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Urgent Message

Before movie companies were careful about Swahili translations—assuming no one in the U.S. would understand—a director needed an African messenger who was to gasp out a sentence to the big chief, collapsing as he delivered his message, since he had run for days with his vital news. A local Englishman who spoke Swahili was asked to write an urgent-sounding sentence in the language. He did, tongue in cheek. An American actor played the part beautifully. All went well until the movie was shown in Nairobi (where everyone spoke Swahili, of course). The drama of the moment was reduced to high comedy. What the messenger actually said as he threw himself, exhausted, before the chief was, “I do not think I am getting paid enough money for this part.”

Elephant Have Right of Way, B. and J. Leslie-Melville

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