‘…a-thon!’ New kid on the block?

‘…a-thon!’ New kid on the block?

In recent times, two Ghanaian ladies embarked on endurance projects to get themselves into the Guinness World Records books.

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Both had the suffix “…..a-thon” to the name of their objective.

So, in what she called “sing-a-thon,” journalist Afua Asantewaa Aduonum, in Accra, set herself the task of breaking the world record for the longest singing duration.

Starting on December 24, 2023, she ended on December 29, 2023, after singing for 126 hours and 52 minutes.

Similarly, Tamale-based Chef Failatu Abdul-Razak, in what she called “cook-a-thon,” cooked for 227 continuous hours in January 2024 in an attempt to break the world’s longest cooking record.

Indeed, after their unimpressive performance at the AFCON 23 in la Cote d’Ivoire, the Black Stars were described as embarking on a “lose-a-thon!”

So, what is this suffix “…a-thon” which has made such inroads into Ghanaian English?

Earlier in the early 1980s, a new suffix, “gate’ gained popularity, deriving from the Watergate Scandal in the US.

‘…gate’

 The Watergate scandal was a major political scandal in the United States involving the administration of President Richard Nixon from 1972 to 1974, which led to Nixon's resignation, the first by an American president.

The scandal stemmed from the Nixon administration's attempts to cover up its involvement in the June 17, 1972, break-in/burglary of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C., at the Watergate Office Building.

Out of the Watergate burglary scandal, the use of the suffix “...gate” was born.

So, scandals were described by the addition of the suffix, …gate!”. An example is the “Iran-gate” scandal of 1986.

The Iran–Contra affair was a political scandal in the United States that occurred between 1981 and 1986.

Government officials secretly facilitated the illegal sale of arms to Iran, which at the time was subjected to an arms embargo.

Proceeds from the arms sales were hoped to be used to fund the Contras, an anti-Sandinista rebel group in Nicaragua.

This was to circumvent the US official position of the cessation of financial support to the anti-government rebel group, the Contras.

Later, investigative reports revealed that the profits from “Iran-gate” were actually intended for Regan’s second-term presidential campaign.

So, in the English Language now, any scandal can be described by fixing “…. gate” as the suffix. 

Any “...gates” for Ghana?

…a-thon!

What is this new kid on the block “...a-thon?”

The suffix “…a-thon,” derived originally from the Greek village of “Marathon,” is explained as; “forming a noun denoting an action/activity which is carried on for a very long time or on a very large scale.”

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Thus, talking for a long time becomes “talk-a-thon.”

 Walking becomes “walk-a-thon” and reading, “read-a-thon.” (Wikipedia)

Marathon’s history

History has it that in the years before Christ (BC), over two thousand years ago, Persia, modern-day Iran, and Greece were mortal enemies.

They had fought a series of wars, with Persia gaining territory.

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In 490 BC, the two armies fought in what Persia believed was going to be the final “showdown” against Greece.

However, at the battle fought at the Greek village of Marathon, the Greek Army comprehensively beat Persia.

Philippides, a Greek soldier and a long-distance runner was tasked to courier the good news to the authorities in Athens, the capital.

He is said to have run non-stop from Marathon to Athens.

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When he burst into the Greek Chamber-of-Magistrates, the equivalent of our Parliament, he shouted “Joy to you. 

We have won!” With the news delivered, he collapsed and died of exhaustion.

The distance Philippides ran from Marathon to Athens was twenty-six miles, three-hundred and 85 yards (26 miles, 385 yards).

In the metric system, it is 42 kilometres and 200 metres (42.2 kilometres.)

When the modern Olympics started in 1896, Greece, the first host, decided to have an event covering the distance Philippides ran from Marathon to Athens.

This was to honour and immortalise Philippides, as well as the name Marathon.

To this day, the Marathon-race is the longest and perhaps the most difficult race in athletics, testing athletes’ endurance, and physical and mental strength.

Singing-marathon (Sing-a-thon)

In December 2023, Asantewaa announced she would be attempting to break the record for the longest individual singing marathon, “sing-a-thon!” She began singing on December 24, 2023, at Akwaaba Village, Accra.

She broke the record on December 28, 2023.

On December 29, 2023, Asantewaa concluded her attempt, having sung for 126 hours and 52 minutes. 

Cooking-marathon (Cook-a-thon)

Chef Failatu Abdul-Razak aimed at shattering the world record, cooking continuously for over 227 hours.

Clad in the national flag, Abdul-Razak concluded the “cook-a-thon” with an emotional salute in Tamale, describing it as a "national assignment," dedicated to Ghana.

So, while individuals have embarked on personal projects like ’sing-a-thon” and “cook-a-thon, what is Ghana’s “...a-thon” project as a nation to get us into the Guinness World Records book?

Soon after independence in 1957, Ghana became a force to reckon with in Athletics, Boxing, cocoa production, etc.

Above all, the Ghanaian had dignity and was respected everywhere.

Today, we are a pale shadow of ourselves, excelling in negatives like galamsey, wiping out of savings/investments of retirees in bonds, Orwellian “doublespeak,”/outright lies, denigrating of our first president Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, disrespecting/insulting fellow Ghanaians and promoting mediocrity, etc.

Let us stop “majoring in minors,” and eschew defending indefensible scandalous “…..gates!”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the essayist, stated: “If a man can write a better book, or preach a better sermon or make a better mousetrap than his neighbour, even if he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door!”

Perhaps, from this, one can recommend “….a-thons” of Leadership, Integrity, Meritocracy and Discipline for Ghana.

Leadership, lead by example! Fellow Ghanaians, WAKE UP!

The writer is former CEO of African Peace Support Trainers Association, Nairobi, Kenya/Council Chair Family Health University College, Accra. 

E-mail: [email protected] 

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