Bheki Mashile's Letter from Umjindi

Journey. Where are you going?


Boy oh boy! How Mzansi people love these ridiculous phrases that seem to pop up like seasonal fashion trends. Please, someone tell me, who comes up with these phrases, David Tlale?

First it was “space”. Every Tom, Dick and Harry, including Sally, was using the space phrase. Everything had become a “space”, industries were no longer industries but spaces, the mining space?

Ah! I would ask myself what the heck is this interviewer talking about, “mining space”? Argh! Maybe they are talking about a particular shaft. I mean, to me a space is something almost tangible or at the very least an area that is easily identified. And area is the key word here, e.g. “I’m looking to rent a warehouse or office,” I say to the landlord, “how big is the space and when can I see it?”

Alas I am taken to a building and shown an area that is surrounded by four walls, a ceiling and of course a floor. Now that is a space – not flipping music. “How long have you been in the musical space?” Oh good lord I nearly pulled my hair out more times than I can remember. I cherish my dreadlocks and wouldn’t cut them even if the request came from the ancestors, and that’s no joke.

Alas, all of a sudden the “space” phrase craze is gone, much to my relief and extreme pleasure. But argh! My happiness would be short-lived as Mzansi embraced another one; now everyone is on a “journey”. Yes I have seen this phrase used in stories published in magazines like National Geographic and Time although its use in those stories clearly seemed to me, well, relevant.

But now everyone is on a journey. I have actually seen several interviews of late wherein the interviewer asks, “So you are studying engineering at varsity what got you started on this journey? I’m like, “What!? What journey? The kid is in flipping college, it’s certainly not as if his been gone for ten years on some archaeological expedition deep in the Amazon.

“So, you’ve done modelling in New York and London, this must have been an exciting journey for you.” Once again I’m like, “What? She’s a model, for crying out loud, who briefly lived in NYC and London walking down the runway or posing for some fashion line photo shoot, where is the journey in that?”  

Please don’t get me wrong. I understand that many words can be used in various contexts in order to accentuate an explanation, paragraph and of course a story in general. My problem is that when words are used just because some Joe schmo somewhere has made said word trendy, one has to say, Houston we have a problem.

So what is a journey? Well in my view, an extensive (months, years) trip or expedition. Let’s look at some examples such as expeditions undertaken by sailors of old who subsequently claimed that they discovered the lands they came upon, despite the fact that there were already indigenous people there – think Captain James Cook and his “discovery” of what is now Australia, to the detriment of the aborigines of course.

Now you want to talk about another journey, think of the African slaves who were shipped to the Caribbean and the Americas, South and North as in the United States of America.

Like the above, treacherous journeys continue to this day. Think of the tracks made by many a Central American trying to make it to El Norte (the North – US of course).

But why must we go that far? We have our own fellow Africans making tracks from up north to make it to

Africa’s “land of opportunity” and that of course is right here in Mzansi.

So please, please, oh please, stop using the word “journey” for some idiotic explanation, accomplishment or occupation. These are not journeys. The only journey most people who have become accustomed to misusing this word are on, is probably a trip to the record store to buy a CD of well, the rock band Journey.

Next time do yourselves a favour people, expand your mind, gain a little knowledge and instead of buying the Journey CD rather get Bob Marley’s Exodus (yeah that’s right, movement of Jah people). Even the Marley single Buffalo Soldier will do.

Now, some may ask, why would such a simple matter as a word get Bheki riled up? Well when a young man stops me on the street and asks for my help with his interest in setting up an online newspaper and says he is very excited about taking this journey, yes, I have to say “Houston, we have a problem”.

I gave the young man a piece of my mind on using trendy expressions if he was serious about his journalism pursuits. Unfortunately I think I might have dampened his spirits because as we parted ways I could sense the excitement in talking to me was, well gone.

Argh! Heck, if that is the case maybe I did a good thing for real journalism. Next thing you know, this kid would have been writing stories using phrases like “baby mama”, as did a Sowetan sub-headline in a few months back. I haven’t bought another Sowetan since. “Baby mama”? The editor of the Sowetan should be ashamed for allowing this to go through, so much for a South African newspaper icon.

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Submitted by : Sophia Malan of VREDENDAL on 2018-05-29 15:46:22
Another one that irritates me no end is the word beloved by journalists writing for magazines like Garden and Home: curate. You don't push your furniture around to make a room look better (or perhaps worse) any more, you curate. You may even curate your supper table. For crying in a bucket!

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