Johannesburg – Jou ma se pedo guy. Scream that at a Jozi taxi driver and he is likely to just shake his head in bewilderment. He might even laugh.
In a land known for its colourfully vile words and phrases, pedo guy has to be the wimpy kid of all insults.
That is, if it exists.
Unfortunately, the rest of the world now believes that pedo guy is a common South African insult, thanks to Elon Musk.
This week, the Tesla entrepreneur was in court in the US defending that tweet, where he called hero Thai cave diver Vernon Unsworth a “pedo guy”.
The insult came after Unsworth turned down an offer of the use of a submarine that Musk’s engineers had built to help rescue a Thai youth soccer team from a flooded cave in July 2018.
In his defence Musk is expected to argue that pedo guy was an insult in South Africa while he was growing up in Pretoria.
Musk wrote in a court statement: “Pedo guy was a common insult used in South Africa when I was growing up. It is synonymous with ‘creepy old man’ and is used to insult a person’s appearance and demeanour, not accuse a person of paedophilia.”
But one man who was insulted by pedo guy was Unsworth, who said that the tweet that was read by millions of Musk’s followers had humiliated him.
The problem is that people who lived through the ‘80s when Musk was a schoolboy in Pretoria are little hazy when it comes to that insult.
Slate magazine in US tracked down some of Musk’s schoolmates from Pretoria Boys High School to find out if pedo guy was an actual insult. Of 17 ex-pupils who were asked, 13 said they had never heard the term. Three said that they had heard various permutations of “pedo guy”.
Even on Twitter, South Africans are scratching their heads to recall if they have ever been called a “pedo guy”.
In a Twitter poll Zelda Swart asked: “Was ‘pedo guy’ used as a general insult in South Africa (I suppose in the 1980s?).”
The majority, 80%, said no.
It is so obscure that if someone did call you a pedo guy, you might have to Google it before deciding to acknowledge the compliment or take them to the Equality Court.
Even then, Google is not too much of a help.
Urban dictionary, that online resource where you go to bone up on the meaning of all lewd actions and words, is a no-show.
“An abbreviation of the word torpedo, pedo is a term of endearment often used by business magnates, investors and engineers, for a fast and excellent swimmer or diver,” was their tongue-in-cheek answer.
Soon we might have angry tourists stamping their feet in hotel lobbies, restaurants and in taxis across the land shouting “pedo guy”.
Unfortunately, our best insults are in languages they wouldn’t understand.
We might have to teach them a couple of choice words
Perhaps “pedo guy” was drowned out by those far worse insults that were flying about in 80s South Africa.
Maybe it was buried in the past, but remained alive in the head of a certain tech guy who still sees South Africa at a time when school boys sported mullets, sniggered about made up naughty words and dreamt of a time when they could use them to humiliate.