Fred, the loan agent with whom I have been paired the last couple of days, is doing his very best to help me in the most basic Luganda, but my age is showing in my inability to hold on to even the simplest greetings. I have been trying all week now to commit to memory the greeting, “Ela de”—at least I think that’s how you might spell it. It could also be “Era de,” the consonant sounding like a blend of “l” and “r” with a little bit of a “d” thrown in.* “Nnyabo” is “madam.” “Ba” is for a group of women. The proper response for the greeting “Elade nnyabo” is “Elade nnyabo” back. Unless, of course, it’s a man greeting you (or you are a man), in which case it’s “Elade ssebo” (or “bassebo” for a group of men).
As we were walking to our first meeting yesterday, Fred explained to me that “Elade” as a greeting is asking, “Is there peace between us?” or perhaps, “Peace be with you.” And the response is the same (“And also with you”), to be sure that those meeting are approaching one another peacefully. He tells me that it comes from a word that’s used to describe still waters—“The waters are calm.”
*Joseline, with whom I had lunch today, informs me it is "eladde" with an L and two Ds.