Friday, September 17, 2010

The Original Yo!



Before coming to Ghana, I thought “Yo” was a modern invention; perhaps concocted only slightly before the time of “Yo! MTV Raps”. Not so. “Yo” is a staple of Twi, the language spoken in this part of Ghana.

As an example, I provide an excerpt from “Twi Made Easy (A Practical Guide for Non-Twi Speakers, Beginners and Foreigners)” by Kofi Frempong-Barfi:

Ghanaian 1: Wo ho te sen? // How are you?
Ghanaian 2: Me ho ye. // I am fine.
Ghanaian 1: Na wo nso e? // And you?
Ghanaian 2: Me nso me ho ye. // I am also fine.
Ghanaian 1: Yo! // o.k.

“Yo” is remarkably effective. Whenever I’m not sure how to end any basic conversation (e.g., we’ve both said “hello, how are you?”, or exchanged “Good afternoons”), I can respond, “Yo” and consider it successfully executed. The success is usually evidenced by the receipt of a knowing smile or, more often than not, “Hey, Obrouni wo te Twi paaa!?”, “Hey, Whiteman, you speak Twi!”.

“Yo” is quite easy and fun to say, especially with the prolonged “Yooooo” that people tend to like around here.

Who knew?

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