Habari ya nani?

After a longish pause,

Nani ako sawa. Karibu niulize ‘Nani ni nani?’

Nani. The immediately indefinable someone. That someone: a girlfriend, a boyfriend, the subject of some spicy gossip, that person whom we are talking about in a particular context, the centre of our words. Nani. I often find it polite to use ‘nani’ when dealing with people who prefer to keep their cards close to their chests, or when I am not sure whether a nani even exists. It enables me to put a psychological distance between myself and the subject being discussed, lest I get close to them or assume them wanting, somehow even before I meet them.

Also, if my interlocutor does not volunteer the person’s name, their privacy is preserved, their space remains untainted. And if that nani does happen to walk by, unless they hear all the details of the hushed conversation, they would remain none the smarter. Aside from the preservation of collective arses when discussing other people, nani comes in handy when a subject of talk’s name is not remembered off the top of one’s head, as long as one is privy to the intricacies at play. For example, a typical conversation between two boyz after about the sixth beer,

Unajua….. nani? The one with the *gesticulating to indicate big breasts and/ or an endowed posterior* Naniiii!? Ule black beauty/ light-skinned/ ule dame wa USIU/ ule dame wa *insert wherever it is your particular nani comes from or looks like*? Enhe, so me and her….. *indicating with smirks, eye winks, oozings of smugness and self-satisfaction, and more gesticulating that they had sex*

Buuuuuda! *grudging high five* Hapo sawa! Finally! Umekimbisha hiyo mambo tangu campo! *more grudging high fives because this guy has not gotten laid for a spell and had a secret crush on said nani*

A catch-all to make up for a beer-addled memory, a too-juicy snippet of a conversation chanced upon or over-the-weekend debauchery that, with no names mentioned and not having to remember any names anyway, communicates the nitty-gritty about a certain person or people in quiet delectable question. Nani. A most useful word.


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