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Of Courtesy, Platitudes and Wit
by Peter Mugerwa

George Orwell noted that, ‘the English language is in a bad way ….’ and pointed out that the repeated use of platitudes saves people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves. He then advised writers never to use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech they are used to seeing in print.

Ahmed, Bryan and Titus, are three friends who amuse themselves by exchanging chits during a lecture. They are not only always determined to remain mentally alert, but also avoid using clichés. They, during a boring lecture, find themselves drawn (unconsciously) into an exchange to see which one of them is at their wit’s end first. Courtesy provides the starting point.

Ahmed to Titus: ‘I want you to get me a copy of Achebe’s Things Fall Apart once again please.’

‘Say, “I would like you to HELP ME and leng me YOUR copy of Things Fall Apart". A beggar has no choice. BE POLITE. Bastard!’

‘Stupid! Though what you say is right. But, if you have the authority, why plead? Huh? By the way, learn to spell your words!’

‘Mistakes are human, sonny boy! Don’t emphasize mistakes that are an oversight.’

‘Whatever! After all your copy is old and has some missing pages. Bogus!’

‘Take it back now! You know the old broom knows all corners of the room. Unless you polish your act, you are going to come to naught. Now, ask for forgiveness. NOW!’

Titus pleased and enjoying the exchange sends the chit to Bryan who devours the exchange and writes thus:

‘Who the hell do you think you are?’ (And then passes it on to Ahmed.)

Ahmed: ‘Avoid clichés. Remember Orwell? I’m not scared since barking dogs don’t bite.’

Titus: ‘So who is employing clichés? Barking what?! Hopeless bastard! Practice what you preach. Ha ha ha! Oh, and Bryan, watch out!’

Bryan: ‘I’m not daunted - barking dogs . . . .’


Bryan replies and from here on, the two slug it out.

‘That is silly of you - thought you had some sense in your nut.’ ‘FOOLISH.’

‘Ma plank! (a character in Abraham’s Mine Boy the friends corrupted to discredit each other) - watch your remarks. You may have cause to worry. Okay?'

‘Of whom are you asking such cowardly questions?’

‘Weak brains! Watch out! You are making yourself a disgrace - our father - act your age.

‘This exchange was between Men. How come you are “fitting” in?’

‘You’ve fathered us and you doubt my manliness - hopeless you are - our father.’

‘No wonder you failed mathematics. A twenty-one year old man cannot give birth to a thirty-two year old person. Stupid! Bogus! daft head! GO TO HELL!’

And Bryan, not one to take defeat lying down makes sure that he has the last word.

‘Let’s meet there - AMEN.’