The ball is in your frying pan now

Harare, Zimbabwe

Language, they say, is a wonderful thing, a moveable feast of expression and misunderstanding.

An advert in our paper said: SOFIA. Only $849.99. A flight to the Bulgarian capital?  No, for sale was a piece of furniture that two or more people can sit on.

English is mostly the second language so we have Zimlish, which is rich in malapropisms.  ” A couple of bad eggs in every basket of apples” was the defence of one corruption scandal.

”The ball is in your frying pan now,” said one angry civil servant, threatening to sue me for something unflattering I’d written about  him. One of our deejays was imploring us all to rush out and buy a new Freddie Jackson album because it was so fantastic it left a lot to be desired.

People in trouble thought to be in hot water are in “hot soup.”

In the courts we had a witness being described as being ”as deaf as a post office,” we had a lawyer admonished for ”making a storm around his tea cup” and the drunk who ”drank like a fish and chips.”  We have terribly hot ‘scotching heat,’ not a rumour being scotched, and ‘button sticks’ for police batons or truncheons, apparently originating from the old military button stick used to protect fabric when brass buttons are polished.

One of our radio announcers declared that a prominent axe murderer had been hung in South Africa. reminding me of a teacher I once had who drummed into us: ”Meat and pictures are hung, boys. People are hanged.”

In another perspective, the Norwegian ambassador was holding a dinner party for prominent Zimbabweans and the editor of the little known Motor Trader magazine received a nicely embossed invitation from the embassy. The editor wondered why he had been invited; the other guests were all of a radical political bent and there was no mention of fuel injection, camshafts or hardy diesel snow ploughs over dinner. Norwegian snow ploughs had been fraudulently imported and sold as bulldozers for sub-tropical rural roads.

But the food at dinner was superb and the wines excellent. Everyone was very polite, even after it transpired that the embassy had meant to invite the editor of Moto, or ‘Fire’ in the local language, a political magazine of controversial issues and opinions supported by the Catholic Church.

Then radio was carrying a report about German politician Franz Josef Strauss but he came out as Johan Strauss. Listeners phoned in to tell them that the composer of Viennese waltzes was decomposing now.

When a disgruntled student was experimenting with spray paint on a wall near his college, he spelt the four letter word for coitus with five letters – ”fucke.” But was he misspelling the noun rather than the verb in the past tense? Further down the street, in foot-high letters, he put the word ”shirt.” It can only be assumed he had something against shirts or he was trying to spell that which dogs leave on footpaths.

In all fairness, nobody is perfect. Those for whom English is the first language might recall the newspaper which described a retired military man as ”a battle-scared veteran.” A correction was demanded and given, but it came out that our man was ”a bottle scarred veteran.”





Folly through a looking glass

1 Response

  1. allen pizzey says:

    Loved them all, and here’s another pair: A BBC radio tennis reporter this morning described a player at the Australian Open as “six foot five, a sorta tall big hitter”.
    During the anti-apartheid protests a South African cop expelling a foreign camera camera crew from a black township replied to their protests with
    “You can’t pull the wool over my ears, I’ve been all around the bulb.”

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