“That shaft on my windpump has broken again.” Vetfaan has the look of Yogi the bear as he watches the mountain burn down. “It’s that long piston-like rod going down the hole.”
“The flangiprop?” Kleinpiet nods in sympathy. “That’s a problem. You’ll have to pull up the pump.”
“Can’t be.” Servaas shakes his head. “That’s called something else. A flangiprop is one of those new-fandangled little aeroplanes they spot game with. It’s basically a propeller with a seat behind it. Very sophisticated. They can land on a penny.”
“A flangiprop? No, come on guys, that’s the hottest thing in bar accessories. It’s a chair that fits into a flange in the floor, so drunk people can’t fall off. It props them up.” Boggel reaches below the counter to bring out a glossy advertisement. “See?”
“I thought it’s a fad in Japan. A property with frangipanis – or flangipanis like they call them there – is commonly known as a most desilable flangiplop.” Precilla has always dreamt of a garden in front of her cottage in Rolbos.
“Guys, you’ve got it wrong. It’s a governmental acronym. It’s the newest one they’ve added: Framework Logistics for the Acquisition of Non-Governmental Industry and Property. It is as secret as it is a public farce. Everybody knows what is happening in Zimbabwe. Everybody knows it is happening here. It’s just another word to describe Nationalisation, that’s all. It sounds…so friendly. That’s why they invented it.” Gertruida sits back with her know-it-all smile. “It’s about getting windpumps and aeroplanes, property and mines for free. Didn’t you know that?”
“But my windpump is still broken, no matter what you call it.” Vetfaan sighs and downs his beer.
“Then you need a flangiprop, Vetfaan. It’s a term developed in the early days of submarines. The long shaft connecting the engine to the propeller developed specific problems when the dive went too deep. As you know, the increased pressure on the hull resulted in the boat shrinking ever so slightly, but that caused a problem because the shaft would then push the housing for the propeller outwards. When that happened, the boat wasn’t watertight any more. More often, the shrinking of the hull caused the prop-shaft to buckle, which ended up in unbalancing the entire mechanism, and breaking the shaft. So they had to develop a special prop-shaft to compensate for the variable distance between engine and propulsion system. The problem was solved by an engineer called Frederick Lang, and the shaft became known as the F Lang Indestructible Propeller shaft, which could expand and shrink with the boat. The seamen shortened it to a flangiprop. Now if you get one of those in your windpump, your problem is solved.” Sammie, who once ran a café in Simonstown, knows quite a lot about boats and ships.
“Oh shush, all of you.” Oudoom has just walked in for a quickie. “You trying to explain what a flangiprop is? Let me tell you. It is a combination of an old Arabic word and an early Roman term. A flangus was a tool they used to sharpen spears with. And a propsiculum was an entertainer, much like the troubadours in later years – they went from town to town, telling jokes and stories. If his stories were very convincing, they townsfolk would reward such a propsiculum by paying his bill – which is where the English word: probable, comes from.Such a propsiculum would be said to be very flangus – or sharp. Flangus and propsiculum simply got joined to form a new term for a clever troubadour, see? A flangiprop is a very successful liar, or confabulator of stories.
“And let me tell you – broken windpump or not – if I don’t drink my beer quickly, Mevrou will come looking for me. Then you guys will have to be very inventive in thinking up an excuse for my being here. Yep. You’ll have to be real flangiprops…”
Regular visitors to Rolbos will know: this town has the highest density – in the whole world – of flangiprops. No surprise there. But few will know that flangiprop is actually a verb. Like Oudoom said: it originally applied to good liars and story tellers. They could make any situation work for them. To flangiprop was to fool people into believing you. Today we encounter this phenomenon in a deck of playing cards, where the Joker can be used to substitute for any card in the pack. A Joker, then, flangiprops for the real thing.
Just like politicians…