Notes from underground

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Legends from a small country: ‘Kill a Tourist Day’

An Irish actress was grazed by a bullet while riding in a taxi in Cape Town on New Year’s Eve. And the story was retold in the Brit media, intertwined with urban legends, as urban legend fundi Arthur Goldstuck tells.

Legends from a small country: ‘Kill a Tourist Day’:

As it is, a report the following day in the Daily Mail, by Mail on Sunday correspondent James Tapper, kicked off with this strong innuendo: ‘Actress Victoria Smurfit has revealed she came within inches of death when a gunman opened fire on a taxi she was travelling in while holidaying in South Africa – the nation that will stage the World Cup in just six months.’

Mr Tapper may like to know that a man was killed with a shotgun in what police believed to be a gang fight, in London just the previous week. As far as can be ascertained, not a single newspaper anywhere in the world linked this to the fact that London would be hosting the 2012 Olympic Games. Nor did they do so when a man was stabbed to death after chasing two muggers in London the same week. Nor did they do so when schoolboys were stabbed after a gang invaded a party in London that very weekend. Barely a day goes by without a violent incident in London involving killings and stabbings, but nary a connection to London being a host city in a mere two years’ time.

And now, with 2010 (that’s twenty-ten, not two thouand and ten) less than 100 days away we’ll probably see more such stories. Twenty-ten, of course, is not the year, but the kick-off for the World Cup. There have been some discussions about whether it is twenty-ten or two-thousand and ten, but we’ve heard nothing but twenty-ten for the last six years. I thought I’d better record that, because in another century or so it may be disputed. There was a rather heated discussion in the alt.usage.english newsgroup recently about whether our ancestors called 1907 “nineteen seven” or “nineteen oh seven” or something else.

So just for the record, if Blogspot is still around in 2110, the year two-thousand and nine was followed by twenty-ten, both the year and the World Cup. We didn’t call it “twenty-nine” because that could be confused with “29”, but twenty-ten is OK, and has been OK for six years at least.

Oh yes, and it is quite common in South Africa for people to fire guns into the air to celebrate the New Year. Stupid, yes. Dangerous, yes. But still common, though not as common as it used to be (it’s even more common in Albania, I believe, I wonder what sports event they could be hosting?)

And people have been killed because of such things. A few years ago a bullet went through a corrugated iron roof and illed a baby lying asleep in its cot. It was a rather unusual calibre, and police did ballistics tests, and worked out where the shot must have been fired from, and searched houses in the vicinity, and found some guy who had a vintage rifle and admitted that yes, he had fired it into the air on New Years morn, at or around midnight. He was charged with culpable homicide, and found guilty. The story of how the police solved the case is displayed in the police museum in Pretoria, so it’s probably not an urban legend.

So if you’re planning to come to South Africa for the World Cup, don’t worry; 2010 starts long after New Year.

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