Really, I can't understand why journalists have been making such a fuss about an innocent party game that Silvio Berlusconi apparently plays with distinguished young guests who've had the honor of being invited along to one of his elegant dinner evenings. To my mind, after serious and lengthy dining-table discussions about current affairs, culture and so forth, there could be no more friendly way of relaxing than a joyous 60-minute session of Bonga bonga. And I'm not at all surprised that this kind of light-hearted pastime would greatly amuse an intelligent young student such as Ruby, the lovely niece of a statesman from the southern shores of the Mediterranean.
Curiously, journalists have made no attempt to describe this party game… either because they think it's of no importance, or (more likely) because they're clueless in this domain. As a youth in a rural city in Australia, I was invited along to countless charming dinner evenings that ended inevitably in a bit of Bonga bonga… which had rapidly replaced Bridge as the most fashionable game among the refined bourgeoisie of that sophisticated city. It was such a simple fun-filled game, with few rules, that everybody loved playing it. In a dimmed room, a female guest would kneel down on the floor, with her face blindfolded and buried in the cushions of a lounge chair, so that she couldn't see the individuals who were approaching her from behind. One by one, the gentlemen would move behind her with an outstretched finger. The young lady could reach around behind her and grab the finger, but she couldn't actually see whose finger it was. The aim of the game was to guess which man had the longest finger. While fondling the finger, the young lady would chant rhythmically:
Binga binga. Here's a finger.
Bonga bonga. Is it longer?
Then she would give us her estimate of the length of the finger, in inches and fractions of an inch. (We hadn't yet got around to using the metric system.) And this estimated length would be noted down on paper. When all the gentlemen had participated in the game, the girl's blindfold would be removed, and she would get up and read out her estimates, one by one, with the identity of each man now revealed. As you can imagine, this gave rise to much mirth, because often the girl would make a mistake, and say that such-and-such a man with a small finger seemed to have a very long one, or vice versa, and so on.
Somebody made the intriguing suggestion that the Italian president first encountered this parlor game in the Bedouin tent of the great leader of Libya. Now, I'm wondering if maybe there's some kind of gigantic confusion here, between two rather different games. Back in the Antipodes, there was another amusing game with a slightly different name: Bugga bugga. It was played, not with young women, but with sheep, and the nature of the game was quite different to Bonga bonga. Maybe, on the shores of the Mediterranean, it has been played with goats. I simply don't know. But it would be a dreadful shame if ignorant journalists were in fact confusing Bonga bonga with Bugga bugga…