Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Useful Phrases in Ateso: Revised and Expanded

The children flock around me wherever I go.  And I don’t mean 3 or 4, but like 30 or 40 of them.  And when I go to the local trading center of Abilla, the children like to practice their English on me.

The kids:  How are you?
Me: I am fine.  How are you?
The kids: I am fine.  How are you?

And you get the picture.  On the way to Abilla, every time I go there, even if it is the twelfth time in one day that I travel there, I am peppered with about 800 “How are you?” requests.  If I don't answer, the "How are you?" rate doubles or triples.  There is no escaping.  And I don't speak Ateso, so I can't tell them to give me a break.

One evening while the adults enjoyed a particularly nice and low mosquito night, Agnes 3 was cooking dinner for all and the children were all in bed.  Ah!  Peace and Quiet at last!  One of the training nurses named Ishmael made some culinary request of Agnes 3 which she didn’t particularly appreciate.  Men absolutely never, ever cook here.  That is even more likely to cause death than homosexuality.   Agnes 3 replied to Ishmael in a shout “Ari!”.

My Ateso is good enough to know that 97.5% of all Ateso words start with either an a or an e.  I’m serious – you should see an Ateso dictionary and you will be a believer.  My Ateso learning has been rocky at best.  

“Ari!” means “I will kill you”.  Ishmael got the picture and passed his culinary request to Nurse Teddy.  She didn't seem to mind.

I have adopted this phrase as my tagline for trips to Abilla when I get more than 400 "How are you?" requests and this phrase has been useful for me with the children when yelled loudly.  And the more you roll the “r”, the better.

After being here a few weeks, I had heard parents everywhere yell “I will beat you” to their errant children.  They don’t actually beat their children; it’s just their English word for spanking.   And “Ari!” was losing it’s steam for me in getting children to give me a minute’s peace and quiet.  So, I decided Agnes 3 needed to teach me another useful phrase.
On a particularly mosquito-filled night when I sequestered myself at 6:30 because the pests were so bad, Agnes 3 brought me my dinner at about 9:00.  Because I had not been eating as much as she thought I should eat for the past week, Agnes 3 firmly planted herself in the chair facing the sofa so she could watch me eat.  Yes, I am old enough to be her mother and she watches me eat.  Tonight, however, she would teach me the most useful Ateso phrase . . .

Enominat eong ejo!

Translation:  I will beat you!

It’s useful with children.