More interesting facts about Kenya – VoCaB eDiTiOn

It’s been a while since my last factoid based post, but I figured I’d go ahead and make good on my promise to continue the “interesting facts about Kenya” series. The list is pretty much endless, so as I’m able I will make more of these and focus on different areas (i.e. weddings, security, education, or any other area you’d like to know about).

This time I’m going to just focus on vocabulary:

The following words mean something other than you may think

Smart

  • Americans may think – intellectual aptitude

smart

  • Kenyans think – good looking or dressed well (it’s a compliment to either sex)

smart2

Paper bag

  • Americans may think of the brown paper bags that are made from trees

paper bag

  • Kenyans think plastic bags – yes, when they say paper bag they really mean plastic (of course it goes without saying that they don’t ask if you want paper or plastic in the grocery stores)

Inside Kenyan Supermarket Chain Nakumatt

Hotel

  • Americans may think of the place where you temporarily sleep outside of your home

best western

  • Kenyans think of a small street side restaurant where you can get local food really cheap (hotels here can also be overnight lodging, but they usually refer to small eateries)

hotel

Blow dry/flat iron

  • Americans may think blow drying is prep before straightening your hair with a flat iron.

blowdryer

  • Kenyans think blow drying is straightening and flat ironing is curling.

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The first time I visited a local salon (or saloon as some call it) I asked if the lady could flat iron my hair.

“We don’t have that here.”

I then had to ask a different way, “Can you straighten my hair?”

“Oh, you mean blow dry?”

“You don’t straighten after you blow dry?”

“Blow drying is straightening.”

“Oh, okay. Let’s try that then.”

Real talk, I’ve never had anyone get my kinky natural hair straighter than ladies here do. They wash your hair, take a blow dryer through it, go through it again with a tiny comb or a hot comb (which is heated by the blow dryer), then they add a little oil and go through it again. Natural people will know what I mean by this, but even though it sounds like a lot of heat, I have total curl retention afterwards. Genius.

One of these days we’ll try to record it so my natural folks can see what I’m talking about.

“That’s okay.”

  • Americans think it means “No, thanks. You don’t have to.”

thanks

  • Kenyans think it means, “Yes, please. That is fine.”

more

“Isn’t it?”

  • Americans use it when speaking in the singular (i.e. Sledding is fun, isn’t it?)
  • Kenyans use it regardless of singular or plural (i.e. We all like to sled. Isn’t it?). When they say isn’t it, they mean something to the effect of “is it not true?”

“Pick”

  • When speaking of getting something or someone, Americans follow it with a preposition masking as an adverb (i.e. I need to pick up some things from the store.).
  • Kenyans don’t follow it with anything (i.e. I need to pick my dog from the kennel.).

Of course there are tons more incongruities between American English and British/Kenyan English, but I tried to pick some of the not-so common ones that we come across on a frequent basis.

Hope you enjoyed. 🙂