Why Are So Many Ghanaians Called Charlie or “Challey?!”



If you are Ghanaian or have been around Ghanaian people, there is a particular expression or a name that you would’ve heard people calling each other. The word I am referring to, as many would’ve guessed from the title is “Challey!”

The term “Challey” is used as a substitute to calling a person by their birth name and falls into the informal, slang/pidgin English category of the national language. As with many countries around the globe, Ghanaians and other West Africans have a word that they use to call a stranger or a friend without having to use their name.

To put this in context, here are some phrases that incorporate the word:

“Challey that girl is fine Oooh”
“Challey! Where are you…?! We are waiting!!”
“Challey how far now?” (Translation: Hi, my friend) 

The expression is used in the same way that others around the globe will use some of the following:

United Kingdom: “Old chap”, “Bruv”, “Blud”, “Fam”, “Mate”, “Pal”, “Babe”, “Darlin’”
United States: “Buddy”, “Dude”, “Cuz”,”Girlfriend”
Mexico: “Homes”, “Ese”, “dog”,”Amigo”
Jamaica: “Bredrin”,”Bredda”, “Dread”, “My Yute”, “Rude bwoi”

Many countries adopt some of these phrases but you get the picture!

So we know the word and how it is used, but the question I’ve always had is why?!
Why do Ghanaians always call each other “Challey”? When did it start and where does it come from?

In the 1940s, when Ghana was still the “Gold Coast” and under the rule of the British Empire, they were part of the Allies that served in World War Two. These soldiers helped to form the West African Division  and fought in Burma against the Japanese.

Unfortunately, this division are rarely mentioned in the history books or history lessons and are referred to as “Britains Forgotten Soldiers”. According to historians, “80% of the troops who fought in Burma were people of colour”.

During the war, many of the American soldiers were actually stationed in Accra.  AfricansInWorldWar2_myghanaroots

As is evident in communities across the world, slang terms develop.
This was no different during war. One of the slang terms heavily used during World War Two was “Charlie”, which was a derogatory reference to the enemy or the Japanese more specifically.

The American soldiers would use radio broadcasts as part of their communication to the Allies and often used the term “Charlie”. Apparently, the Ghanaian soldiers at base picked up this term and began using it in a different context along with the Ghanaian accent, turning Charlie into the “Challey” we know today!

So “Challey” there you have it!! Please feel free to share via Twitter & Facebook

3 Responses to “Why Are So Many Ghanaians Called Charlie or “Challey?!””
  1. sam says:

    Does anyone know what the west african slang for IB2B means?

  2. Sammy says:

    ….but Challey, Ghanaians don’t say ‘How far now?’; we say ‘ How far?’. Nigerians however say the former.

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