Posted by: glue | May 18, 2008


I, Wabenzi, by Rafi Zabor

“While trying to nose his battered gray Chevy into a parking space on the Lower East Side, Zabor had a confrontation with yuppies in a fancy new Mercedes. Shouting in a voice ‘full of a barbarian and pure Brooklyn savagery,’ he scared them off, an ’embodiment of urban yawp and slumland fury thrust out a car window.’ Describing the incident to a friend, he learns that in Africa people who drive Mercedes are called Wabenzi, a compound derived from the addition of ‘wa’ (which means ‘people of’) to Benz (‘the characteristic they’d like to be known by’) and ‘i’ for the plural (as in Watusi — ‘the people of Tus’). Much later, when Zabor decides to buy a junky old Mercedes to drive on a soul-searching trip to Turkey, he realizes he may himself become a hated Wabenzi. He is determined that this possiblity will not remain unexamined.”

Liesel Schillinger, “Traveling Mercies,” New York Times Book Review, Sunday, November 20, 2005.

1959 Mercedes Benz

We may generalize this construction. For example, Wablogi (those who blog).

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