The writer
The writer

Flying insults

You can always tell the approach of the active political season and elections by the rise in the number of insults in public discourse. 


Someone’s reaction to my article on the Ho airport was: “Don’t mind that ugly old woman” It is supposed to be a great insult, I am told.

 I am old and I am a woman and telling me what is true and I am rather proud of, cannot be an insult and certainly doesn’t hurt.

As for the ugly bit, I am ready to wear it as a badge of honour.

I have been wondering if there was an increase in the use of insults and the free use of so much bad language or if it has always been part of our politics.

Once upon a time, the insults were mostly verbal and those who were good at it never had to use a crude or obscene word but they were so clever with manipulating words that they could inflict maximum damage with a few choice of words.


A few weeks ago, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) took to electronic billboards with LIAR emblazoned on them as their answer to Dr Mahamudu Bawumia’s big speech that spelt out his vision for Ghana if elected to be president of the country. It is brave and we shall see how it works.

So, I ask myself, have things changed in any way since the start of competitive politics and campaigning in this country?

My earliest memory of political activity goes back to 1956 in what was Trans Volta Togoland during the plebiscite campaign.

I recall that the Convention People’s Party (CPP) people who wanted integration with the Gold Coast would shout FREEDOM and the Togoland Congress people who did not want to join the Gold Coast would shout ABLODE, which is Ewe for Freedom. 

Make of it what you will, but it led to lots of acrimony, the business of some people wanting Freedom and others wanting Ablode.

Recently, I saw an old photo of CPP demonstrations against the United Party (UP).

There was certainly some imaginative use of language.

Take this placard, for example, mocking the UP as it was better known.      

Useless People in Useless Party, with Untrained Politicians practising Unknown Politics.

Now, try improving upon that.  


Then my mind goes back to 2010 when there was an uproar in the country when a young man, said to be a supporter of the main opposition party, which would be the New Patriotic Party (NPP) at the time, said on the radio that the President of the Republic looks like a chimpanzee.

Mercifully for everyone, the President, or to be accurate, “the Presidency” ordered the Police not to bother about prosecuting the young man-- he of the foul mouth.

 I am not sure what the charge would have been but I am certainly glad we were spared the headlines every day as the case winds its way through the courts as the lawyers try to determine if calling someone a chimpanzee was an insult.

 We would doubtless hear about the endearing nature of chimpanzees and I have friends who would testify about how lovely and loving chimpanzees are and being compared to them can, therefore, not be an insult.

I remember the young man being disowned publicly by his friends and political allies.


He then sought to defend himself by saying he had used the offending words as a result of having been provoked beyond human endurance.

How was he provoked, I hear you ask.

The other young man on the panel with him at the radio station, who belonged to the ruling party (at that time, the NDC) had apparently called the opposition leader, a frog!

You see where we are heading, the young man’s leader having been called a frog, was left with no other choice than to call the opposite number, a chimpanzee!

Growing up

When I was growing up, the biggest insult on the playground had to do with something you say you did to the person you were angry with and when you were too well brought up to actually verbalise those words, you used a hand signal.


And then as you grew up, you discovered that our languages had intricate ways of allowing you to dish out insults without sounding offensive.

The most famous being the people who, when provoked, would tell you something that translates: “I do beg your pardon, with the greatest respect, you are a fool”.

And then there is the very interesting word, “TAFLATSE” that once used, allows you to get away with most insults without sounding crude.

Once grown up, you discovered that among the elders, the biggest insults had to do with human behaviour; as in stealing, being lazy and showing signs of not having been brought up well.


I am not quite sure when animals got into the act and at which point it became more of an insult to be called an animal.

This is the country where once you are a public figure, it seems acceptable to be called a thief, a rogue and even a murderer, and nobody will bat an eyelid.

People employ very crude and violent language on placards at demonstrations and no attempt is made to be poetic or play with words.  

If you write a column offering opinions that people are likely to disagree with, it comes with the territory to be insulted.

If you are a female and in public office, the insults are more colourful. 


I recall my doomed attempt to get into Parliament in 2004.

Some of the printable names I was called during the course of the election campaign were a prostitute, a concubine and a childless spinster. 

When I complained, and since then, every time I have narrated this story, I am told I should understand it was “political talk”!  

In other words, during political discourse, you can be called any name, you can be insulted and you shouldn’t make a fuss.

When there was that uproar about the President being called a chimpanzee and the opposition leader being called a frog, I wondered if I would have got some sympathy if I had been compared to an animal instead of being called a prostitute. 

As for an ugly, old woman, I am wearing it with pride.

I must confess, I have been guilty of this myself.

And it wasn’t even a political opponent, we were, we are very much on the same political fence.

I once called somebody a worm, to his face. 

I was that angry and even now when I think back on it, I believe I did an injustice to worms by comparing that man to a worm.

I don’t know if he felt insulted by being called a worm.

But I was throwing the worst insult I could think of at him.     

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