Superstition mingles in customs of speech. There is the custom of Kombo, existing to-day. Something about the act of sneezing is considered uncanny. A phrase or a cabalistic word, intended as an adjuration or a protestation in the nature of a prayer for protection or blessing, is very commonly ejaculated by one who sneezes and sometimes when one stumbles. (In the old despotic days of native kings, in the Benito region, if a king, on first emerging from his house in the morning, should happen to stumble, be would order the nearest person in sight to be killed.) That word is uttered by an adult for
[1. From a West African Newspaper.]
himself, by a parent or other relative for an infant child. It may be an archaism whose meaning has been forgotten. Generally the Kombo is an epigrammatic phrase invented by the individual himself, and to be used only by him.
Sometimes, instead of a phrase, the single word "Kombo!" as representing the custom, is uttered.
Some forty years ago the ejaculation, before the invariable "Mbolo" salutation was uttered, that was used by visitors to the Mpongwe king on the south side of the Gabun estuary, was, "What evil law has God made?" The response was, "Death!" Little as the heathen natives liked to talk of death, their use of that word to their king was in the nature of a good wish that he might escape the universal law. And the "Mbolo!" (gray hairs) that followed was a wish that he might live to have gray hairs.
His son, an edueated man and a nominal Romanist, is now saluted quite as formally, but the ejaculation has been changed to a more respectful and Christian recognition of God.