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Friday, December 10, 2010

Kinyarwanda slang of the day

My favorite bit of Kinyarwanda slang originated at the National University of Rwanda in Butare, to which the country’s most elite students are admitted. When I break this out around NUR-educated Rwandans (and others the slang has spread to) I invariably am received with hearty laughter.

Gutera akadobo (goo-teh-rah ah-kah-doe-boe) means “to throw the little bucket”: to reject someone’s advances. The first time I encountered this phrase, I was told it referred to a woman rejecting a man. I asked if it could also refer to a man rejecting a woman: “That cannot happen!”

Apparently there are levels of rejection. You’ll recall that “aka-” denotes the diminutive class. Therefore, gutera indobo “to throw the (regularly sized) bucket” is a deeper rejection. Most painful, following a relationship of several years, is gutera ingunguru: “to throw the big metal barrel/oil drum.” Ouch.

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