Comical translations distract me from sad reality

I meant to be quite serious and reflect on the pain of the people of Zimbabwe.

I meant to be quite serious and reflect on the pain of the people of Zimbabwe.

I thought I could decipher exactly what it is President Thabo Mbeki meant when he said there was no crisis there.

By coincidence, while I was pondering the whole scenario, a friend e-mailed me what he calls a room service bill from a hotel in Zimbabwe.

It was a shock - a funny shock. But then the Basotho have a saying lefu leholo ke ditsheho. A ridiculous word for word translation would be: "Big death is laughter."

However, it really means laughter is the best medicine. Zimbabwe is not funny, though, even if you consider that the children there must grow up brilliant at maths because they dabble in millions buying mundane things such as a loaf of bread.

Someone on the radio remarked the other day that a few years back a million dollars in Zimbabwe could buy you a mansion on a large piece of land. Today it can hardly buy you a loaf of bread.

To take my mind off the sad reality of that troubled land, I got thinking about ridiculous direct translations.

My favourite is about the fellow who was a serial absentee at work. One day, after one of his many disappearances, his boss was really gatvol and demanded an explanation.

"But I had gone to do the job of my father," he cried.

Every black person would understand, but the boss was a non-black. "What is the job of your father? You work here!" the boss barked. "Besides, you told me your father died long ago."

"Yes, we were undressing the string of my father ..."

Boss: "And last month? Why were you absent?"

"We were eating the marriage of my sister." It was getting too complicated for the boss, so he got off the hook.