My deceased colleague and friend Joshua Raboroko loved to throw barbs as we drank the shebeens in the Vaal dry.
He looked for arguments where none were existent or even necessary, and with strangers nogal. When the ale got the better of him, he would think nothing of calling his opponent in the argument a tabula rasa (blank slate), after which he would chuckle himself silly.
Coming a close second in his combat vocabulary was phantasmagoria, a word I got to learn means living in a world of fantasy - being bonkers in reality. When he was in his element, he would add verbal diarrhoea to his diagnosis of those who dared challenge him.
So, in a nutshell, if Josh accused one who opposed him of being a "tabula rasa suffering from chronic verbal diarrhoea which induces phantasmagoria", shebeen patrons clapped and gave him the victory. No more argument. More free hooch.
The shebeen keepers loved us: Josh, me, Len Khumalo and Themba Molefe. For some queer reason they thought we brought class (my foot!) to their joints. But Josh was the out-and-out favourite . provoking people, spewing nice sounding hooey at them, and "winning".
I saw it work every time without exception, except on the odd occasion when he really riled some okapi wielding youngster who threatened to puncture his belly. But the Vaal loved Josh, and everybody intervened on his side.
I remembered Josh this past week as the newspaper I work for (Sunday World) got to the crux of the story of the woman who clearly fantasises about being our first lady. Of course I am trivialising it, but if you put yourself in her crazy mind for a while, and fast forward a year or so ahead in the not unlikely event that Kgalema Motlanthe becomes our president, and she his wife, she is probably hearing voices: "Michelle (Obama) called to ask if the kids could come over to play because Kgalie and Obie are playing golf this afternoon. I told her maybe Auntie Graça and Uncle Dibas will babysit them because, you know, they just love having them around ."
It is dangerous, this phantasmagoria. It got the whole nation wondering if the president - whom some white folks call something like Gariema Gamantie - is actually a sugar daddy besotted with a lass less than half his age. Hm!
And then it turned out that she is either as nutty as a fruit cake, or a pathological liar, or simply a lovelorn, sick, damsel in distress. By now you will have read about the fake attack during an early morning walk, the alleged admission to Sunninghill hospital, the threat to the alleged pregnancy and a whole lot of bull crap that we in the media could have swallowed lock, stock and barrel, had she not overplayed her hand.
When people lie like she did, you get to wonder if there is a hidden, inexplicable force that drives them to say what they say. Or if they are just bad people. Or if our scientists should start looking for a vaccine for phantasmagoria.