‘Spewing buffalos’: Uganda’s ‘Uglish’ English

A “detoother” or a “dentist” is a gold-digger looking for a wealthy partner, and “spewing out buffalos” means you can’t speak proper English.

Those and other terms are articles in Uganda’s strange, often funny locally adapted English known as “Uglish,” which is now published for the first time.

“It is so entrenched right now that, even when you think you cannot use it, you actually find yourself speaking Uglish,” said Bernard Sabiiti, author of Uglish: A Dictionary of Ugandan English. The dictionary went on sale across the east African country late last year.

It contains hundreds of Uglish terms, some coined by Ugandans as far back as the colonial period.

Sabiiti, 32, said the informal patois was greatly influenced by the local Luganda language.

He said it is a “symptom of a serious problem with our education system” he claims has been deteriorating since the 1990s.

Uglish is largely dependent on sentences being literally translated, word for word, from local dialects with little regard for context, while vocabulary used is derived from standard English.

But Sabiiti said everyone from the president to simple farmers speak at least some Uglish.

One phrase commonly used when discussing sex and relationships is “live sex”, which means unprotected sex.

Sabiiti’s book has proven popular among the middle class, including academics, and with locals and foreigners. To date it has sold about 1000 copies.