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....


Mike Blyth said...

Sannu :-(. But thanks for telling this story, there are some lessons here for us language learners. I would have thought that, at worst, it would have meant something like "I'll make your father my footstool."

jinni said...

Hahaha.come to think of it,Hausa language is unique among other african languages for having "homosexual" context words,go figure?!

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