Vulgarity, Profanity, Blasphemy…

I’ll try to keep all the bad stuff to this page, so if you don’t like bad language, don’t come here.


One thing I will not say is OMG. It’s not a religion thing. Just I wouldn’t like to look like those Americans who walk around on TV after someone has taken their house to bits, painted it strange colours and then made them open their eyes. They walk around going OMG.

You know the Shakespeare ‘to be or not to be’ problem for actors. They have to decide to say, ‘to BE or not to be.’ Or, ‘TO be or not to be.‘ Or ‘to be OR not to BE.’ Get it? Well, those Americans out do us Shakespeare guys. They say Oh my Gaaad. OOOOh my Gaaad.

I would rather say WTF. I mean, you can say WTF am I supposed to do with that cupboard there, I cant get into bed. Or WTF (That’s who the fuck) would paint that wall that shitty colour.
Also, I have a WTF expression when you cant actually say the words. Who has a OMG expression? I mean, can you tell it isn’t a constipated expression, or someone shot you up the arse?
My family didn’t use bad language. If my grandmother said “Damn,” you just made yourself scarce for the rest of the day.
I heard my dad say shit when I was in form four and although I never heard him say fuck, I heard all about it from the others. On and on they went the following week, “You should have heard dad say fuck. He said, Fuck, Tiangu , pull the fucking canvas.” Man, it was newsworthy. See, I was away, so everything was peaceful and he forgot he had kids!

The first time Cush said fuck, he was under the car, bashing something (he later learned to get me to go under the car! It was more efficient all round) It sounded so funny – just like John Cleese.
And now. What happened? Why do we say it all the time? I remember my grandmother said only ignorant people use vulgar language because they don’t have enough vocabulary and I think she is right, except the ignorant part. That has nothing to do with it. It’s the ‘enough vocabulary’ part I agree with.

You remember when a shova driver would pull in front of you, you would say, “what an idiot,” and when we hit our first pot hole, we said “oh dash it all,” but when bridges washed away, when we entered into a war we couldn’t afford to be in, paid gratuities to a huge number of ex-combatants (we also couldn’t afford ) destroyed commercial agriculture, withdrew mining claims….I ran out of vocabulary and yes, granny was absolutely correct.

What else can you say other than fuuuuuck.


A Serbian family told me when they first arrived in Africa, they got quite a shock. You see, Yebo in Serbian means fuck. They got off the plane, and almost the first thing they saw were the adverts with Yebo Gogo (Yes Granny, or in Serbian, Fuck Granny) they all thought to themselves ‘strange people.’

Think Vodacom, think Yebo

Of course, I thought the whole thing was great…, but it is not an easy story to tell, especially in mixed company. Anyway, one evening we were having a braai:
Our hostess is a brash woman, once attractive, but like many of us ladies, a little less attractive than we once were and certainly less attractive than we think we are!
She has a couple of nice kids, a boy and a girl. They, and a whole stack of lighties are rushing around on the lawn playing, shouting and being the menaces kids are meant to be. But remember…, mixed company including the lighties.
So I tell the story about what Yebo is in Serbian, presuming everyone will fill in the blanks when I say ffff, instead of actually say it. Most people laugh and start to add other lines such as “Hey, Frankie would you like to come over for a braai?” “Yebo” say I to much hilarity.
Bewildered our hostess looks around, obviously not with the program. She frowns and says, “What? Yebo means fff? What do you mean fff?”
Comprehension finally dawns, and I think great, at last, maybe she will have some funny additions…”Oh, fff you mean fuck,” she trumpets at the top of her lungs, “I didnt understand what you meant, when you just said fff Oh thats rich, yebo means fuck,” and packs out laughing. I think…yeah, beaut.

At the same place there was no water, so every one went to the next door mine to shower, or remained stinky. We just used the water pumped from the bottom of the mine and (the scouts we are) add Detol to kill the buggies. In the kitchens they were using the same water to wash the plates and clothes, so we think what the hell.
During dinner we are all talking about the water problem, because after all that is why we are here – to solve it. This very snooty English geologist announces that she wont bath in the water from the bottom of the mine, because people had urinated there and she wouldn’t like to bath in that. She looks so cocky and self satisfied, Frankie pops up immediately.
“Well,” says Frankie, that is what they are using in the kitchens…” and look pointedly at the stunning white plate with its little piece of green lettuce on one side, the cute little pattie next to it and the silver plated knives and forks alongside.
OOps, wonder why she didn’t finish her meal.


Our daughter, Pee went to a larney school in the UK for her senior education. It’s an old school with lots of brown buildings and square patches of lawn and clean pathways and staircases.
Walking down one of these, Pee slipped and twisted her ankle slightly.

“Fuck,” she said.

Unfortunately a teacher, walking a few steps behind, heard her. Pee received a summons from her housemistress.
Pee doesn’t really understand the niceties of social interaction (wonder who she took after) and once the situation had been explained to her thought the woman would hand out a punishment. Pee was fully prepared to take it, do it and that would be the end. But no, the housemistress thought she needed to give a lecture, as though that may change anything. Apparently she droned on and on and obviously at some point realised her line of reasoning was not working.

So she resorted to guilt. She tried to tell Pee that it would let the house down if she used bad language, or the school (hey, maybe the whole country) and eventually added as a clincher, “Your parents would be very disappointed.”
P said an image of us, sitting in the lounge came to her. You know, the classic movie stage-set, mum and dad on the sofa, opposite her sitting on a school chair. Ankles crossed under the chair, long school socks, white shirt, school tie, hands in her lap.
“Ah, mum and dad. I slipped down the stairs and I said fuck,” and our faces squeezing up like we ate a pocket of lemons each.
“Were so disappointed in you,” we tell her in unison.

Pee has huge brown eyes and I can imagine them getting wider and wider. She says she made it out of the door, and down the corridor before she began to wail. When she reached her room, she landed face down on the bed, tears pouring down her face, her legs crossed tightly. Her friends ran into her room, concerned she was OK.
“She said….” Pee began before breaking off in wails again. “She said my parents would be disappointed.”
Baffled, her friends asked her what on earth she was talking about, and had to wait for her gales of laughter to subside.
In the end, Pee said it was impossible to explain to her friends that we expected her to be constantly:
exercising her brain
pulling apart and reasoning everything, taking nothing for granted
looking at things, really looking at them, appreciating beauty in the smallest thing

That we would be disappointed if she were:
being a sheep
ignoring animals
eating badly

But one thing she did know for absolutely certain, was we would be shattered, gutted and devastated if she didn’t laugh her head off at the idea, that we would be disappointed at her saying fuck.


A while ago, I went to the pharmacy and unusually, I went with Cush.
Consummate Aspie, he lurks around on the sidelines, looking at the ladies cosmetics and…well I don’t know, the floor, ceiling etc.
I held my prescription and stood behind a lady waiting for the pharmacist. You know, at that stupid little window that all pharmacies have. Why is the window small, and why is it always so high up?
I hold my prescription in my hand, cos I am polite and don’t want to lean over the lady already waiting. Also, the pharmacist isn’t looking my way.
Next thing, a man with wearing a sleeveless blue shirt, you know one of the things runners wear, black, below the knee running pants, black canvas boots which go over his ankles but aren’t laced up, arrives. He jostles his way past me and sticks his stinky, hairy armpit over the lady in front of me, flicks the prescription over to the pharmacist with his finger and settles back, next to me.
Just to make sure everyone knows what’s what, I say, “I’m next in the queue.”
“Fuck off, cunt,” is his come back.
Now, I’ve told a good number of people to f off in my day, but usually after a little bit of a lead in. You know, a little bit of verbal push and shove. I’m not used to the straight in there with a fist to the chin.
So I regroup, “hey, you know, you are not allowed to use that kind of language. Its not legal.” (serious, I said that)
“You shut the fuck up, you fucking, white bitch,” said very quietly so only I, perhaps the lady in front of us and a few of the counter staff heard. Well, it’s a variation on the first comment, I must say, but not an improvement. But I am all up for defending my position and although I didn’t swear at all, (I looked down my nose and used long words) I gave as good as I got. I got a little louder than he did. He was quite sneaky, spoke very quietly.
He continued in this vein for some time, until  he realised he wasn’t getting anywhere. So he pulled the race card out, and I admit, it usually works. Whites get really scared to get snarled up in that one. But I don’t back down. Butting in queues is not reserved to any race, I tell him and then as a final clincher I ask him how he knows I am white. He looks down at me and thinks “mmm, questionable.”
“Did we fight in the war for our freedom for this?” he asks. He is most likely about twenty years younger than me and I doubt he was even alive in 1980. Surprisingly the lady in front of us, turns and tells him that freedom doesn’t confer upon one, the honour of pushing in queues. So, now discovering he doesn’t have the support he thought he had (the lady in front of us is black too) he starts on the sexist thing. He tells me I’m a woman and I shouldn’t be able to say anything to him cos in his culture women are subservient and blah blah blah.
“Well, says I, “I’m not sure about your culture and you in particular, but my husband” and I move my hand indicating over my shoulder, “has a perfectly good set of masende (goolies, cojone, testicles for you who don’t know the term) and” says I, “HE knows how to treat a woman right.”
Mr stinky armpit, just-over-six foot male, swaggers around to stare down the poor, weaselly, white-skinned man who is forced to put up with an upstart cunt with a big mouth. Instead of looking down at a little white guy, he finds himself looking about the level of the white guy’s stomach, or maybe his ribcage.
You know on the cartoons, when the character gets that creepy feeling and then looks up, up, up and swallows? Well, that’s what our stinky armpit just-over-six foot male did. Cush, standing right behind his left shoulder with that nasty tight lipped, very blue-eyed stare was looking DOWN and WAITING.
Hoping to diffuse a tense situation, the pharmacist handed me my stuff first, then looked for Mr stinky armpit, to give him his order, but he had gapped it. No word of a lie, he hightailed it out of that shop.

Apparently he hasn’t been back.

But hang on guys, this story isn’t finished yet. One of the counter attendants who knows me asks, “Is that your husband?
“Yeah,” I say.
“But I thought you liked fat men?” he asks
“Yeah, I do.” I say, “I’m working on it. Were working on his tummy,” we all laugh at Cush’s washboard.
So this guy turns to Cush and says, “I don’t know how you could stand there and listen to that guy swearing at your wife like that, I cant believe it.”
“No,” says Cush, all sweet and back to normal. “While her mouth is in gear, she can take on anyone. She doesn’t need mine or anyone’s help. If that guy had touched her though, you would be rushing around right now picking up tiny pieces of him from out of that glass cabinet” he says pointing at the counter top alongside the waiting area. And suddenly he isn’t that cute little cuddly bear he was a minute ago. The guy gulps his gazzookers out of throat and finds himself something else to do.

Man, sometimes I wish I had masende…


I ran and I ran. I ran down the Shangani, across the hot red sand from Inyathi to the kings presence.

He didn’t make me wait too long, only two days. I bowed deep.
He invited me to tell him why I was wasting his royal time. I told him I had seen something I thought he should know about.
He nodded. Man, he’s scary.
“I saw a group of people walking one after the other, like a long, long crocodile,” I began. “They were people, (things you can’t eat) together with another whom I am not sure if you can eat. He looks like a person (i.e. someone you cant eat) but he was a very funny colour, all pink and soft and mushy, the colour of a fig. (I said Mukiwa)
“The people were not some I knew, and although some of them carried arms, they did not hold them like warriors. They looked like us sire, but maybe with a bit more coverings. I pointed to the small flap of goat skin around my groin.”
The king frowned. I quaked.
I continued, “But the fig, sire. He had many coverings. On his feet, on his legs, well all over.”

I crawled over to the edge of the royal hut and took a clay cooking pot and put it on my head.

“He had something like this on his head,” I said. I took a piece of twine and pulled it tight against my chin, so the skin folded in. “I don’t think it wanted to stay on his head, because he tied it on there, very tight sire.”
“As the day went on, the fig became very ripe, he changed to the colour of a winter sunset and he made plenty sweat.” And he had. The coverings on his body had begun the day a light colour, but by midday, became dark with sweat.
“He took the pot off his head from time to time,” and under it, I cant say he had hair, rather long grass, which became very wet.  “He always immediately put the pot back on, and tied it up tight.”

I wasn’t sure if I should tell the King I thought that pot had some special significance, or if he could work it out for himself. This ‘meeting with the King thing’ is not for me. I can run, I can hide, I can kill. But telling the King about it, is not for me.
“Sire, they don’t speak the same language, and for sure, the Fig doesn’t speak the same language as the people. He said the same thing over and over, so obviously they didn’t understand him. “Move your lazy black arses.” I heard many times. I also heard, “Bloody mosquitoes,” and then he would hit himself in some sort of ritual,” I told the King nodding my head, remembering the Fig hitting himself all along this head, on his arms and on the tiny piece of uncovered skin above his knees.
“I also heard another word. He slipped down a bank and he said, “Shit.” Another time, he missed killing an animal with the noisy stick and he said, “Fuck.”
“He has a woman, also looks a Fig in colour. She had a long, long rope down her back which she coiled around her head, also some kind of a covering I think. She also wore many coverings, but not the same as the man, and a different hat.”

I went and took a cloth from one of the women, and wrapped it around my head.

“Like this Sire. The Fig hardly spoke to her, and yet they went into the tent together.” I can remember being scandalised at that. Imagine spending the whole night with a woman.
“Sire, they walked in this crocodile for two days while I watched them approach the smoke. The man stumbling along and saying “Shit and Fuck and move your lazy black arses,” the people struggling to carry boxes and bags.
“Eventually, Sire, they came out on the grassy bank,” I didn’t say – where your Royal Presence has stood – I treasure my life, “just above were you can clearly see the smoke that thunders and he stopped. He took off the pot and held it under his arm,” concreting my belief that the pot had some special significance. “And then he said, and I have repeated this to myself all the way, Sire so I don’t get it wrong. He stopped all alone, his coverings soaked from the spray and said, “Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”
“I don’t know what it meant, but that is what he said, Sire. He did not say any of the other words I have heard in the previous two days,” and I withdrew my unworthy carcase from the King’s sight.



18 responses »

    • Absolutely not a bad area – that guy was a thug in the wrong place…and he picked on the wrong two people that day too – the problem with many (black) Zimboes is they are too polite and don’t stand up for themselves.
      I don’t know how to post a pic on here of that shop…its in the middle of town and it’s a smart place –
      Thank you for liking this page – no one has had the umm (masende) yet to do that! Zimboes are pretty conservative ..

    • They say…Livingstone was awful…???maybe that coloured my description! But I bet he didn’t say that stuff about angels in their flight…more like “Hah – I want to claim glory for this little baby…”

    • People in my home town are pretty ummm…anal about profanity – just old school colonial I guess! I had a long debate with several other bloggers about its use when I first began this blog, and eventually decided to put it here, but on this page. Its is sometimes restrictive in my posts! In my writing (my books) I try to keep it true to character and, like sex, not leave it out! I’m pretty inappropriate at the best of time – I talk to people in queues, talk about sex and vomit at the table! So I watch out in my writing…

      • Funny as in New Zealand and Australia swearing is common and not especially frowned upon. It simply doesn’t bother me.

        I get more offended by people going on about prayer and religion.

        But then each to their own.

      • Foshuwa…I get really annoyed about that one! But I suppose being brought up a Catholic means I’m inured to all of that! Something I DO struggle with here in Africa, is because I’m white, its automatically assumed I’m (like them!) a racist and sitting listening sometimes to blatantly racist comments really does get up my nose – especially South Africans. But then…don’t get me started on South Africans!!!!
        RE swearing – do children swear in NZ and Oz? Do people avoid swearing in front of children there?

      • I did swear as a child and my parents never hid it from us. I think most don’t in front of very small children but the I think we also don’t consider words other than fuck or cunt rude. Bloody, damn, shit, crap and bugger are all pretty light weight and we hear them on TV, radio and even advertising.

        That must be hard with racism. 😦

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