Monday, February 7, 2011

Malawi to Ban Farting?

I'm going to meander back to my days in East Africa to bring up a current events topic that elicits a good snicker.

When we were in Tanzania learning Swahili, I managed to stumble onto all of the words for passing gas. Even though many Swahili words which come from English simply add an "i" to the end (like baiskeli for bicycle), it turns out that you can't discuss your footwear by saying "shoesi", as shuzi means "flatulence". Learning this did not stop me however from saying it, rather encouraging me all the more. I loved telling Tanzanian youth that because I have big feet I also have big shuzis.

Another favorite of mine was that a simple change of one vowel changed the typical greeting (root word Jambo, hujamo, sijambo, hatujambo etc) from "how are you/do you have any problems?" to "are you farting?" So when I saw unsuspecting tourists on safari who thought they'd picked up some of the local language, I would always greet them with a smile, "hujambi?" and receive a warm "si jambi!" (no breaking wind here!) in response.

But all this language silliness brings us to a serious issue. It seems that Malawi is currently trying to pass legislation that may ban farting in public. Seriously. Well sortof. Read the article. It may or may not be an intended application of the law, but it's the one the media's grabbed ahold of.

I remember a time in language school where I let one fly... My classmates laughed, my wife cringed and blushed, and my teacher shook his head with a smirk, "Bwana Michael, you can do that here, hamna shida, but in public, this you should not do."

I guess we really shouldn't do it in Malawi.

But then again, the last sentence of the article tells me that it's much ado about nothing. "When asked whether it could be enforced, he said it would be similar to laws banning urinating in public." If you've ever been to that part of the world, you know that no one has anything to worry about if that's the standard.

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