Kenya Mocks Its Woes in Wry Verbal Shorthand


Geza Ulole

Geza Ulole

JF-Expert Member
Joined
Oct 31, 2009
Messages
16,510
Likes
8,820
Points
280
Geza Ulole

Geza Ulole

JF-Expert Member
Joined Oct 31, 2009
16,510 8,820 280
What in the World
Kenya Mocks Its Woes in Wry Verbal Shorthand
What in the World

By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN JULY 11, 2016

Continue reading the main story Share This Page

13wit_kenya-euphemisms-master768.gif


Credit Franziska Barczyk
Kenyans are often called the Englishmen of Africa. It’s not simply because of Kenya’s colonial history; it’s also a shared sensibility — a penchant for tweed, tea, misty highlands and understated humor, often expressed in euphemisms.

Take a popular one: “Mpango wa kando,” Swahili for “a plan on the side.” In Kenya, it’s code for adultery. Public-service advertisements on TV, paid for by foreign donors, say that if you’re going to have one of those plans, well, at least use a condom. For a man looking for a woman to take home, the expression is “chips funga,” which means French fries wrapped up — in other words, a bit like ordering takeout.

The one you hear most often, though, is “kitu kidogo” — a little something. That is the Kenyans’ resigned way of referring to the bribes, kickbacks and pervasive graft that keep their country at the shameful end of Transparency International’s corruption index year after year.

Cops on the street ask for a little something. If you try to get a deed for your house, you have to fork over a little something. Top Kenyan officials are widely believed to make millions from little somethings. When an illegally built apartment building collapsed recently, killing dozens, and I wrote about the disaster, one person commented on Twitter, “Nchi ya kitu kidogo” — it’s a country of a little something.

Foreigners living in Kenya have begun adopting the phrase, as well. “Man, the kids were really annoying me today,” an exasperated friend told me in the grocery store recently, “so I had to get them their kitu kidogo.” In his hand was a bag of candy.

Kenya is thoroughly bilingual, with Swahili and English spoken everywhere from the veldt to the center of the capital, and popular turns of phrase may come from either language. So what’s the term Kenyans in the latrine-starved slums invented for the humiliating practice of relieving yourself into a plastic bag, cinching a knot in it and hurling it as far away as possible?

That’s a “flying toilet.”

Follow Jeffrey Gettleman on Twitter @gettleman.

What in the World offers you glimpses of what our journalists are observing around the globe. Read more items like this. Let us know what you think: whatintheworld@nytimes.com

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/12/world/what-in-the-world/kenya-language-humor.html?_r=0
 

Forum statistics

Threads 1,235,341
Members 474,524
Posts 29,219,277