On mar­gin

Finweek English Edition - - On The Money -

When words fail you

This is­sue’s Zulu word is isilungu. Isilungu is the lan­guage/cus­toms/ways of white peo­ple.

How­ever, even though it can mean any Euro­pean lan­guage, it has come to be as­so­ci­ated with English. The root word is um­lungu – white per­son.

Hhayi, guys, isilungu is a treach­er­ous lan­guage that be­trays us all the time. I re­ally don’t trust my­self when speak­ing isilungu.

I was re­cently at a friend’s beau­ti­ful wed­ding and we spoke isiZulu, isiXhosa, Se­sotho, Setswana and other in­dige­nous lan­guages with reck­less aban­don. I think isilungu was watch­ing us do this and plot­ted its re­venge be­cause in the days that fol­lowed isilungu just would not play nice with me. The words just would not come out. And those that did come out were gib­ber­ish. I think I even bit off a por­tion of my tongue try­ing to form isilungu words.

If you go long pe­ri­ods of time with­out speak­ing isilungu, it be­comes tricky get­ting back on it. It just won’t let you. I have seen col­leagues of mine who are flu­ent in isilungu in­jure them­selves in Jan­uary try­ing to get back into isilungu mode. You see, when the African tongue spends a lot of time speak­ing African lan­guages, like it does in Dizemba, your abil­ity to speak isilungu suf­fers.

I think non-na­tive isilungu speak­ers should not be re­quired to speak isilungu at work or school un­til af­ter Mon­day lunchtime. And com­ing out of the fes­tive sea­son, we should be given un­til Valen­tine’s Day to ad­just. Jump­ing right back into isilungu is a real dan­ger to us. It is so bad. There are times when you see some­one is plan­ning on speak­ing isilungu and you are tempted to jump across the ta­ble to stop them be­fore they maim them­selves. Isilungu is that dan­ger­ous.

This is also why I have re­spect for friends of mine who are in in­ter­ra­cial re­la­tion­ships. Their com­mit­ment to speak­ing isilungu all the time is su­per­nat­u­ral.

By the way, um­lungu is not deroga­tory. It is just the word for white per­son.

– Melusi’s #ev­ery­dayzulu by Melusi Tsha­bal­ala

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.