I guess you could say I did a TransAtlantic Translation of “The Big Red Goat.”
My Southern-fried tongue gets me in lots of trouble over here.
The stories below are only a few of my major gaffes.
A word from Curt:
This week I’m “out of the office.” DeDe is teaching English at Uganda Baptist Seminary in Jinja. I’m with her catching up on a month’s worth of stories.
Your prayer support (we call it “holding the rope”) is needed more than ever.
Three prayer requests:
1. DeDe as she teaches dozens of choice young men and women who are committed to learning and sharing the Gospel of Jesus.
2. Our leaders Bob and Nancy who are deep in South Sudan teaching Biblical Storying.
3. That my writing will bring impact and influence for the Kingdom of God.
We’ll be putting up fresh prayer requests using Twitter Hashtag #WilluPray?
Lost in Translation: Translating for Jerry Clower
I learned early on: don’t try to tell a joke to Africans.
It just doesn’t translate well.
So I should’ve known better. Known better than to play a Jerry Clower story in the car.
My hero, Jerry Clower
Three young African friends were riding with me after a full day in the Bush.
As we headed back to town, a big goat bounded across the road.
These goats have found shelter from the storm. Nimule, South Sudan
That’s when the plan was hatched.
I knew they’d enjoy Jerry Clower’s “Big Red Goat.”
It’s one of Clower’s shortest (2 minutes) tales.
My colleague David Crane nearly choked on a piece of chicken when I played it for him. It’s a story that always draws a burst of laughter at the punch line.
That is if the hearers understand.
With little introduction, I played “Big Red Goat” for my African friends. They listened with polite attention.
A glance in the rearview mirror assured me they weren’t getting much of Jerry’s strong Southern accent.
They laughed at Clower’s sound effects but the end of the story left them shrugging at each other.
I should’ve known they’d have difficulty. Africans have lots of trouble with American accents, especially the more Southern-fried varieties (like mine and Jerry’s.)
That’s why most Americans over here acquire a fake-sounding British English accent.
It’s not showing off but an attempt to be understood.
I decided Jerry’s story needed translating. “Guys, let me tell you the background of the story and then I’ll play it again:
It’s the story of two men who are deer hunting. They come upon a deep hole in the field. Not being able to see the bottom, they throw a stick in.
There’s no sound, so they get a stump and chunk it in.
Still no sound.
One of the men sees an eight foot section of railroad track nearby. ‘Let’s throw it in there and I bet we’ll hear when it hits the bottom.’
The two men manhandle the heavy piece before sliding it in the hole. As they wait, a big red goat jumps into the hole.
One of them says, ‘Did you see that?’
‘Yep, it was a big red goat!’
Just then a man came walking out of the woods. He asked the hunters, ‘Hey fellows, have you seen my big red goat?’
The hunters looked at each other and one answered, ‘Yep, he just jumped into this hole.’
The man said, ‘That’s strange. I don’t see how he could’ve done that when I had him tied to an eight-foot piece of railroad track.’ “
I can hear y’all laughing all the way from Doodlefork to Deweyville.
My African friends also laughed. We’ve spent enough time together that they’ve deciphered and decoded my Dry Creek dialect.
I re-played Jerry’s “Big Red Goat” and they seemed to really enjoy it.
I think they pieced together the story from Jerry and me.
At least they were polite enough to laugh at the right spots.
If you’re ready for a good laugh (and who isn’t) you can hear Jerry’s version of Big Red Goat.
You can learn more about one of my heroes at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerry_Clower
Jerry Clower at the Grand Ole Opry
More on the perils of a Southern Accent in Africa:
Two days ago I went in a northern Ugandan duka (store) to buy a tub of butter. The dominant brand is called “Blue Band.”
I asked the middle-aged clerk, “Dada, I’d like a container of Blue Band.”
She dutifully returned with a blue ink pen.
At least she understood part of my request.
“No. I mean Blue Band.” I used both hands to frame an imaginary butter tub. “Blue Band. Butter.”
She twirled the pen in her hand.
An Ugandan standing beside me said, “He wants Blue Band.”
The clerk went straight to the shelf and returned with my butter.
The three of us had a good laugh.
My tongue had made us another friend.
It was my last day in the Adjumani refugee camps. Pastor Joseph said, “Madeline wants you to come by her store. She wants to give you a coke.”
I glanced at my partner in crime, Ethan. He shrugged. I guess she’d learned how much I like coca-cola.
We drove to Madeline’s roadside business. After greeting us and giving us each a piece of fried cassava, she hurried toward her house.
She returned at a trot, a package under one arm and a rooster under the other.
Her gift wasn’t a coke. It was a cock.
A big fine Rhode Island Red.
Ethan Bossier (on left) and Roho
The package was sesame seed to feed our rooster on the long drive across the Nile.
I named him Rojo after an old song about a fighting Mexican rooster (told by Archie Campbell).
Enjoy “Rojo” on You Tube.
Disclaimer: no animals were harmed in the making of this story or video.
Ethan, Madeline, and Curt. I’m holding Rojo.
I could go on and on with these stories lost in translation.
Being in a land of strange languages has humbled me.
And that ain’t never a bad thing.
You can read (and see) an earlier post about “The Gifts of Roosters and African Cheese” which details Rojo’s sad ending.
Send me a note. What’s your favourite Jerry Clower story?