'Marhino' and other Sheng words for police officers

In Nairobi, popular words include Sanse, Ponye and Sonyi

In Summary

• Every hood has a Sheng word used by the youth to refer to a police officer

Police officers on alert
Police officers on alert
Image: FILE

Have you noticed that when a police officer is around, there is always some tension with the people around?

Turns out cops have Sheng nicknames, too. Or to put it in Sheng, Oya, wasee, kaeni rada coz makarau pia wamepewa jina zao za Sheng. 

In every mtaa, a police officer has a Sheng word used by the young people to refer to them. In Nairobi, for example, if you hear the name Karau, you definitely know it is referring to a man in uniform.

Sheng words have extended even to our matatus, where police are referred to as Marhino. Kevo, a matatu tout, says, "Rhino ni jina ya heshima jina kubwa." 

Mohammed, a resident of Likoni, Mombasa county, told the Star coastal people tend to be quite informal generally in their day-to-day language use. Therefore, the use of Sheng is widespread.

"Sheng is often used virtually anywhere: mitaani, barabarani, manyumbani, sehemu za starehe," he said. "Na sio vijana pekee lakini hata wale walio na umri wa miaka 40 ama 50, utapata wengine wanatumia lugha hizo. Hata akina mama wa kipwani utawasikia wakiwaita askari Mapai!"

Other Sheng words for police officers are: Mamwera, Manjagu and Masampa (especially popular during the 1990s). "Mwamwera and Mapai seem to be the more popular versions in recent years in Coasto," Mohammed said.

In Nairobi, popular words include Sanse, Ponye, Sonyi, Gava, Beast, Vedi, Smarta, Mambang'a and Njege.