Monday, November 7, 2011


The word "Wog" has been badly used over the years. It came to be a slur on the "natives" in much of the British Empire. Winston Churchill once said, "The Wogs begin at Dover." This was taken as a subtle slur on Europe, which was out of character for Churchill. So, he must have had another meaning.

Perhaps Churchill used Wog the way many of us used it. The African or Indian was a potential faithful friend, servant, and nuisance. It all depended on what sort of relationship you and the Wog had.

When I was in secondary school in Kenya I one day opened an old dictionary from England to see if they included the word "Wog". They did, and the only definition given was "Worthy Oriental Gentleman". Revisionists today on the Web have come up with several other definitions which make it very clear that they are young hot heads who love to make up facts as they go along.

In my era in Kenya, the word Wog was used by the sons of British colonial staff and missionaries as a form of recognition of status. If a kid had grown up playing with Africans, learned Swahili or a tribal language fluently, and if he really felt partial to the Wogs in his life, the rest of us noted that, and we would call him a Wog. It was a mark of one having reached a rite of passage. 

I remember as a kid in Rift Valley Academy being told I was a Wog. I really felt like I had arrived. To this was added the affection I felt and received by several of the African Kikuyu workers around the school and in the kitchen. I liked Africa, it was home, and certain Africans were close to my heart. In fact, I did not feel much distinction at all over racial issues.

Even today, when I meet a long lost friend from the past in Kenya, he may say, "How are you doing, you old Wog?" This sucks me at once back in time to sweet memories of good days.

So, you now know who we are talking about at this blog. If you are a younger African from the post-colonial era, you may have been taught that the word Wog was a racial slur. Sometimes it was, but other times it had nothing to do with race or status.

The Title of the Blog tells you what an expatriate is, and if you add the two words together, you have the idea. Now, not wanting to be a snob, I want to make it quite clear that any "native" of the British Empire is as worthy of being called a Wog as the best of us expatriates. 

So, I do welcome you. But do remember that there is no place here for preaching and complaining about the past. Nor do I tolerate revisionist history. Many nations in the Commonwealth remade their history to make heroes of despicable characters, and many worthy "natives" were cast away because they thrived under colonialism by using it as an opportunity.

Those of us who were there know the times when Britain behaved badly, and we know when the "natives" behaved badly. It is pointless for any of us to try to put a good face on the bad. It is equally wicked to toss out the good done by Great Britain simply because it makes national leaders look bigger than life.

In fact, there have been many discussions of the various colonial masters, and Great Britain is always seen as the most self-conscious master. That is, the English usually realized that they ought to lift up the level of life in a possession before they set up shop in that nation to do business. The Raj in India had its warts for sure, but if one notes the flow of order in India today, one sees "Great Britain" everywhere.

I trust you will send in your experiences and stories. There is much to learn in such an exercise.

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