New Slang—Makeshift
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Nairobi’s Sheng reveals how mixing cultures forces the rapid evolution of street languages

— New Slang

He’s garbed in a yellow suit, black folder in hand. His hair is neat and shaven, but a blanket of grey hair tells a tale of old. His eyes, wide open and warm. His mouth turns up into a smile, and a shattering “hello” emerges to reveal a neatly arranged set of teeth.

Some people call him “Chairman”; others know him as Joe Akech, the former mayor of Nairobi. Akech was born in the Kenyan capital in 1947, during the colonial period. The city was stratified—British in affluent western areas, Indian immigrants in the central part, and Africans who migrated from rural areas in search of employment settled in the congested “Eastlands”.

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