Formal and Informal IsiNdebele
- May 27, 2021
- Posted by: Vambo Academy
- Category: Zimbabwe
IsiNdebele has been subject to various developments owing to influences from colonisation and globalisation. As with any language, IsiNdebele has formal, informal and casual language uses.
Formal IsiNdebele is used when speaking to elders and mostly in the rural areas. This form is highly respectful and makes use of the ‘li’ prefix and euphemisms in order to communicate.
Li – used as a prefix for older people
U – used as a prefix for younger people or peers
Linjani? – How are you?
Unjani? – How are you?
Litshonile – Good afternoon or good evening
Utshonile – Good afternoon or good evening
Lihambe kuhle – Travel well
Uhambe kuhle- Travel well
It is actually considered disrespectful for a child to ask an adult how they are because it is believed that even if the adult is not well the child can not do anything to assist them. However a working younger person can ask an adult how they are doing because she or he is seen as able to assist if the adult has challenges.
Ndenglish is an informal term used to describe IsiNdebele words derived from english. Some words are also derived from languages spoken in Zimbabwe’s neighbouring countries, especially from South Africa. The most common language married to isiNdebele is isiZulu. Because some words are considered insults in isiZulu language some people in certain parts of Zimbabwe do not say them in IsiNdebele.
Examples of such words:
Ukubhebha – "It is burning" in Isindebele and "Having sex" in IsiZulu
Ukuselwa – "Being late for something" in isiZulu and "Waking up late at a lover’s place" in isiNdebele
Ukuphuza – "Being late for something" in isiNdebele and “Drinking” in isiZulu
Examples of slang words taken from English words:
Slang words have been coined or derived from existing isiNdebele words. The latter are interpreted differently when used in a slang context.
An example is the word Mudala which means an old man. This word is usually spelt Mdala in slang settings and is used as a term of endearment amongst males of any age group.
The word Masalu is derived from the english word mom and is used to refer to a step-mother or a mother figure that is not of biological origin.
Commuter omnibus operators and conductors as well as street peddlers are the common users of slang that has a mix of isiNdebele and English. People have often joked that no one has as many relatives as a commuter omnibus door operator or conductor. When they are calling out to passengers they call women as "my sista" if they are age mates to mean my sister, mdala or topi for men old enough to be there fathers, masalu for women old enough to be their mothers, magriza for women old enough to be their grandmothers.
Teenagers sometimes refer to their mothers as "Ma oledi" taken from "my old lady".
Teenagers also use seemingly derogatory terms which are actually said in the form of endearment such as
"nja yami", directly meaning "my dog", used to mean " my friend".
"Skhokho" meaning "my man"
Older women in their 20s and 30s call each other "gogo", directly meaning "grandmother" used as a term of endearment. Culturally though this term is usually used in reference to people who have ancestral spirits as it is believed that by calling them grandmother one is respecting the spirits in them.