Where do idioms become insults ?

Where do idioms become insults ?


Authored By Mupishi Jones

Words are used for communication purposes.There are a variety of words meaning the same thing to choose from to convey a message to one’s target.

However, one’s target,intent and context can totally turn one’s selected words, expression or idiom into insults, advise or hate.
If a target is my close friend,I can apply any words to him and him only.I can call him or her a ‘witch’,a ‘bitch’, a thief’ my friend wouldn’t even be bothered because he’ll take it as a joke.However,using the same words to him at the funeral of his wife or child when he’s grieving,the meaning of those same words change because of the context and environment in which I’m applying those same words!
Similarly with expressions and idioms.I can easily tell off my close friend whilst playing pool that ” uleteka amatako panshi” and I can get away with it.However,I cannot use the same expression to him in the presence of his daughter and son unless I have an intention of embarrassing him.
I equally cannot use the same expression to advise my father-in-law.If I genuinely want to advise either my father, mother or my in-laws,I have to select appropriate words, expressions or idioms that will convey my advise to them.
Imagine if your own son in the presence of your friends tells you that “dad,muleteka amatako panshi”,as a responsible father and parent,how would you take it?
Mind you,it is words, expressions and idioms said carelessly and loosely that have divided friends, families and nations.

In the Zambian context, we are very cautious about tribal remarks. We have very strong reservation to use words, expressions or idioms in a language that the target can’t understand unless you have a different agenda.

I cannot apply a *Nkoya* word, expression or idiom because I’m Nkoya to a Bemba person whom I know little about! However, I can use the same words, expressions or idioms to a Tonga person even when I know very little about him as long as I know he’s Tonga because in Zambia, traditional cousinship is entrenched and valued even between strangers.

This applies to Bembas and Ngonis, Nkoyas, Lundas ,Lozis and Kaondes and so forth.
However, even these traditional cousinship relationships have limits in terms of the intention,context, environment and target of one’s words, expressions or idioms.

Like I earlier indicated, careless and loose words expressions or idioms have caused pain to individuals, clans and nations.

To curb the carelessness of anyone uttering insulting or hate language, countries have crafted laws to govern themselves and check such kind of words, expressions or idioms that have the potential of causing hate to others.In Zambia there are still existing laws such as slander,libel, defamation and until these laws are repealed, careless language is bound to be cornered.

Examples of people that have been arrested under these same laws are abound.

You don’t need to use controversial words, expressions or idioms that have potential of causing pain to your target if your intention is to genuinely advise that person. Do unto others what you’d like them to do unto you.

I submit

Mupishi Jones
Western Zambia

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