Travelling the safari lodges of Botswana one soon realizes what the locals have long known- their Setwana names are impossible for a Westerner to pronounce. So, a custom has grown up in the service industry for workers to adopt simple, pronounceable nicknames, to cater to us linguistically challenged tourists.
Accordingly, we encountered housekeepers nicknamed Faith, Hope, and Charity, and guides who answered to Sam and Joe. Many workers though, obviously gave great thought to their “western” names, trying to choose ones which were either inspirational or aspirational.
Thus, our first safari guide, an expert tracker and naturalist, dubbed himself “Knowledge”, and we encountered a head waiter named “Memory”, with a bus-boy sidekick called “Trymore”. Yet another guide styled himself simply as “Elvis”, and commenced every game Drive with the cry “let’s rock and roll!” And then, the meaning of some of the nicknames was simply lost in translation: vis, a pair of our guides known as “Lasty” and “Luckson”.
So, as our safari drew to a close with the mandatory sunset booze cruise on the mighty Zambezi river, we were prepared to quickly memorize our waiter’s adopted name.
“Hello, I’ll be your waiter this evening , and my name is Dzzzz”
“I’m sorry, what did you say your name was again?” I replied.
And, I swear, I’m sure I heard him reply: “My name is Dildo”- Honest, I’m sure that’s what he said.
I glanced at my wife, to make sure I hadn’t misheard, and again, I was sure I saw her smirk, and give a discreet shrug, which I interpreted to mean: “Hey, this is Africa, we’ve got warthogs praying on the front lawn and elephants in the swimming pool , so why not a waiter called Dildo ?”
So I forged ahead:
“Very well, Dildo, We will start with some Cabernet Sauvignon, and the crocodile kabobs”
And so the evening progressed:
“Dildo, more wine!”
“HEY DILDO, some more crocodile kabobs”
“HEY DILDO, SOME MORE WINE PLEASE”– my voice growing louder to surmount the din of our fellow booze cruisers.
Finally, as the African sun kissed the horizon, I summoned Dildo for a last slurp of wine.
He approached, squared his shoulders and standing tall, somewhat hesitantly confided:
“actually sir,- my name isn’t Dildo- it’s Denzell”
As my face reddened, my wife, as always, had the last word:
“Gawd, ain’t you a class act? Do you have to embarrass me every time we go out?”