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Phrases that defined 2018

By Mercy Adhiambo | December 29th 2018
Nairobi County MCA's evict Speaker Beatrice Elachi at county offices on 10/9/2018. [Beverlyne Musili,Standard]

As the year comes to an end, Kenyans will remember events that defined 2018 and the roller coaster of emotions that made it memorable. What stood out this year was the resilience when disaster hit, and how slowly but painfully, people rose amid the chaos and rebuilt the ruins. Humour was the glue that held people together, and some phrases are etched in our minds. Some of them include:

This phrase was reportedly recorded by Migori Governor Okoth Obado during the investigation of the murder of his girlfriend Sharon Otieno. He claimed to have opened up to his wife as soon as he discovered Sharon was pregnant. Kenyans went wild; creating scenarios of how a Kenyan woman would react if her husband uttered those words. “Your whole face would be scarred before you finish that statement...,” mused a user on Twitter.

I am not boarding

Nothing will ever replace the image of Miguna Miguna clutching on the cap on his head and pushing police officers forcing him on a plane to Canada; a few hours after he had landed at JKIA. “I am not boarding!” Miguna yelled, causing a stand-off at the airport, and immortalising that phrase into Kenyan history. It became one of the most used words online and offline. When Kenyans wanted to show displeasure, all they needed to say was: “I am not boarding!” or “The Captain cannot fly,” and people got it.

Firifiri kwa masho/huyo ni kriminoo

Before this phrase, nominated Nairobi MCA, Mary Njambi rarely featured in news or social media. Things changed in September when she appeared on screen, veins popping, bloodshot eyes, yelling why Nairobi County Assembly Speaker Beatrice Elachi was not fit for office. Elachi, she alleged, had poured “firifiri” (pepper) in their masho (eyes) and that made her a kriminoo (criminal). Njambi’s phrase became a sensation and a song was composed with the word.

The divorce will be noisy, messy and will have casualties

His demeanour was calm when he said it, but the weight of his words was felt as soon as they left his mouth. Moses Wetang’ula was fed up with how NASA members – were treating him. If there was going to be a split, he vowed to raise dust. Kenyans were amused by his declaration, especially after an anti-climax that followed Wetang’ula’s silence when asked what he plans to do. The phrase quickily became popular whenever one wanted to make a threat, whether real or imagined.

Over da bar!

A Nigerian shouting Over da bar! when Gylfi Sigurdsson of Iceland was preparing to take a penalty shot against Nigeria in the 2018 world cup sneaked into people’s vocabulary. It was mostly used to mean “Fingers are crossed that good things will happen.”

 Woman eater

From the moment Justice James Wakiaga said those words in court during the ruling in Joseph Irungu, alias Jowie’s case, it lit fire on social media. Jowie was being charged with the murder of Monica Kimani, and the judge said he was female version of “slay queen and for “lack of better terminology,” a woman eater. It became a moniker given to the men who live off women, dress in expensive clothes, and spend the better part of their days taking selfies and sneaking into women’s inboxes to solicit for sexual favours. 

You can do me nothing

TJ Kajwang’ was furious. The discussion in bunge was about increment of tax, and emotions were high and the system was determined to win the vote. Frustrated, Kajwang spewed words in Luo, including “You can do me nothing,” a phrase that people picked up and use in every day conversations, especially when showing displeasure.

I will call you using a Nigerian number

The plan was simple. Raila was to be sworn in as  people’s president on January 30. NASA co-principals - Kalonzo, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula said the instruction was for them to switch off their phones, and wait for a call from a Nigerian number to communicate where they will meet before proceeding to the ceremony. The call never came. The next thing they saw was a televised event swearing Raila in. Their account was hilarious, and Kenyans, true to their fashion, picked up the statement and started using it whenever they wanted to cheekily avoid a conversation. “I owe you money? Just switch off your phone, I will call you on my Nigerian number.”

Riparian land

This word was used several times during the demolition of buildings that had been built adjacent to rivers. Most people admitted to never having heard of the word, and it became a euphemism filled with sexual innuendos. It is also during the Riparian discussion that Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu made the infamous: “Let them move the rivers” statement that also earned its place among the most used words. 

Bora uhai

(Loosely translated to “as long as there is life”). As scandals were unearthed in different sectors of government, Kenyans got frustrated. The despondence and apathy that followed was summariwsed in a statement “bora uhai” to mean everything else does not matter.

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