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Jottings 9: Boko / Beaucoup Haram

[ by Charles Cameron — who just can’t resist a skilled bilingual pun, and is also curious these days about terrorist logos & branding ]

Hamas logo, left, and putative Boko Haram logo, right, compared


I found my delicious multilingual pun in a comment from April 2012 on an RFI post titled Boko Haram en renfort des islamistes armés dans le nord du Mali:

Ces voyous la je les appèlerai plutôt bokou haram! Lisez ça beaucoup haram. … Ce qu’ils font peut juste être qualifié de beaucoup haram.


BTW, does Boko Haram really use a Hamas logo with its own name clumsily cut’n’pasted across the top, as illustrated above and suggested here?

5 Responses to “Jottings 9: Boko / Beaucoup Haram”

  1. LFC Says:

    My understanding is that ‘Boko Haram’ is Hausa, and that its rough translation is “Western education is forbidden.” 
    The bilingual pun here seems to me to be not really esp. “delicious” but rather somewhat strained (reading “haram” as “harm” and transforming “boko” into “beaucoup”). Unless there’s something I’m missing…

  2. LFC Says:

    Perhaps it’s my browser or something, but the calendar/archives thing obscured the far reaches of the comment box on my comment above, which explains the odd line break (I wanted to see what I was typing).   

  3. Charles Cameron Says:

    Hi LFC:
    I’ve fixed the line-break issue for you. 
    My understanding is that Boko refers to western education (it literally means alphabet in Hausa per Wikipedia), but Haram is clearly the term in Arabic for “forbidden” — halal and haram being the opposite terms used to distinguish approved from prohibited (sinful) practices in Islam.  So the transformation suggested is from boko to bokou (see the text I quoted above) which isn’t that much of a stretch — and the fellow is not asking us to read haram as harm.
    So my colloquial translation would be that Boko Haram is plenty prohibited, or maybe plenty sinful. Which sounds about right to me.
    I personally find the pun delicious — but that’s a matter of taste…

  4. LFC Says:

    Thank you for the explanation. I was familiar, I think, with  “halal” but not with “haram” — the pun does seem less strained now.

  5. Charles Cameron Says:

    Most welcome. Similarly, I suspect more people know kosher than treyf!  ; )

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