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How the Ga name for grey baft came about

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The Ga people of Accra are an interesting people. Migrating from Nigeria, Niger, Ethiopia and beyond to settle at their present location, Accra, these people have a culture which is quite dynamic just like those of other ethnic groups in Ghana.

One of their interesting traits is adopting words from foreign languages, transforming them over time and incorporating them fully into their language. Quite often, the transformation of the foreign word happens due to mispronunciation over a long period of time.

This trait is not peculiar to the Ga people, and many objects as well as locations across Ghana have acquired their names through the indigenous people’s difficulty in pronouncing the foreign name properly.

One of such items is grey baft cotton which the Gas call ‘Aligidon’. The name is a distortion of the Spanish word for cotton, ‘Algodon’ which the Ga people encountered sometime, possibly as far back as the Transatlantic slave trade.

In the popular triangular trade, European finished cotton made from raw materials in America, was one of the goods brought from Western Europe to West Africa. Apparently, parts of the West African coastline during this time, got exposed to European cotton brought by the Spanish and its Spanish name ‘Algodon’.

The Spanish were quite involved in trading cotton. Even after the abolishment of the slave trade, Spanish traders were involved in purchasing British cotton from the Caribbean and reselling it in West Africa. Although this was outlawed by the Spanish government, British cotton was moved by the Spanish from Jamaica to West Africa, for many years.

Over time, the mispronunciation of the Spanish word ‘Algodon’ by the Ga people became the name for grey baft which they now call ‘Aligidon’.

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