A friend shared this image on Murder of English Language on WhatsApp today.
It took me back to the time when we lived in Liberia. We had a cook, a Liberian, called Philip who was no less than a Master Chef. His dahi bhallas and gulab jamuns that would melt in your mouth, the puffed bhaturas with yummy tangy chole, the crispy pakoras were all to die for.
All that if you manage to understand what he was trying to tell you. Everyone enunciates differently and Liberians are not different from us.
Philip spoke English as did our driver William, my maid Asatu and the others. It’s just that I found it difficult to understand them at the beginning. And then I became a pro at that.
The day after I landed in Monrovia, I decided to go to the local market to buy vegetables and fruits. Philip tagged along and this was a routine that we followed every Tuesday and Friday. He cooked at the guesthouse and I took care of the grocery shopping for the guesthouse too. When we reached the market he asked me for money to buy ‘aplon’ (for the love of me, I didn’t have a clue what it was). I thought he wanted to get apron for himself because he had seen mine that morning. So I asked him how much money he wanted. He said he wanted to buy two piles and a dollar would suffice and he also said he wanted purple ones. Two Piles? Purple ones? I was a little confused and then I thought it was probably like in Surat where they sell clothes by weight. So I gave him a dollar and sent him into the market.
The moment he returned to the car, curiosity got the better of me and I asked him to hand over the packet and what should I find but eggplants (brinjals if you please).
This was just the initiation into the first of many such situations for me. The next stop was at the supermarket where he announced that he wanted ‘bra’. I was again left wondering what he wanted to do with it. Take it home to his wife? I quietly stood around when he was loading the trolley waiting to see the bra. And there was none… I couldn’t stop myself from asking him what he wanted to do with it and he looked at me as though I was crazy and said, ‘missy of course eat it’. Huh!?? Were we on the same page? And he thrust a loaf of (you guessed it right) BREAD under my nose.
Pakoras were pakolas, parathas were patathas, brown was blown… but his culinary skills were out of this world.
On the road in Liberia, you wouldn’t turn your car, but bend so. Mangoes were called plums. Ask them ‘did you see that?’ and the response would be ‘I finished seeing it missy / bossman’. The last word of every sentence would invariably be suffixed with an ‘O’.
It did sound funny to our ears but then our way of speaking sounds funny to others. I miss hearing their ‘I am comingO’ or ‘I will aks (ask)’. I miss Philip walking into my house sniffing every morning, aksing me ‘ what did you cook today, missyo?’