I love Congolese rumba, or soukous as it is properly called, one of the founding fathers of which was François Luambo Makiadi, known as Franco. Franco founded the great OK Jazz band, and their signature tune was “On Entre O.K. on Sort K.O.” (YouTube)—”You enter OK, you leave knocked out [KO’d, kayoed].” Both abbreviations are, of course, borrowed from English, where the pronunciations of the letters are identical, but in the song they are pronounced /oke/ and /kao/ respectively, showing that the first was borrowed in spoken form (“OK” being the prototypical bit of Yankee speech) and the second via writing, so that the letters have their French values, with /ka/ for K. I just thought that was interesting, and it’s a good excuse to expose people to this wonderful music if you don’t know it already. It will KO you!
Update. Much more on Franco and Congolese music here.

(Franco’s great rival was Tabu Ley Rochereau; here’s his Sacramento.)


  1. rootlesscosmo says

    /kao/ reminds me of an incident in a New Yorker story I read long, long ago: a US tourist in Mexico gets malaria and is being cared for by a Mexican doctor. They fall to talking politics and the doctor observes that “cows will always follow a revolution.” This strikes the patient as a wonderfully evocative image–the neglected livestock wandering about in the wake of social upheaval. Only after his fever breaks does he realize that what the doctor meant was “chaos.”

  2. Same in German: Ich bin OK /o’ke:/, du bist KO /ka’o:/.

  3. Kári Tulinius says

    rootlesscosmo: Only after his fever breaks does he realize that what the doctor meant was “chaos.”
    When I was a kid learning to read English I would pronounce “chaos” with the “cha” sound of “chap” and the “os” sound of “ostentatious.” It’s one of those words I notice a lot of non-Anglophones get wrong (though I probably notice because it was a word I had trouble with).

  4. Rip Waechter says

    Had a similar “cow” event. During the 1990s Russian revolution, when the Russian White House was taken over by Yeltzin and his crowd, I was at my German in-laws’ house.
    The German news reader ended his report on the events with “Da herrscht Chaos” [Chaos reigned]. What I heard was “Da herrscht Cows”…

  5. “It will KO you”?
    Don’t you mean “It will K you O”?

  6. YM – nope, but my mind is totally devoid of examples of similar constructions at the moment.
    I always find peppered ‘OK’s from French speakers a bit odd, but it seems to serve a loose sort of purpose that ‘d’accord’ doesn’t, so sticks around, which is fair enough.
    I feel an only tangentially relevant compulsion to recount my French tutor’s anecdote – of his elderly mother informing him she’d seen a lovely show, very funny, really enjoyed it, called /fri’ɑ̃/. (…)

  7. “Da herrscht Cows”
    Not so far off. Where cows rule, there reigns chaos.

  8. Those who, like me and the late John Peel, hold that Diblo Dibala is the greatest living guitarist, may already have been disappointed to discover just how little coverage the Internets have of him.
    Incriminatingly, although he decamped (along with much of soukous) to Paris years ago the French wikipedia page is even thinner than the Engleesh one.
    I blame the cows, for sure.

  9. The world is in a state of chassis.

  10. Franco was indeed a great musician and I gather his lyrics were often incisive, despite his deplorable loyalty to Mobutu.
    Btw, I actually came here via Likembe and wanted to comment on your entry entitled “Pronoun”, but it seems commenting is possible everywhere except there! Sorry for any inconvenience, but this is what I wanted to say:
    Thanks for the quote! There are indeed many Somali songs related to grammar overhaul. I’ve several but the sound quality has deteriorated. Likembe has another one called “Toban Weeye Shaqalladu”. It’s also from early 70s and deals with the ten basic vowels of the language (5 short + 5 long). Due to the multiple tone marks the number is actually extended to 40 and in some regions even more. The song elucidates that complexity quite well with a few cognitive memory aids.
    The track is on: http://likembe.blogspot.com/2007/12/more-somali-funk-sahra-dawo-dur-dur.html

  11. Sanaag: Welcome, and sorry about the closed post; I hate doing that, but when spam comments are the only ones being posted I reluctantly close comments. I’ve reopened that post and added your comment there; maybe the spammers will have forgotten about it and I can leave it open. Thanks for the additional info and link!

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