Every society tends to form words which are different from what is normally used in a particular language and over time they become so popular that everyone uses them.
Frederic Byumvuhore looks at the popular slang words that are used in Rwanda and where they originated from.
Literary the word Akabenzi is from the word “Benz” with a Kinyarwanda prefix “Aka-” and suffix “i-”. Benz is a short form of Mercedes-Benz which is a global automobile manufacturer.
The term has been used in Rwanda over the years to refer pork meat which is a popular delicacy. Many years ago people did not eat pork meat for both religious and cultural beliefs.
It is believed that the word ‘akabenzi’ originated from former Cyangugu prefecture.
It was said that there was a nonfunctioning small Benz car which was near a bar where pork meat was sold. The fact that the car remained there for a while, citizens would use the term to direct people saying let’s meet “Ku Kabenzi” meaning the bar.
Visitors especially those from Kigali and other parts of the country who wanted to eat pork meat were directed to that particular place and some of them started calling pork ‘Akabenzi’, a word that has since been used to refer to pork.
The term Twegerane which can loosely be translated as, “let’s all squeeze together” was popular during the time when 14-seater mini-buses were still the popular means of public transport.
During that time, there were few cars for transportation, passengers would squeeze themselves in the existing mini-buses and since passengers were always more than the vehicles, the taxi conductors would ask the passengers to squeeze themselves in the car hence the word ‘Twegerane’.
Even when the mini bus had more than the number of passengers it was supposed to carry and there were some passengers on the roadside, the conductors would shout ‘twegerane’ so that no one is left.
The phrase “Banque Lambert” is composed by two words which are common to everyone. The word “banque” refers to a financial institution while “Lambert” is a name of a person.
The phrase ‘Bank Lambert’ which stems from a Belgium bank called Banque Brussels Lambert means a loan shark who gives instant loans at a very high interest rate.
Some people say the phrase was coined because of a popular Businessman who was called Lambert who lent money to people, sometimes in millions of francs in a short period of time but charged high interest rates.
This illegal system of borrowing and lending money was popular in the early and late 2000s until a crackdown by the Central Bank and National Police reduced the practice.
The word ‘Bannyahe’ which can loosely be translated as “where do they defecate from?” was coined in reference to a slum in Nyarutarama where houses were so squeezed together that people didn’t have space to construct toilets and would thus ease themselves in public.
The slum is going to be re-developed into an estate.
The word is composed of two words: Kurya (eat) and abarezi (silly people).It might look misleading because its meaning might not be clear basing on the actual meaning of each word.
The word spread countrywide in the last few years and refers to slot machines which are used for betting.
Many people thinking that they were going to instantly get rich would bet all the money that they had and in most cases lose it without winning anything.
Most of those who bet all their earnings and lost were referred to as ‘Abarenzi’ (stupid) for gambling all their money without being sure of getting it back while the machine was called ‘Ikiryabarezi’ because it made people stupid enough to gamble away all their hard earned money.
The word originated from Rukiga language which is used by people from Kabale, in the western region of Uganda.
The term is currently used to mean informal saving and credit groups that brings together more than two people.
The word has become a common term countrywide and whenever uttered it gives the meaning of a group of people who come together to form a saving group in order to make themselves financially self- reliant.
The term which can loosely be translated as “the ink of a pen” seems to be very clear to everyone. However, it has its special meaning.
This word means bribing a person for a service. As the government started taking tough measures to uproot corruption by setting heavy penalties for anyone caught in corruption, some service providers also invented ways to ask for bribes.
If a person needed a particular service, they would be asked to provide ‘ink for the pen’ which meant giving a bribe to get a service.