There are some series of words that one does not expect to see strung together in English. I am not talking about nonsense. Any idiot can string together random words in a grammatical way – “The banana ran down the street shouting psalms” and so on.
I am talking about an altogether different type – sentences that make complete sense, convey real, verifiable information, and yet are so unexpected that the mind rebels, something like “Tom Cruise weds Katie Holmes.” That was a hard one to digest.
But a few weeks ago I heard one that was almost more than I could wrap my head around. I heard it on the BBC, which for some reason seems odd as well. I can’t find the exact wording, but it went something like this:
“Illegal immigrants are being eaten by lions.”
This turns out to be true. It goes like this: the collapse of the economy of Zimbabwe has caused many people to try to sneak across the border into South Africa. Unfortunately, this happens to take them through one of the last great swaths of land where lions roam free. And, although much has changed in the course of the last few millennia of civilization, one thing that has not changed is that lions will eat human beings. And there’s not a hell of a lot a human can do to stop it in toe-to-toe fight.
The BBC quoted a wildlife expert as saying it is possible that lions are eating more humans today than at any point in history. This is another unlikely series of words.
I don’t know why this story has haunted me. I certainly hope that nobody in the House of Representatives heard this story and considers adding it to the border security bill.