Friday, May 21, 2010

Things I love about Kenya 3 – nobody understands me

On the face of it, being completely incomprehensible to the people of the country you live in is a bad thing. But it can also be useful, and fun.

If I want to be understood, I can easily speak slowly and clearly. But if I revert to my normal speed and pronunciation, which is understandable only to anyone who lives within a 40-mile radius of Glasgow, I can say whatever I like. This is handy if you are having a frustrating encounter. You can call the person you are talking to all the names under the sun, while smiling sweetly, and they are none the wiser.

Kenyan guards in particular have a habit of nodding their heads and responding “yah” to anything I say.

When I roll up to a gate, I often shake the guard's hand, smile and say: “I'm going to see x and y to steal everything from their apartment. Is that ok?”

Or: “I'm planning on beating everyone in the compound to death, and then burning down the apartment block. Are you fine with that?”

The guards invariably nod and wave me in.

Part of the reason for this is that security guards, upon seeing a white face, will let you into virtually any compound in town. This seems to stem from an assumption that white people won't steal anything.


I am from Glasgow. Everywhere else in the world, they assume I will steal everything.

I honestly believe a gang of white criminals could clean up in Nairobi before anybody actually realised that wazungu were blagging things. You could drive up to an ATM with a JCB and dig it out of the wall, make up some bullshit story about taking it for repairs, and then drive off unmolested. When the witnesses said the gang was white, the cops would shake their heads in disbelief and assume it was the Mungiki in disguise. Even when white folk are caught killing people, like a certain landed gent descended from British aristocracy was (twice), they get off with it.

Okay, I am now very off topic. But that's okay. Just imagine I've said all the above in a Glaswegian accent, and you can hear whatever you want to hear anyway.


Derek said...

I am in complete agreement with the Glaswegian accent being wonderfully useful as a tool to say something in 'english' when you don't want the person you're talking to to actually understand you. Unfortunately, I seem to have lost a lot of mine (I blame marrying someone from outside the 40 mile-radius). Fortunately it only takes about 5 minutes talking to another so afflicted (e.g. a relative) to come back. I find that no matter what the language however, it translates perfectly if the listener is drunk, or a tramp (but then, they're usually drunk too...)

I am glad to report however, that there are some weegieisms creeping in to juniors speech. Much to her mother's chagrin, she speaks of air-a-planes and giruls. I'm she'll recite poeyums too, once she knows what they are.

pompeydunc said...

I can hardly understand you most of the time, so it's not that surprising.