Saturday, October 30, 2010

Beninisms: Talking the Talk

Any country has a set of slang phrases that make absolutely no sense in any other language – try explaining “kitty corner” or “from the get-go” with any sort of logic or reason.  Benin is no exception. I don’t know if it’s West Africa as a whole, Benin, or just my area, but some of the things they say are fantastically and hilariously confusing to think about. The following is a short list of my favorites:

Bonjoir – this is a blend of “bonjour” and “bonsoir,” used when you’re too busy (or lazy) to think about what time of day it is.

Ou bien –Literally translates as “Or well (in the healthy/good sense”), but I’m not actually sure what this is supposed to mean. You stick it at the end of sentences, and sometimes it translates to kind of a sassy quadruple snap after you put someone in their place… sometimes it just goes at the ends of sentences though.

Quoi? – Much like “ou bien,” this word can be put at the end of anything, quoi. It doesn’t change the meaning quoi, it just kind of emphasizes what you’re saying. “This is a wonderful sauce, what? You must have worked very hard, what?” Entertaining in that it makes everyone seem just a little spastic. Quoi.

Tu a fait un peu? – “You have done a little?” This is what you say when someone gets back from a long day at work. Apparently you never want to say “I’ve done a lot” because then the other person will be jealous of your productivity. I must have made a lot of people jealous, as no one explained this to me until about 2 months into stage.

Bon travaille, bon arrivée, bon appetite, bon assis – you get complimented on everything here. Good work, good arrival, good eating, and my favorite: good sitting. I am an excellent sitter, and I really love being complimented on my ability to be seated well.

Tu es là? – Literal translation: “You are there?” I am asked this several times a day, despite the fact that the speaker can obviously see that I am there (or wherever)... It's polite to say, but I'm not quite sure why... I asked my host sister to explain: “Well, you know, it’s a question… to see… if you’re there.” Ohhh. Got it.

1 comment:

Bogdan Burca said...

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My blog address is:
Can we be friends??
Thank you!!
For those who do not understand use Google Translate (top right) and select your language!!!