Ke Cha?

For work today I organized an African culture program– there was food, live music, African vendors and artisans and information tables set up by students who have studied abroad. I do it each year during Black History Month and call it the “African Caribbean Marketplace.”

So there was a funny story from the Marketplace today. I was talking to one of the Cameroonian vendors– their “market stall” was manned by a husband/wife team. The wife was American and had lived in Cameroon for 16 years, and she met her husband there. He used to work in the Cameroonian tourist industry, but came back to the US with his wife two years ago, and now helps some of this artisan friends sell handmade African products in the US.

When he found out that I understood French he started switching over to the language he felt most comfortable in, but when his wife would overhear she would say, “No no French… try practicing your English. You are always cheating” The husband’s English was pretty good, having not spoken a word of English before he arrived in the US, he had come a long way. Occasionally he threw in a French word here or there but he was definitely understandable.

However he kept apologizing for his “poor English” and said, “My wife, she is American, but still my English is not so good.”

I said to him, “Don’t worry– my partner, he is from another country too. Do you know the tallest mountain in the world? Mt. Everest? He is from that country.”– the guy looked at me blankly, he had no idea where I was talking about.

“Anyway, I live with him and see him everyday, but I can barely speak any of his language. Don’t worry, your English is so much better than what I can speak of his language.”

Then he asked, “What language does your husband speak?”

I answered, “Nepali.”

“Ohhh, Nepal. I have a friend from Nepal. We work together at the Whole Foods in Boston.” He said.

“Do you want to surprise him?” I asked. There are a lot of Nepalis in Boston, so I wasn’t surprised he knew someone. “Next time you see him, ask him ke cha. It basically means ‘how are you?’ in Nepali.”

His eyes widened. “What? How do you say?”

Ke cha.

He repeated it a few times and when I told him he had it right he smiled. “You know, this word… it also has meaning in my mother tongue.”

“Oh yeah?” I asked, “What does it mean?”

“Well,” he said, “When a women has, hmmm, how you say? A big, a nice… butt. A nice back-end. This, this is what ke cha means. Not just ‘big’ but ‘big and nice’ like nice shape. Like ‘that woman has a ke cha.

Well, that wasn’t what I was expecting. So we both had a hardy laugh.

“I guess it goes the other way too… you know the capital of Senegal?” (another French speaking West African country).

“Yes, Dakar.” He answered.

“Well in my partner’s language, ‘dakar’ means ‘burp.'”

He looked at me funny and said, “What this means?” He turned to his wife and she said in French, “After you eat a lot of food you make a sound with your mouth, like ‘errp’ this is what it is called in English.”

“People do this much here?” He asked.

“Well, not really, it is not considered polite.” she said.

“Back home its very good to ‘burp‘ after eating. Everyone does this. It means the food was good.”

And we laughed a little more on the quirkiness of language and culture.

So anyway– now when ever I say “ke cha” I’m going to think about a woman’s– how you say, “big, nice butt”– this expression has changed now for me forever ;)

13 responses to “Ke Cha?

  1. ha ha – very funny. my brother will get a kick out of it.

  2. Nice story.. :D

    Kamala is girl’s name in Nepal but in Finnish it means “Horrible/Gross”. Also Nepali girl’s name Muna has two meanings in Finnish, they are “Egg/Dick”.

    Those girls are living in Finland and I bet they hear about their names every day.

    As well Finnish boy’s name Joni [yoni] means vagina in Nepali. And many more…

    • americanepali

      That is kind of like my sister’s name– “Maura” which when pronounced in Nepali is a word used as an insult and means something like “you stupid jerk.” When introducing my sister to Nepali people, its also kind of funny…

  3. To me ke chha sounds like ke tsaa with some hiss before the aspiration. I think there are so many words from language to language that can have bizarre meanings. Cola means ass, not fizzy drink in Spanish, for example. It’s always amusing to learn things like this. Who knows when this little information about how to say nice shapely ass in this guy’s Cameroonian language will come in handy. Ya nevah know :D .

  4. hahha great post. It’s amazing how different the meaning of words are in different languages. i’ll have to tell rabindra this one

  5. Hey there; just started reading your blog and really love it! this post really made me smile; it reminded me of the keer incident! You will all know keer? The famous Indian desert? When I first offered my husband keer, I thought he was going to have a heart attack!! (I didn’t know, that keer in Farsi is a slang word for …, hmmmm, a male private part of the anatomy?). Any way, from then on I have to do a bit of ground work whenever we visit Indian/Pakistani friends, and beg them to serve us any thing in the world but keer! Its just way too embarrassing for all concerned!

    • americanepali

      Hi Roshini

      That’s hilarious. I have several Iranian students, so I’ll have to keep that in mind :)

      • americanepali

        Actually I just shared your story with our ESL teacher here– who lived in Iran in the 70s, and all I had to say was, “she offered her Iranian husband kheer” and he started to giggle and said, “oh dear.” ;)

  6. I def like you blog and ur posts crack me up. this is one is just funny. but just wanted to make things clear. “ke cha” actually means whats up or whats happening rather than how are you. i don wanna sound like a language freak and also it seems u know Nepalese well. i wud say Kasto hununcha, kasto chas, kasto chau, as the right way but even in Nepal not many people say that. People say aramai or aramai hununcha or sanchai hunucha which is the best and the genuine Nepali way of saying How are u.

    take care

  7. Btw “chaa ke” in nepali means “the one with big ass.”

  8. wonderful blog site on nepal, thank you for promoting caring loving natural nepal

  9. This is amazing—I was googling for romantic Nepali phrases and I arrived here! I just returned from Kathmandu where my wife, Reshma, and I were recently married. I’m (as you can probably already tell) a scandanavian american. She is Newari. I have friends here in the US who are an American/Nepali couple, but finding a blog about “us” is very cool. I’ll be reading this a lot in the coming months waiting for US Immigration to do its stuff. Thanks, Pete

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