Senegalese Names: Fun Tongue Twisters…

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Step 1: See work is closed on Wednesday for Assumption Day, whatever that is. Step 2: Begin to form plan in head. Step 3: Inform your husband about 19 seconds later you’re going to take vacation days Thursday and Friday, piggybacking on the random Wednesday off, and jet to Spain.

Barcelona, here we come in about T-minus four hours! We’re also going to drive up to the little country of Andorra for a day. I will have a balcony, booze and a boy. And a Pyrenees mountain to stare at. The only way it could be better is if the sky suddenly started raining Runts.

Here’s a subject jump that has no connection: I love Senegalese names. They’re pretty and fun to say – and some are downright funny. Here are a few favorites I’ve collected during the past year.

  • Lotta Gaye (yes, Gaye is pronounced “gay”)
  • Soda (a woman’s name)
  • Daddy Jack (this guy was actually from the Gambia, but close enough)
  • Pape Diop (the di- sound in Senegal sounds like a J – so, for my unconditioned toubab tongue, this name becomes Pop Jop)
  • Boobs (phonetic spelling), a shortened version of Bubacar
  • Everything ending in -ou: Abou, Abdou, Hapsitou, Apsitou, Fatou, Bintou
Also, common names are really common. Think a lot of people have the last name Smith? That’s beans compared to Diallo. Or Jalloh. Or Jallow. All said the same way. At work, we have an entire filing cabinet drawer dedicated to Diallo alone. Every third man seems to be named Mohamed or Mamadou. And sometimes siblings will have the same first name but go by different middle names, such as sisters named Ndeye Awa and Ndeye Yacine.
Got more favorites to add? Comment below!
Rachael Cullins
Rachael Cullins is a twentysomething American girl living in Dakar, Senegal, with her husband and two dogs. She blogs about her adventures in Senegal and travels elsewhere in West Africa. She will reside in Dakar until summer 2013, when she and her family will move to another foreign post as part of her husband's career with the U.S. government. In addition to West Africa, she has traveled to France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Italy and Costa Rica and plans to continually add to that list.
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