“Paracetamol”, a drug used for common aches and pains much in the same way we use Ibuprofen, is the Dogon-ized form of “Franceline”, the woman who, it has been said, “committed treason against a nation”.
Franceline became Paracetamol phonologically because f as a phoneme does not exist in Dogon, intervocalic l becomes [r], and vowel harmony changes the height and qualities of the vowels to better match each other.
Franceline became Paracetamol semantically because I thought (see blog posts from last year) that she was the exception the generalization that romantic love does not exist in this culture.
Both parties had been completely clear and open: he had been given a wife in the Malian village and did not want to refuse lest he upset his parents and grandparents. When he fell in love here in BF, she consented to be the second wife even though they are both, in fact, Christians. From parents to pastors, everyone’s permission was requested and everyone was on board. Until, at the last minute, she backed out. Tonight I found out why. Unfortunately, like the NIN song, or like a bad romance novel, the love that I had so naively believed in was based in lies. The man who she claimed to love and who claimed to love her more than life itself in fact was merely trying to get back at his wife (from an arranged marriage) who had a child (not his).
As I said previously, we are not to romanticize poverty, and certainly the situation is beyond complicated, but I had so hoped.