JESS: I remember the first time I hissed at someone. I was in Vida e Cafe and my waiter had run back and forth several times and I was a tad "hangry" so out of desperation-- I hissed.
ASEYE: How long did it take him to attend to you after you hissed?
JESS: The waiter whipped his head all the way around- so fast- like he was on some exorcist business and he stared right into my soul. So...real fast.
ASEYE: Okay so the hissing sent a message that you are really hungry and he should attend to you because you’ve been there for long.
JESS: Exactly. And for me it was cool because suddenly I was doing this thing that I’d only seen Ghanaians do--and it worked! But the hiss was not the only sound that was new to me when I arrived. There are a lot of these sounds that linguists would call non-lexical conversational sounds. So Aseye (ASEYE:hello!) and I decided to go out and find as many as we could and see in what context these sounds are used and even who gets to use these sounds.
ASEYE: Well I am so glad that worked for you but you should know not all conversational sounds express frustration. Some express agreement, surprise etc. you will find out more as we do this..
JESS: So first we met up with your friend Noella who is a student at the University of Ghana.
ASEYE: Yes, tiny Noella
[Noella introducing herself in Dagaari, this info is included in Aseye's description below]
ASEYE: Noella is my friend. We met at YALI. So YALI means Young African Leaders Initiative, an initiative started by President Obama. She is this tiny girl I was avoiding when I first saw her because she kept looking my way. But after I found out she will live opposite me, I warmed up to her.(so much info) Anyways, she is a fourth year student reading Agriculture Science. She speaks English and Dagaari but not very fluent in Twi. She comes from the Upper West and is 22 years old.
JESS: There was a lot of giggling because Noella didn’t notice these sounds until we mentioned them and then she’d catch herself.
ASEYE: So the first one we asked about was "mtcheeww."
NOELLA: M-T-C-H- depending on how you stress it then it gets more E’s and W’s so if it’s short it’s just mtcheew but if it’s very long like mtcheeewwww you add more E’s and W’s.
ASEYE: we do use ‘mtchew’ a lot. It’s like the slightest thing that frustrates you just mtchew
JESS: Yeah that is one I still need to practice. I’m honestly not sure if I’ll ever get it. But I can do hmh! I think...
NOELLA: hmh. Mtchew. *Laughter* Hmh. When do we use hmh? When do you use hmh?
ASEYE: I use hmh when um maybe you are talking about something and you reveal something I know you could do something mean I be like hmh or I also use when when we are talking and the next comment I am about to say is something that will really hurt you or our parents use it when you are ready to receive spanking...they will call you like Noella,what did you do. Or they will call you and be like hmh. Which means you are going to be spanked or lambasted or something like that.
NOELLA: Or when someone does something to you and you don’t really have anything to say to that person you just say hmh *laughter*
JESS: Okay so we’ve got mtchew and hmh added to our repertoire--well *my* repertoire because you been having this knowledge. So, what’s next?
NOELLA: Okay let’s say for instance. I want to say something and then she starts talking and says something in relation to what I was about to say . . ah haaaa, that’s what I was coming to talk about. Laughs. That’s when I use ah haaaa
ASEYE: You remember that thing I was telling you the other time
JESS: AHH HHAAAA- How’d I do?
ASEYE: . . . fine. . . you tried.
ASEYE: But you still need for practice for the mtcheeww.
JESS:Okay so then we went to chat with some guys getting ready to play basketball.
(Hi sorry to interrupt. How are you? These are my friends Aseye and Noella)
ASEYE: Ugh these guys.
“I dey get the sounds dey pleeeenty . . . ”
ASEYE: He’s saying he knows a lot of these sound in Pidgin.
GERALD: Right now basketball . . . a lot of sounds. I don’t know which one you want..like if I go talk say Arkes go come . . . that is like disbelief. I think all the sounds should be given to the girls. Cause boys, we hardly talk or we hardly make sounds. We’re all about exercise and play games. Girls are like 80 percent of the sounds . . . please don't insult me in your head I am begging you o
JESS: Wow. He called you out. Were you insulting him in your mind???
ASEYE: No oo I guess my face could not hide my surprise.
JESS: What about what he said surprised you?
ASEYE: That sounds should be given to girls and even had stats to support it. I am wondering where he got that from.
JESS: Okay so speaking of surprise--once we left the guys we spoke to two first year students Rita and Jennifer who gave us O and Ei...
RITA: “O like when I’m surprised at something and Ei like when I am shocked.”
ASEYE: They shocked me when they said they agree with the boys that sounds are for girls.
JENNIFER: “We like complaining”
ASEYE: I'm glad Haraja agreed with me. She is Noella’s roomate.
HARAJA: The boys do those sounds too. Mostly when they are trying to call you, some advances or maybe laugh at you.
JESS: There’s another sound that’s used like a hiss, to get someones attention, but it’s also like a kissy face. For me it reminds me of the sound you might make if there's a stray dog or cat and you want it to come closer to you.
ASEYE: Yeah you’re no good at that one either.
NOELLA: Those in the market that want to draw your attention. The ones selling jeans or cellphones.
JESS: Ok so, mtchew, kissy noises. Hiss. Those are some of the sounds of Accra and even outside of Accra. If you’re Ghanaian I hope you enjoyed listening to the unique conversational sounds that were so new to me when I first arrived.
ASEYE: And if you’re not Ghanaian,and you have plans on visiting you should learn from this podcast before you arrive or else become a Jessica. And I also think that let's rewind to the begining when she asks who get to makes those sounds. Everyone does it, right from the child to the teenager, the young adult, the old man, the old woman. It's just a Ghanaian thing. We use it all the time. So, yea, that's it.
JESS: Thanks for joining me, Aseye. Byeeeee