A Joburg Man Is Using His Social Media To Teach IsiZulu, Everyday He Shares A New Word

Melusi Tshabalala has been using his Facebook account to teach isiZulu. He regularly posts a new Zulu word online and explains how to use it.

Melusi Tshabalala has started something we didn’t know we needed! He posts isiZulu words and their meanings in the hopes to educate his fellow South Africans. Melusi shares his educational post publicly so it is easy to follow him and get the educational updates.

Here is one of his very educational posts, we are really chuffed because today we learned something new.

Because Thursday has been turned into a mini Friday and this time of the year is a mini festive season, today’s Zulu word is the suffix “-nyana”. Yes, -nyana of “smallanyana skeletons”.

This –suffix is a diminisher; it denotes the smaller form. As in, a boy is “umfana” and a small boy is “umfanyana”, a girl is “intombazane” and a little girl is “intombazanyana”, a mouth is “umlomo” and a small mouth is “umlonyana”, an animal is “islwane” and a small animal is “islwanyana”. While it can be applied to many words to achieve the effect of diminishing, it doesn’t work with all.

Actually, I lie.

Traditionally, there ARE many words it shouldn’t work with but because language, like Zodwa Wabantu, belongs to the people, it has come to work the way people want it to. Where a bit of “impuphu” (powder) should be “impushana”, you’ll now hear people say “impuphunyana”. isiZulu purists hate this, but what are they gonna do?

The word is not confined to isiZulu and it exists in other languages too, serving the same or similar purpose. In seSotho, for instance, you have ngwanyana (girl), moshimanyana (small/boy) and it doesn’t stop there. These days it has transcended its roots and invaded everyday, Southern African speak.

Even a bit of hummus is hummus-nyana, while what’s happening in Zim is a coup-nyana.

It can also be used, as a stand-alone word to downplay. Here is an example:

Generous friend: Are you hungry?
Tactful friend: Nyana.

Another example.

Nosey friend: How did the date go? Did you… you know?
Bashful friend: Nyana.
Nosey Friend: What the hell does that mean?
Bashful friend: Mind your own business.

In the above, two instances –nyana could mean “maybe/sort of/a little”

Yet another example.

Girl 1: I think your crush is gay.
Girl 2: Nyana neh?
Girl 1: Not nyana. Gay gay.
Girl 2: Nyana, man!

In the above example, it means “a little/a bit/a hint”

Back in its –suffix from, -nyana works like Afrikaans’ ‘tjie”.

In isiXhosa nyana is son.

Go out there and enjoy this Friday-nyana.

Today’s word made us giggle!

Today’s Zulu word is not a Zulu word but it has to be shared. We’ll call it a bonus word. The word is “Mgabe”.

It’s the shorthand of Mugabe and it’s a type of mean, threatening look. It came about because president Mugabe always looked mean and threatening so when you give someone that kind of look, you’re being like him.

I swear I am not making this up.

If you want people to know you’re not in the mood to be messed with, you spot a mgabe – ubashaya ngo mgabe.


Written by How South Africa

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