Why do Ghanaians say “Charlie”?

Charlie, pronounced “charley” has its roots in our colonial times. See Ghana was previously the Gold Coast under British imperial rule. The British lords had many names obviously but for some reason, the ones that stood out were Charlie and Jack. The names became so popular amongst the Gold Coasters (Ghanaians) that we began to refer to strangers as Charlie/Jack, much like how Americans use “dude”. Overtime, Charlie was bastardized “Charley” though Jack remained Jack. Anyone at all can be Charley, well anyone except the older folks haha. You’ve got to show respect to them. But amongst themselves they use Charley too. Jack is less popular.

There are other words that stuck from colonial times like “Sah” = “Sir”, Yessuh” = “Yes sir” and “Massa” = “Master”, “Boss” = “Bossu”( my personal favourite), Commander, Major and the ever useful Chairman! They’re all usually used in a funny way, maybe to praise a friend or to calm a stranger down. Massa is more aggressive though. For eg:

Bossu, I beg pass me the beer.

Chairman! I beg let this slide next time I’ll remember to carry my license.

Oh commander, make you reason with me make I give you half the price?

Massa massa don’t make me angry.

My mother tells me they used to use “Johnny” in her time but I guess the Nigerians have that now.

Ghana is a really jovial country and we’re always finding humour even where there isn’t. I really love this place. The next time you’re in Ghana, call your tour guide Charley. Or better still, salute your taxi driver and say “Major! Everything cool?”

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