Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Helen Keller moments in language learning OR your mother's admonition ("Don't swear...")

Today while reading a brand new and brilliant (though I'm sure it will be very controversial and hotly contested) book by Rudolf Pell Gaudio, Allah Made Us: Sexual Outlaws in an Islamic African City about 'yan daudu culture in Kano, I realized something about my language-use that I had never quite noticed before. So, I'm sure the following confession will make all of you Hausa-speakers snigger at me... But... I LOVE the zesty gusto of the expression "Zan ci ubanka..." or "uwarka" and have been using it here and there in a joking manner for the past few months. Now, I knew this was coarse and improper language about other people's parents, but I had never sat down and literally translated the expression--though I should have.  I have mostly heard it in playful contexts in which people are teasing each other or abusing someone they are angry at. 

I realized while reading Gaudio's linguistic explanations of certain language used among the 'yan daudu community (and elsewhere), that I had been going about saying literally, "I will fuck your father...." 

Yes, laugh, laugh.

I knew it wasn't proper, but when I realized this afternoon actually linguistically what I had been saying... ai... I think I will try not to say it anymore... (lol) 

I remember the first time I used it in the presence of a filmmaker who has probably used the expression plenty of times himself, he flinched. I should have known then that this Hausa is too "deep for me..." Ku yi hakuri....