A Long Way Gone

A Long Way Gone Glossary


a selective-fire, gas-operated 7.62×39mm assault rifle, first developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov; its relative cheapness and the ease of replacing parts made it a common weapon in various third-world conflicts such as the Sierra Leone civil war

brown brown

cocaine mixed with gunpowder; a common drug used by the soldiers in the military as a cheap high both during and between combat encounters


a fruit which can either be harvested while young and used as a vegetable, or harvested mature, dried, and used as a bottle.


Mende for "spider," a name Ishmael Beah's grandmother gives him due to his tricky nature.


also called yuca or manioc, cassava is a woody shrub of the Euphorbiaceae family native to South America; it is a staple of many diets for its ability to thrive in tropical climates and its starchy content.


African word for sneakers


A short sword with a slightly curved blade


a 7.62mm battle rifle developed in the 1950s by the German armament manufacturer Heckler & Koch GmbH (H&K) in collaboration with the Spanish state-owned design and development agency CETME; the G3 is one of the main weapons used by both the RUF and the Sierra Leone military during their civil war


grated dried fruit made from cassava


a hanging length of netting or fabric, attached to two supports, used as a bed or seat


the prayer leader of a mosque

kola nut

the nut of the kola tree, a genus of trees native to the tropical rainforests of Africa


the de facto national language spoken throughout the West African nation of Sierra Leone


a large cotton cloth worn by many African women around their waists.


rice paste, a mixture used both in secular dining and religiously-themed cermonies


British word for truck; used in Sierra Leone due to the British influence on the English dialect spoken there.


a major language of Sierra Leone, with some speakers in neighboring Liberia. It is spoken both by the Mende people and by other ethnic groups


severe headache often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and visual impairment


African word for "single," as in unmarried. Beah's mother teaches him to cook so that he can eat during his single (palampo) life, but immediately becomes sober and asks him to marry so that she may have grandchildren.


restored to one's country of birth or original citizenship


Rocket-Propelled Grenade. A hand-held weapon capable of delivering a grenade great distances and to devastating effect. The rebels in Sierra Leone use RPGs often to terrorize villages, as they are effective both against people, property, and vehicles.


The Revolutionary United Front, the name the rebels have given their movement. The initials "RUF" are carved into select captives by the rebels in order to recruit them to their cause; victims of this mutilation cannot escape rebel detection if they flee, and are often seen as rebel sympathizers by the citizens and government forces.


attitude of doubt or suspicion


African term for flip-flops.


a dance music genre that originated in the two neighbouring countries of Belgian Congo and French Congo during the 1930s and early 1940s, and which has gained popularity throughout Africa


Any of the 114 chapters or sections of the Koran


short for tarpaulin, a heavy fabric used as a covering for shelters and tents


noun--plant material such as palm fronds used as roofing material;

verb--to use plant material to cover and insulate a roof


a roofed opened gallery or porch


a place outside villages where people processed coffee or other crops