When Pigs “flew” in Nairobi

A few days ago protesters in Nairobi, Kenya released almost a dozen pigs outside parliament to show their anger at newly elected MPs (Members of Parliament) asking for higher salaries. The statement they were making was that the MPs are like pigs because of their greed.

The association with pigs is apt given that politicians (I will focus on Africa because that’s where I live) have many similarities with pigs.

For example, a typical pig has a large head with a long snout used for smelling and foraging. Many African politicians typically have large heads and large stomachs used for the same things. The stomach adds, for the politician, an increased ability to absorb all that has been gathered from foraging.

Ever heard the saying “don’t ever wrestle with a pig. You’ll both get dirty, but the pig will enjoy it.” Nothing is more truer when dealing with politicians. For years politicians have enjoyed slinging mud at opponents, critics and citizens alike. Similarly pigs have, over centuries of evolution, perfected the art of wallowing in mud so much so that the word “pig” has come to represent dirt and greed e.g “how disgusting you’re such a pig” or “your room is such a pigsty” or “last night we ate all the food in the house we really pigged out”.

Actually ever noticed how, of the many sayings about politicians/politics there are a significant number that make reference to pigs e.g “you can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig”. It seems my Kenyan brothers took this a bit literally. That said the act of standing up against these pi….oops I meant politicians is commendable because far too much is spent by our politicians on personal development and not on nation building.

Dear Mom

Dear Mom

Today is mother’s day and as you may have noticed I didn’t get you a present. You taught me that it’s the thought that counts so I’m comforted by the fact that you have always practised what you preached.

To be honest, for a large part of my early life there were days when I thought you were really horrible and mean. Like the time you ratted me out to my dad in the first grade about my refusal to write in class. And the time you took me to school in 1991 and left me there with strangers for 8 whole hours. Off course I would later find out that the strangers were actually teachers and that I would be stuck in that institution for 17 good years of my life. Then there were the times when you used my fear of policemen and soldiers to scare me out of misbehaving. It worked, to this day I am still afraid of policemen, soldiers and any figures of authority.

As I grew older I realised that much of what you did was for my own benefit. Upon moving to South Africa your gems of advice stood me in good stead when I was faced with different problems. I have grown into a respectful, considerate man who is a model citizen (apart from the times when I drink milk straight from the milk carton without anyone looking).

Raising a family in Africa is not that easy in fact it’s not that easy no matter where you are. Nothing I can buy will ever fully express the appreciation that we (my siblings and I) feel for showing us so much unconditional love even though we made it difficult to do so at times. All we can say is thank you for being such a great mom!

Zimbabwean English

My English teacher used to say: “the Queen would be cross if she heard you say that” everytime someone made a grammatical error. I imagined the Queen, an old lady with glasses hanging down at the end of her nose as if she didn’t want to wear them, sitting in front of a computer receiving notifications everytime someone in the world ‘butchered’ the English language.

Every region in Africa has its own version of English. Some colloquialisms (apologies your Majesty I’m not sure if that’s plural for colloquial) are so unique that they clearly mark the speaker’s country of origin.

For example, you know you are from Zimbabwe if when you are sent to buy drinks for visitors you ask them “which Coke do you want?” (Coke is used as the generic name for all fizzy drinks). This can be confusing especially if you really want coke.

This trend stretches to cover all toothpaste (referred to as Colgate), washing powder (Surf), bleach (Jik) and many others.

When someone talks of ‘meat’ in Zimbabwe most often they are referring to beef. Chicken is not meat it’s chicken. So it’s not rare to hear someone say “we’ll buy some meat, sausages, some chicken and …”

While our English as Zimbabweans is rated highly in Africa our English accents are a different matter. Off course this is relative.

Ndebele speakers are well known for saying cackle when they mean kettle and lickle when they mean little because in most Nguni languages the ‘tle’ sounds more like ‘ckle’ when compared to English.

In 2006 I was fired from a job at a call centre in Cape Town because I didn’t have a ‘neutral’ accent (a.k.a I didn’t have a twang). There is no such thing as a neutral accent. My accent is influenced by the fact that I grew up in Bulawayo (predominantly Ndebele speaking area), went to a school where English was the language spoken in and out of class and had an English teacher who loved her job.

I’m against this idea of England being held up as some sort of default English setting as if people there speak the same English. Even the Queen has an accent. An accent shaped as much by her heritage as it is by her education, her social circles and her social standing as a Monarch.

English does not belong to anyone. All over Africa this language has been adapted to suit different localities. Given that this language is slowly eclipsing many of our indigenous languages especially among the younger people it is only fair that we be allowed to infuse it with a bit of local pzazz (again your Majesty my apologies). After all, one does one’s best.