Coming and Going

An anecdote from Oliviu Felecan and Alina Bughesiu’s Onomastics in Contemporary Public Space, 2013:

A Zulu owned a dog that used to roll in dirt and dung when it was young. When it came to the house, everyone shouted, “Phuma phela!”, meaning “Get out now!” or “Get out, then!” As the dog became more disciplined it was allowed into the house and the phrase simply became its name. But if Get Out Now was now the dog’s name (asked the confused interviewer), then surely it was used to call the dog into the house?

‘Yes, that is so,’ was the answer. Then what do they say now to get the dog out of the house, seeing that ‘get out now’ brings the dog in?

The answer to this question was simple, and perhaps predictable: ‘we say “Hheyi, voetsek wena!”‘

“That is to say, in order to chase away this particular dog, one would have to tell it that much in Afrikaans.”

(Steven Wright used to joke that he named his dog Stay so he could call, “Come here, Stay! Come here, Stay!” “Now he just ignores me and keeps on typing.”)