda Kebeya, senior lecturer in sociolinguistics – the study of how language is affected by differences in social class, region, gender, among others – in the Department of English and Linguistics at Kenyatta University.

“From Sheng’s point of view, young people also feel neglected and want to encourage and assert themselves. The older generation has money, power and influence and this new language is their way of compensating. the things they lack. “

Willis Ochieng, a master of English pronunciation, agrees, saying millennials use whatever language they’re comfortable with.

“The rules of the English language, for example, are very elusive and even teachers miss it. Young people today don’t like books and reading and they offer these languages ​​because they lack it. good English training), ”he told Nation.

Mr Ochieng says that while the Kenyan dictionary is fashionable among young people, its biggest challenge is acceptance, adoption by the masses and longevity.

“How many are using it now and how many will use it when they grow up?” And for the Kenyan Dictionary Project team, are they supported? Can their product stand the test of time? He said, encouraging budding lexicographers to continue exploiting the dynamism of language.

Kevin says they’re banking on thousands of their supporters and merchandise stores to take the online dictionary to the next level.

The shop which offers t-shirts, pillows, throws and rugs has signed a partnership with Purpink Gift Shop to distribute its Kenya Dictionary branded products.

“Our plan is to open a YouTube channel and a website where we will discuss and teach the contents of the Kenyan dictionary.”

From the nation’s review of fan comments on the Kenyan dictionary posts, this is a Sawa Bana – “I see you, I know you are here, I know who you are, I respect you and I am ready to engage with you you. “