LESSON #92: Ati nini?!! (say what?!)

Just like English, Swahili has many variations. Of course there’s the ultimate standard Swahili, just like we have the Queen’s English and since I come from the birthplace of Swahili itself am gonna list a couple of things that have different names from the ones we know on my side of the border. We also have words that have different meanings depending on whether you are in the land of naomba or the land of hakuna matata.

Lets get cracking:

  • Grandmother/old woman, wife, tomato – yup, these are all related, just stay with me on this one. Starting with grandma, in Tanzania we call her bibi but in Kenya they call her nyanya. Here’s where it gets interesting though. If you go to Kenya and introduce your grandma as bibi you are sure to get funny looks because you just introduced her as your wife! Am not finished yet, if a Kenyan goes to TZ and introduces their grandma as nyanya then they’ll get even funnier looks as they just referred to the poor woman as a tomato! Confused? Ok let’s break it down, in TZ a grandma= bibi whilst a tomato= nyanya. In Kenya a grandma= nyanya whilst a tomato =…well still nyanya! So double meanings there. At the same time a wife= bibi  in Kenya whilst in TZ its= mke. Alright catch your breath then read on…

  • Electricity – not too complicated this one, just 2 different words. In TZ it’s umeme whilst in Kenya it’s stima.

  • Sweets/candy – in TZ it’s pipi whilst in Kenya particularly in the coastal area where their Swahili is pretty much on par with ours they call it peremende. Everywhere else most people just say sweet/s. Candy isn’t that common as British English is the standard around those parts.

  • Batteries – again not too complicated.  In TZ we swahilinize it and say betri whilst in Kenya they say makaaor sometimes mawe. Ok I’ll complicate that just a teeny weeny bit, i

    n TZ mawe means stones.

  • Skirt – very slight difference here, just a vowel’s worth. We both swahilinized this word so whilst in TZ we say sketi my cousins the Kenyans prefer skati.

  • Shirt – same idea as skirt,  so its sheti for TZ and shati for Kenya.

There’s plenty more of course which as always you can point out to me on the comments section and if you have any questions let me know as well. Tukutane punde!



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2 Responses to LESSON #92: Ati nini?!! (say what?!)

  1. Joyce says:

    This explains so much… Asante sana! Another one that gets me (ingawa siyo sanifu) is “mshikaji.” In TZed it means best bud but in Kenya it means mpenzi. Noma kweli!

  2. fun~lugha says:

    That also reminds me of another word shoga which is the female version of mshikaji. However the kamusi definition is a gay person-so yeahs, careful with that too!

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