Khaya Dlanga
Khaya Dlanga

An open letter to Kulula (Or is it Khulula?)

I didn’t know who to address this to so I decided to write an open letter. As you might have noticed, this has become a very popular method of addressing officials in high places. (Did you see that pun? “High places”. Hahaha! Funny huh! OK, maybe it’s just me.) I thought that I should probably write to you in this forum while open letters are still hip and cool. For who knows what will be the white thing to do next week? I mean, right thing to do. Excuse me. It was not my intention to jump on the racial bandwagon that happened over the past week.

When you started, we all loved your advertising and we still do. It is hilarious. It’s funny. And of course irreverent. What many people don’t know is that the irreverence extended to the language you took your name from. Kulula is from the Nguni word meaning easy. Those people who know anything about the aviation industry will also know that this was in fact taken from the European airliner known as Easy Jet. Yesssss, now the light bulb comes on.

However, your TV and radio ads pronounce the word Kulula, “Khulula”, and Khulula is spelt with an “H”. With the “H” it means, “take off”. Which is punny and funny if that is what you meant. But we all know that’s not what you meant, even though you might say that’s what you meant. Unfortunately that’s not how you’ve spelt it; you’ve spelt it without the “H”, yet you pronounce it with it. And oh, Khulula also means to strip. I bet your airline would be extremely popular if you changed your business model to Khulula Air, Strip Air. Teasers of the air. Had Lolly Jackson been still alive, he would have been proud of you.

When you started, I wrote an email explaining this to you. But no, I got no response from you. Maybe it got lost. Maybe it disappeared in the internet Bermuda Triangle. I will never know. Now, many years later, I feel must write this petty email to you. I know, I know. Some people will think it’s petty but it’s actually not. You see, British publication The Economist wrote an article, “South African languages, tongues under threat” with the sub-heading “English is dangerously dominant”. You see, in the bigger scheme of things, it is not so petty. However it is not up to commercial entities to protect these languages. It is up to the people who speak them. It is in this context that I write this open letter to you, you see?

I have even gone further to write a column about this, “English has colonised our languages”.

We members of the melanin-advantaged persuasion get laughed at when we mispronounce English words. When Kulula mispronounces a Nguni word we shut up and think, oh cute. Well, babies are cute. This isn’t.

My mother always complains when one of your ads comes up. “Why are these people mispronouncing Kulula?” And I want to say to her, it’s OK, mother, take it easy. It’s just marketing. My mother doesn’t care about marketing and she is not the kind of person who will write and complain, as many of my friend’s parents wouldn’t complain either. But they will complain to their children.

What is so difficult about saying Kulula? Kulula ukuthi Kulula. Let me translate that for my melanin-disadvantaged friends, it means, “it’s easy to say it’s easy”.

No, don’t worry, no one is going to threaten to boycott Kulula if you still decide to continue with the mispronunciation. We will continue to take your flights and pretend we don’t notice the bastardisation. Just pray that Juju doesn’t get wind of this.