Luganda! A couple of years ago our butts were at the receiving
end of some of the wildest lashes you can think of because
we had broken the primary school’s cardinal sin of
speaking that forbidden language, Luganda. Also, years back,
speaking fluent English - without the slightest betrayal
of your Buganda roots - was the first test to wooing those
stunning teenage girls.
For example, boys from Budo, SMACK and Namilyango would
try to outwit each other in winning those beauty queens
from Gayaza and Namagunga by, among other strategies, splashing
the latest word the dictionary had to offer.
Luganda, on the other hand, was left for the backwater schools,
who for purposes of saving this paper from a legal suit
I shall not name.
But hey, I got news for you. The once demonised Luganda,
twisted with the kind of slang spoken by the underground
hoodlums of Kampala’s shabbiest ghettos, has made
its way into the rich aerated boardrooms of the corporate
world. And guess what, the language is winning over hearts
and raking in big bucks. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to
the corporate world of slang!
Companies, desperate to sell their products, have coined
all sorts of Luganda phrases that seem to revolutionise
the advertising industry.
Forget the days of Hands off my Hyundai, Scratch for cash.
Today it is Yoola Omudidi, or Bonga na Coke!
Yoola Omudidi - Standard Chartered Bank
We are still trying to decipher what Stanchart’s
message in this slang was, considering it was a car promo,
but don’t you just love it! And is it just me or what,
but that word Omudidi brings back memories of that decades
old local play on radio Uganda with that character, Kadiidi.
If you never listened to Kadiidi, consider yourself one
of the 1990s baby-boomers or un-Ugandan!
In short, Kadiidi was the in-thing during those days when
television sets and electricity at home were a preserve
of the rich. For reminding us of the Kadiidi days, thanks
Bonga ne coke - Century Bottling Co. Limited
The word bonga is a greeting for Rastafarians or ghetto
boys. Period! Normally, it goes; Ki mwana. Bonga ko awo
(Greeting done with tapping each other’s fists). Possibly,
a number of us have used this form of greeting - far away
from the prying eyes of our parents, lest we are smacked
for imitating infidels. Yet, condemn it as much as you want,
bonga is one of the commonest slangs around. At one time,
bonga, was the most common form of greeting in Kampala.
From example when the deadly Ebola came to town last year,
sheiks and priests advised their congregations not to hold
each others hands during prayer for fear of catching the
virus. If need be, God’s holy men told worshippers
to…you guessed it, bonga. So Century Bottling; kabongeko
Banange Gyemuli - Dyer and Blair during the Safaricom
If you know Dyer and Blair, believe me, you will wonder
what in God’s world convinced them to come up with
such a slogan!
Briefly, Dyer and Blair is an investment bank. It is one
of Kenya’s oldest companies, dealing in the corporate
dominated stock markets, plus offering investment advice.
In Uganda, the level of awareness about such products is
still low. That is why you have to give it to Dyer and Blair
for selling Safaricom shares to the informal sector. Banange
Gyemuli simply means ‘Guys, are you there?’
Kabiriti - MTN Uganda
Ah, those days of the sleek Nokia phone adverts! Those
models who would stare at us from huge billboards, and almost
make us hate our flabby bodies. What we see today is a bling-ed
up Bobi Wine, a man we tend to admire more for his music
than anything else. But what is with this word Kabiriti,
the phone that MTN is promoting?
Ideally, Kabiriti is supposed to mean something that lights
up. But then, here is another meaning. Spoken as slang,
Kabiriti stands for someone who is good at something, being
fit, or an item that can be described in those positive
Kibooko - Celtel
Now, we all know our dear ‘comrade in arms’,
the Honourable Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Dr. James
Nsaba Butoro, has barred radio stations from playing Master
Blaster’s Embooko for reasons, I think, you can guess.
So we won’t even bother going there. But we would
like to believe that Celtel meant to promote their phone,
Kibooko, as a product that is strong and long lasting. Go
downtown Kampala and you will find people who describe a
nice car or pretty girl as ‘kibooko’!
Take utl’s Katikitiki. What is it with the local
dialect? I guess it is their way of bridging the gap between
the corporate world and the downtown person. It does not
go unnoticed of course that these phones with the ‘catchy’
names are also the cheapest in the telecom companies’
stores! Actually when you buy one Katikitiki (meaning seconds)
you get one free!
We are waiting for a similarly catchy name for the Blackberry…
Turning to Luganda
For good measure, the market for telecommunications services
in the urban areas is becoming saturated. Selling products
to Uganda’s equivalent of a middle class might be
a waste of time. This calibre of consumers is exposed.
This leaves the corporate companies to look to the lower
end of the market, the kind who are willing to stake a huge
chunk of their hard earned savings in promos. By speaking
their language and rubbing shoulders with them during those
prize give-away ceremonies, the corporates hope to beat
their sales target or else their jobs are on the line. So,
what more enticement do you need to get cash than…
kwata cash, or Yello Kapyata, or Pirelli’s Kacaaca?