This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Nuts and Bolts: An Enchanting Way With English.

Juliet Samuel in the Daily Telegraph recently introduced me to the wonderful Swahili word kipilefti.

A kipilefti is a roundabout of the road junction kind (some people who speak Swahili - in Kenya, for instance - do actually drive on the left. But I wonder what a kipilefti is called in the places where people don't?).

Anyway, upon further investigation I have discovered that Swahili makes a habit of doing enchanting things with English words when it finds a need for them.

Your motokaa, for instance, which you are driving round the kipilefti, may have a klachi (clutch), and madigadi (mudguards). If you are a foreigner you will be carrying a paspoti for identification purposes.

You may be wearing a shati (shirt) and, delightfully, soksi on your feet. Your posho (rations, from portion) may consist of supu (soup) and perhaps jini (gin) - but not too much, one hopes, or you may end up, predictably, in the hospitali - or, even worse, listening to a heavenly kwaya.

Sometimes these borrowed words are quite difficult to recognise. Kabati may be reasonably obvious in context (it's a cupboard) but how about if there is more than one cupboard, when the word will become makabati?

But never mind, some things are easy. If anyone asks you how you are, the answer is a simple:


Word To Use Today: if you like living dangerously, how about sili? It's the Swahili for seal, as in the animal. 

I admit it's one to use with care, though.

No comments:

Post a Comment