Only a Hooligan: Head-Covers, Hardcore Swahili, and How to Spot an “Mhuni”
Hapa ni simulizi kwa nyinyi. In Swahili, that sentence reads, “Here’s a story for you.” And indeed, here’s a story, one in which Swahili is humorously relevant, as is this outfit (well, mostly just the hat).
In my Swahili translation session my absolutely hilarious professor often shares useful pieces of info regarding colloquial or idiomatic speech. He’s taught us how to say the Kenyan equivalent of , “Eh, whatevs,” has turned me into an A+ slinger of some East African Marxist terminology, and makes sure we know how to discuss hot dudes and randoms with equal skill. All this is typically accompanied by goofy black board diagrams that look nothing like what he says he’s drawing (think a machine-gun looking trumpet or an explosion that’s supposed to be a god). In short, we learn everything we need to know for a full and happy life as Swahili speakers, with a dash of Surrealism on the side.
This last week my professor taught us some key vocab, including the term for “hooligan,” (mhuni) which is apparently a very popular insult in East Africa. After trying his best to draw a hooligan on the board, he gave up, looked dejected, and then suddenly shouted, “AHA! There is a hooligan!” It scared the shiz out of my classmates and me, and I turned around to see who he had identified. No one there. Wait, whaaaa? Why is he pointing at my head? Is the hooligan…me? Oh. Err…? He grinned triumphantly and said, with joy at his Sherlock Holmes-style skills of deduction, “Only a hooligan ever wears such a hat!”
There you have it, folks. What I thought was a stylish and clever way of hiding my aversion to showering is apparently just the head-cover of a hooligan. Who knew? Well, come to think of it, maybe urchins and hooligans have something in common…