Muzungo Meanings – Part 1: Celebrity

Muzungo is the Ugandan word for “white person” (referring to skin colour, of course). But I think, from the experience I have had with this word, that’s not really the most accurate translation. You see when translating a word we should also look at the context its used in, as well as the literal meaning behind it (in my opinion anyway, if you’re a translator and I’m talking utter rubbish feel free to comment below!) When they are translating the services from English to the local language they can sometimes come up with rather long sentences in exchange for what what a rather short point. This is because they can’t always transcribe the words exactly, they sometimes need to explain what the word means and how its being used.

So lets look at the word and how people use it and see what the meaning could be, with a little help from my mother, and her reactions when seeing “Christian Celebrities”.

Context: To be used when seeing a white man or women.

English Use: That man over there is has white skin.

Translation: White Person

Context: To shout after said white person as they are walking passed.

English Use: “Oh look it’s Tim Hughes!”

Translation: Celebrity

Context: To say while following a white person down the street.

English Use: “Let’s follow Matt Redman and see where he’s going, maybe we can eat lunch at the same place as Matt Redman eats lunch!”

Translation: Celebrity

Context: To say while staring at a white person as if you have never seen a white person before

English Translation: “I can’t believe it’s Chris Lawson Jones! Standing over there, its really him!”

Translation: Celebrity

Context: To use as a greeting to encourage said person to wave at you.

English Use: “Ben! Ben Cantalon? Hello Ben! Look at me! Wave Ben!”

Translation: Celebrity

As you can see, we have a clear winner. For the context it’s mostly used, a more accurate translation would be celebrity. There’s another meaning for the word that I will explore in a future post, but for now, If some of the children who follow me had cameras, they would be nicknamed the paparazzi!

Note: Please look at the heart behind the post, it’s aim is to help you understand how people respond to white people here in Uganda, rather than to make you think I’m a celebrity, or for you to assume I think that of myself, far from it.

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