The Karamojong language, which is spoken by the people among whom we are living, does not employ the 'f' sound, what in linguistics we call the 'labio-dental voiceless fricative'. As a result, many English-speaking Karamojong people pronounce English 'f's as 'p's. The funny thing is, many of them also pronounce English ‘p’s as ‘f’s! This makes for some comical conversations:
A woman came to our place this week with some skin condition on her neck. One of our friends told us it was ‘the pung’. The pung? Amber said she’d never heard of that illness. Upon further inquiry, he explained that the ‘pung’ was like ‘the mushrooms’. Oh…that clears things up: the lady has mushrooms growing on her neck. Yikes! Turns out, the poor lady had a ‘fungal’ infection on her skin.
Also this week, one of our night-guards told me he had used a lot of the minutes up on his ‘pone’ because he’d been ‘beefing and beefing’ a friend [in Uganda, ‘beeping’ is when you call someone’s cell-phone, let it ring once, and then hang up; ‘beeping’ is an invitation for the other person to call you so the cost of the call is on them…not always a welcomed practice…]. So he was ‘beefing’ the friend, and the friend was ‘beefing’ back. I was so confused until I remembered to cross my ‘i’s and dot my ‘t’s…or was it cross my ‘f’s and my ‘p’s?
Laugh now, right? It’s unfair of me to poke fun at such mispronunciations when these people are engaging me on my linguistic turf. The truth is, I can barely say anything to them in their language. If they had a blog, laughs about our language blunders would be endless, I’m sure. J