What’s in a name?

I have a bad (?) habit of falling asleep on my way home. After all, Bridge is just a few hundred metres from my last stop. Many a time, I’ve been shaken awake, a scowl on the dream killer’s face, with a sharp, “Last stop.” Normally, it’s straight to the kelewele seller, who starts wrapping my usual order – once with someone’s CV – before I get there. After our quick pleasantries I start the hike home, munching on greasy fried plantain.

On one journey, however, we hit a pothole so hard that only the dead would remain unconscious. The driver ignored our abuse. The mate, who certainly couldn’t have been a day into his teens, shouted in his not-quite-broken voice, “Kerf!” Pardon? That was a new one. I’ve heard “Awutse” and a few other strange shouts, but what does “Kerf” mean? He yelled again, the strain on his face showing he’d expended more energy. It didn’t sound like a single decibel had been added. Someone nodded. He turned to the driver, “Away to Kerf.” A bus-stop? Of course! CURVE! How unorthodox. I smiled and returned to Dreamland in haste.

Which part of this place looks like a roundabout?

Any newcomer to the niche world of public transport in Accra could easily identify how “Eye Clinic” or “Shangri-La” got their names, but what about “Sankara Down” and “Popolampo”?

Back in the day I took the Circle route to work. A few passengers would get off at “Equip”. Now, nothing in Ghana has a name for no reason. Turns out that what is Busy Internet today used to be a company that sold technical equipment, called – no prizes for guessing – Equip. So, ask no questions, the stop’s called Equip. End of story. Never mind that most mates were running around their villages in pioto the last time Equip Ltd made a sale.

One time around Jubilee House, I turned away from the lady seated by me because her loud and constant gum-chewing was getting on my very last nerve. The side of a trotro next to us in traffic with the inscription, “Haatso-Rabbit” caught my eye. I didn’t bother finding out the origins of this one. I remember thinking that the residents of the area should’ve chosen a more inspirational creature to name their neighbourhood after. It dawned on me, however, that there was probably something relating to rabbits that was representative of the area. Old residents of Dansoman would affirm that the name “Akukofoto” came about because – you guessed it – there was a large billboard with a chicken on it advertising nothing more than a poultry farm. (While we’re at it, for the love of God, could someone please tell me why on earth one bus-stop in East Legon is called Banku Junction?!)

“Sweezair!” Our mate bellowed again the name of another bus-stop which bears no relevance to the present day. Swissair has long been defunct, but don’t expect the area to be renamed. It’s just like any bus-stop named “Mobil”. Of course, the public transport service operators don’t care that Total bought Mobil with all their filling stations in Ghana. It was Mobil at the turn of the century, Mobil it is, Mobil it will remain, world without end.

On one trip home, this Chinese girl said she would get off at Airport Second. No problem. The mate went on collecting his money. As soon as we sped past the Airport traffic lights, the lady started frantically shouting in shrill broken English, making a big nuisance of herself, and an already uncomfortable ride even more unbearable. The poor confused

This bus-stop could be called anything and you'd just have to accept it

driver wanted to know what the commotion was about. She replied that we had passed her stop. Not a chance. We weren’t even there yet. We parked. She stomped away, leaving a few choice words for the mate to ponder over.

Any experienced commuter would know that she had got the naming wrong. You see, where two stops are close together – “Airport”, for example – then one is “First”, and the other is “Second”. At the other side of the road, what was “First” becomes “Second”, and “Second” becomes “First”.

Confusing? Most newcomers, after missing their stop a few times, learn the system quickly. It’s even more baffling at places like Opeibea, where on the route TO Accra there’s only one “Opeibea”, but on the route FROM Accra, there’s “Opeibea First” and “Opeibea Second”. Worse still, at Bawaleshie, one bus-stop is called “School”. Directly across the road, it’s “Bawaleshie First”. Please pass the paracetamol.

This is my route. I’m sure there are more interesting bus-stops that I’ve not heard of before that you can share, origins and all.

There’s always a reason for a name, no matter how strange, funny or seemingly irrelevant. After all, one major crossroad in Kumasi is still called Amakom Roundabout.


About Kwaku Dankwa

By day, I'm an advertising copywriter. That's what I've done all my working life (National Service doesn't count). Husband of Esther, father of Jesse and twin boys Mark and Andrew, and servant of Christ. I previously wrote a blog on the dramatic side of public transport in Accra, "The Daily Commute: From Bridge to Ridge." Enjoy.
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43 Responses to What’s in a name?

  1. benanyan says:

    lol, there’s a rasta guy who fixes bicycles at my jxn, i think he’s fighting to have it named after him, & i think it just might work. lol refreshing reading tho 🙂

  2. Tetekai says:

    I love your trotro stories. You are so right about the bus stops. I hadn’t noticed the Airport stops interchange depending on the lane; wow, thanks.

  3. Ghanawoman says:

    I thoroughly love reading your blog. I’ll be sure to check out the tro tro stops when next in Ghana!

  4. Ama says:

    This one was great, loved it!

    How do you eat kelewele every day and still look like you haven’t been fed for days ; ). And I hope you share it with all available nieces and nephews!!!!

  5. Nicholas says:

    love it … Good read to end my day at work. Keep them coming .. Once the
    informal transport sector exists this casual naming of bus stops wud persist. Gotta live with it and keep taking paracetamol pills if u ponder about it.

  6. Abimbola says:

    lol!!! you had me at “kerf!”

  7. lyzza says:

    i totally agree with u. I once fell prey to the opeibea stop. I wanted to get down at silver towers, so i told the mate i’ll alight at opeibea, it wasn’t till i was asked to get down did i realise there were two stops. Of course pride dictated that i get down anyway and its quite a distance between the 2 stops (to walk that is)it was raining (no umbrella of course) and i was in a hurry so i had to part with 2 ghana cedis for taxi. Anyway serves me right for abondoning trotro for the comfort of owning a car

  8. Fo Johnny says:

    Nice one Nana. Couldn’t stop laughing. Some day we will have a stop called two chickens lol. You were talking about numbered buses, can you believe I was one a bus that drove the wrong way yesterday? Laughed my head off!

  9. Sharl says:

    I love this one K. I live at Haatso but not Haatso-rabbit. actually i’m told a long time ago before most of the houses in that area were built there was a big rabbit farm there. I guess the name just stuck cos it’s still called that. I once fell in that same Airport first & second junction stop thing. The driver ignored my “educated” pleas and i had to endure a sulking walk back. At Dome there is a filling station called “Excel” that no tro tro driver or mate seems to know or care to know. To their “blind eyes” its called Mobil due to the colour. “what is in a name? that which we call a rose, by any other name will smell so sweet”. I guess u just have to be smart and figure it out before u get to Bedlam. K, u really eat kelewele every eve?? looking at ur stature i think we should sue the woman!!!

  10. Aunty May says:

    Pass the paracetamol, period. One oldie would like to say, pieto and not pioto but anyway who gave you that pandora vocab?

  11. naa k says:

    i strongly believe brufen would do a better job…honestly

    great writing!!

  12. Abby says:

    Totally hilarious, loved it!!!!

  13. Mambozoma says:

    I can’t immediately think up any personal experience in this regard, will come back for that. However I just had to say I LOVED THIS ONE!! ‘kerf’! hahahahahahaaaa!!

  14. Samuel says:

    Nice one Kwaku, you should try the spintex road though!
    There is a bus stop called Shell Sign board and you guessed right! there is no signboard there. There used to be one there about 10 years ago when I commuted the road to Presec.
    There is another stop at the Bastonaa Total station called “Mobil” . Origin of the name is easy to find right? Total acquired Mobil some years back so the filling station used to be a Mobil station!

    • Kwaku Dankwa says:

      Oh, you got me on that one! So that’s how it became Shell Signboard! I was going to the Spintex Road once and got down at the Shell STATION. I had to walk the long journey to Shell Signboard. Me mmom, I was on the phone blasting the person I was going to meet that she wasn’t there, only for her to tell me that they’re two completely different places. Go figure.

  15. Julia says:

    Practice does make perfect. Looking forward to bragging about my connection to one great African writer!

  16. Raj says:

    As usual very funny. Now what beats my mind is the “Banku junction” i have asked myself several times how that name came about and almost all the time try to look out for a banku joint or even a kenkey seller around to justify the name but NOTHING!!! Same with “Swissair”… the first time i heard it i pulled out my head to see exactly where on that road the office was located. Did not find it and have not bothered to ask anyone. I only assume that those who alight there know exactly where they are going.

    Now a guess American house in East Legon will forever be known as that even though the supposedly American house has now been pulled down.

    And oh you got me on the “kerf”….couldn’t stop laughing.

    Well done!!!

    • sharl says:

      Funny enough i just relised that had Kwaku not mentioned Swissair i would still be assuming that it really does exists at present. I always hear it and i always say in my head “remind me to come here when i need to go to swizzerland or something”. wow!!! I’d probably still be searching for the place when my plane left. Good writing once again K.D

  17. Aquea Ameyaw says:

    lol ..lol… I think i now understand why there is currently no trace of an overhead bridge at Kwashieman-Santa Maria junction and yet the bus stop there is refered to as “overhead”. thanks for the insight.

  18. Aquea Ameyaw says:

    ….and I can also now imagine why the Odorkor – Awoshie route is referred to as “terrazo road” when the road itself is semi coal-tarred and full of waist-breaking pot holes. You might think the road is made of terrazo or something better…. quite intersting, inni!

  19. Sarah says:

    hi Kwaku, i had an experience yesterday taking the public bus here and it got me thinking. can you do a blog on passengers taking the tro tro with particulary offensive body odors? hope you can and can’t wait to read that lol

  20. Kwaku Dankwa says:

    I used to wonder why the stop is still called Sankara, long after the Thomas Sankara Circle was replaced by a modern interchange. But then, nothing in Accra really ever changes in that respect, does it? Trust me, when the Movenpick Ambassador is completed near the National Theatre, the stop right in front of it will still be named by the hotel’s competitor, yards behind it, and stars behind it: Novotel.

  21. Guy Lou says:

    Do the story on odours in the troskys. And is it a coincidence that them fellas with the really nauseating underarms are the ones who always have their arms leaning forward. OMG!!!!!

    Sarah, I got a story to tell

  22. Sulley says:


    I’ve fallen victim to the Opeibea stops so many times yet, I never learned. I’ve had to make the journey on foot so many times to my intended stop, cussing at myself all the while, either because I alighted before it or went past it. Its funny the memories your blog has brought up.

  23. Obenten says:

    Dear Asomasi, I am Obenten. For the sake of those who don’t know, in the Akan language Obenten is the companion of Asomasi in the sense that “Asomasi ne Obenten” translate into English as “This one and That one”.
    I have a question. So who can tell me who on earth gave the name of “Banku Junction” to that junction at East Legon. Did some man or woman ever sit there to sell banku or what? I love eating banku but I must confess that I can’t help feeling peeved that our beloved busy,major and popular junction should be named after banku. Why not “Trinity junction” since Trinity College is conveniently situated right in the middle along that road!!!
    Interestingly that road is also famous for roasted plantain and groundnuts. One can count “factories” after almost every twenty meters. Surely those women sellers should be rewarded with an appropriate name? But what? Any suggestions?
    That Rastaman bicycle repairer should keep on trying. Working at that junction long enough may well earn him a name—an easy way to get popular indeed! After all a junction in Kumasi got the name of “Adwii Nkwanta” (Monkey Junction) when a certain man used to sit there with his monkeys for sale some time ago.

  24. Jeous Adu Ariva Mendes says:

    G8 piece. Der iz a stop in my neighbourhood called ‘dua nase’. Meanin under the tree but the interestin thin is dat der is no tree any wher near

  25. Kwaku Dankwa says:

    I happened to stumble upon this video online about some confusion over a name. Na wo oo…


  26. Marian says:

    Kwaku, you are gifted. Keep going

  27. Lacy says:

    And what about Spanner Junction? I love saying it because it sounds like I really know my way around, but there are no spanners–apparently, long before the mall, there were a lot of wrenches (the American version of spanner) being sold there, and also possibly a billboard with wrenches on it. What I can’t figure out is whether other stops around Tetteh Quarshie are ALSO Spanner Junction, or if it’s just the Legon Road stop.

  28. Mawis says:

    Well, ever head of “Barima nkwan” junction on the Ayeduase-Kotei road just after KNUST? Well, I don’t know but I’ve never seen any men preparing soup there.

    I have noticed that we Ghanaians are very reluctant to change…..especially when it concerns a name. We hear a name once, and it sticks in the brain till ‘thy kingdom come’. It is not only with junctions and bus stops………….some items that were first of their kind to be introduced to Ghana, the names of actors in their first movies and so on. Just take a look at these few examples;

    Every newspaper is called GRAPHIC
    Soap………………………….KEY SOAP

    I wish I could give examples with our actors, unfortunately, I am also a victim as I’m stuck with the first names they used in movies. So folks, I guess I should not blame after all………………………….hehehehe

    • Gianluca Romeo says:

      Nice observation. Let me just add one thing: have you observed that all kind of breakfast are called tea? Whether real tea, chocolate, or nescafe, or milk. Whatever they use as a hot drink, they will say: “Mede yɛ tea”… What about that?

  29. Gianluca Romeo says:

    Kwaku, you are an acute observer, and you know how to make even the most odd look funny. I appreciate that. Concerning the comment on Spintex made above, after Shell signboard there is Shell though, but you still have to walk if you want to get to the real Shell. If you just say Shell they will get you to nearby junction, at a different filling station called Oando. I heard, that used to be the Shell, before it moved to its present position. But as tradition and custom demand, Shell is where it was, and it will be forever and ever. (Amen :D:D:D)

  30. esenam says:

    Hahahahahahahah Madina-Ashaley-botwe road has a stop called “Yellow sign board” i always wondered why it is so because i have never seen any supposed “yellow sign post” in that area. I was beginning to get frustrated with the search of the “Yellow sign board” i finally gave up. I have accepted it sign board or no sign board the area is called “YELLOW SIGN BOARD’

  31. Dannie says:

    Parraise is palace (now flag staff house) and mobree is Mobil.

  32. Your way with words, it’s beautiful.

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