When the tongue works faster than the brain…
I know you have heard about that now-famous Inooro journalist who massacred English last week so much that for a few days he was the most talked-about scribe in Kenya.
It appeared that he is a vernacular fellow, who was asked to do a live interview in English, a massive feat for many indigenous speakers. That includes journalists, many of them!
If you doubt me, just ask the next scribe you see to transcribe or translate text from what they work with every day to, say English or Swahili. Have you seen a human sweat profusely in this chilly weather? But that is a story for another day.
I was telling you about the young man who was literally ambushed to do a live thing in a language he clearly is not friendly with.
So jittery was he that a passing ambulance was enough to make him start, looking nervously behind him like the devil was after him. He almost ducked!
His bosses and virtually every journalist who has access to social media rallied behind him, describing their own first-time interviews and how terrified they were, long before they became the seasoned masters of the mike.
One female reporter, who has tucked a decade and a half under her belt, recalled her first radio interview. She just said her name and bolted!
Give the boy time, scribes have said, and he will be just fine in no time. I agree.
Of course, his gaffe comes nowhere near that of Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu, who suggested that a river be moved, saying it was easier than getting rid of developments in the path of the river.
Social media has since gone to town with hundreds of monikers, some quoting him saying it is easier to make friends “with a stranger rather than with someone you do not know”.
Of course, there is no knowing where the boundaries lie, but that is beside the point.
His friend and neighbour in Nairobi, one Mbuvi Sonko has not fared better in this business of goofs and interesting utterances.
You recall him displaying his conversations with Waititu, when it turned out he had saved his name as Waititi?
And just last month, a controversial pastor who has generated more controversy in a year than a hundred politicians put together released a video, in which he attempts to do some math.
The pastor, who shall not be named for obvious reasons, tries to do some calculations, verbally. 2019 minus 50 equals 2018, he goes, his face contorted in concentration. Not sure he has it right, he asks, matter of factly: “Hakuna mutu ya mazimatik?”
This video has brought more laughter in Kenyan homes than most of the comedies that feature on TV. The day I showed it to my son, he laughed until he fell to the ground. If you have not seen it, look for it as if your life depends on it.
Years ago in Nakuru, County Council chairman Ng’ang’a Kihonge, now deceased, had received some guests and at the tail end of the courtesy call, told journalists: “Kama iko maswali, ulizeni tu, sababu hata Bwana Kiraka iko hapa…tutajibu”.
Of course, what was pronounced as Bwana Kiraka meant Town Clerk. But a trainee reporter, who was covering the event, went ahead to say in his story that “also present was Mr Kiraka”.
And so it goes.
Lest you think these gaffes emanate mainly from journalists, there was the case a former Nairobi mayor, who quipped, while trying to assert his authority, that I is the mayor, and the rest are mere kanjoras…
The same mayor had announced that Nairobians would be penalised for allowing vegetation in their residences in the city. A journalist asked him to describe vegetation, to which he said: “Anything above a vegetable is vegetation!”
It seems mayors and their deputies had a think for comical utterances. A former Nakuru Deputy mayor was praising himself for cracking the mystery of perennial squabbles.
Speaking in Kiswahili, he said “Inaonekana watu ya siasa wanapeda kuchibana chibana. Kira siku, kasi ni hiyo tu, kuchibana chibana”.
He then proceeded to translate his discovery to English, and ended up telling his listeners: these leaders like to dig each other, every day, their work is digging each other!
The jury is out there on whether it is politicians or journalists responsible for the most gaffes.
As for me, I am just a chronicler of these events. I am not a participant. Have a fluent week, folks! – The writer is Special Projects Editor, People Daily