In Gao and vicinity, it is common to hear announcements of lost cattle on local radio. To be useful, the message must contain fairly precise descriptions. For example, let’s take a red cow – in Songhay, haw (cow), ciray (red). To be sure, the phrase haw ciray is correct, as it literally means “red cow”. Then, why does such a description amuse some villagers just a few kilometres away from town?