prayer and the ambiguous direct object infix

image courtesy of heavenawaits

[I’m building a small soccer field in my back yard.  We moved a bunch of dirt around to make the yard level.  Then we added manure and planted grass.  The grass is growing, but it’ll be three or four months before we can play on it, I think.  But that’s all besides the point — just a little aside.]

Five Tanzanian guys helped to plant the grass on the soccer field; and we got it all done in one day.  Christie and I wanted to feed the guys a good Tanzanian meal, so we asked Margaret to cook for the guys — and to cook something they’d really enjoy.  She did.  And the guys anxiously awaited lunch.  

Once we were all washed up and the food was set out, we decided to pray.  Not all these guys are religious, so I asked Kulwa (a Christian) to pray before our meal.  After some discussion as to whether he should pray in Sukuma or Swahili (Swahili was decided upon), he bowed his head and began by saying:

“Tumshukuru.”

Translation:  “We should thank him (or her).” Or even “Let’s thank him (or her).”

See that little ‘m’ towards the beginning of the word?  That’s a direct object marker; it tells us we’re thanking a single person (or being, in this case).  Kulwa could have said, “Tumshukuru Mungu,” and it would have been a very specific, “Let’s thank (him) God.”  

But the him is assumed when preparing to pray, right?

Not if you’re Oscar, one of the other guys in the group — one who was not so accustomed to praying before meals.  He heard, “Let’s thank him/her,” and quickly responded aloud, interrupting Kulwa’s prayer with an emphatic, “Thank you, Margaret!”

We all had a good laugh.  [Except maybe Kulwa who possibly thought Oscar’s comments sacrilegious.]  In the end, though, God was thanked, Margaret was thanked, the guys where thanked, and I’m going to have a beautiful (yet small) soccer field.

Also, it’s always a good idea to thank both God AND the cook for the food.


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7 Comments

Filed under living in africa, prayer, slightly humorous or amusing?

7 responses to “prayer and the ambiguous direct object infix

  1. That’s hilarious. Good stuff. And hey, a soccer field is a soccer field right. Big or small. Have fun!

  2. I wonder if God would rather we thank the cook than we thank him? he’s self sacrificing. (this question is semi-serious).

  3. Jambo! I know about six words in Swahili from a mission trip to Kenya several years ago…. but I love stories about prayer: they’re always way bomb because God does something miraculous, or they’re hilarious because people are ridiculous. Thanks for the fun story!

    • sijambo, jake. happy to hear you’ve done some time in kenya. and it’s great to have you at the blog. i appreciate you reading and commenting.

      and you’re right — i have some amazing prayer stories, and some funny prayer stories. it is a subject that certainly allows both.

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