My favourite isiZulu ‘word’ of all time!

When I got back from the States, where I was a Rotary Exchange Student for a year, I enrolled at University in Durban. I decided to take isiZulu as a filler course. It wasn’t because I was particularly INTO the language, it was to impress my American friends in case I went back. Throwing in clicks here and there would be flipping fine.

One semester turned into a year, into two years, into my major and finally into my Honours in isiZulu linguistics. I started tutoring, then teaching, and eventually lecturing this language that I had come, not just to love, but to ADORE. I even had my own little ‘tag line’ for when I taught… “Keri Miller: Making isiZulu, Easy Zulu.” cheesy I know, but it totally worked for me.

One day as I was sitting as UKZN eating lunch, alone (I’ve wondered many times why I was alone at lunch, I think I might need to talk this out in therapy, anyway….) There I was, just me, my carb of choice and my isiZulu/English dictionary, and I came across what became, and still is, my very favourite isiZulu ‘word’ of all time….

I will give it to you in isiZulu, then English, with a rough guide of how to pronounce it… nice hey….

by the way, zulu was never a written language, only spoken, so a lot of the words are brand new and never existed originally. For example: diabetes is ‘isifo sikashukela’ (disease of the sugar). The new words basically explain the term as it exists in English.

here it is…

“udoli ohlala ebokisini ukuthi ufuna ukusabisa abantu abaningi.”

meaning…

Jack in the Box.

Directly translated, it means: a doll, who lives in a box, in order to jump out and scare a lot of people.

pronunciation isiZulu – English

(oo – dolly) udoli – a doll

(aw – hl (like in umHLanga) – aah-la) ohlala – who lives

(air – bog – ee – see – knee) ebokisini – in a box

(oo – goo – tea) ukuthi – in order that

(oo – foo – nah) ufuna – she/he/it wants

(oo- goo – sa – bee – sa) ukusabisa – to scare

(ah – bun – too) abantu – people

(ah – bah – ningee) abaningi – who are a lot

I immediately learnt it off by heart, it’s like my little zulu party trick.

Try it, it’s so much fun to say!

you will find a variant of this in the Witwatersrand UP English-Zulu/Zulu-English dictionary compiled by Doke, Malcolm, Sikakana, Vilakazi. It says, jack-in-the-box : udoli ovalelwe ebhokisini okuthi lingavulwa bese uthi qhamukiyane. (mostly the same as the previous one).

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4 comments on “My favourite isiZulu ‘word’ of all time!

  1. I’ve got a party trick too:

    “udoli ohlala zulu for in my pants ukuthi ufuna ukusabisa abantu abaningi.”

  2. I will vouch for the merriment that this phrase has induced in social situations. When the mood lulls, I find myself shouting across the room, “Hey Miller! Say that Jack in the Box thing.”

  3. The Witwatersrand UP English-Zulu/Zulu-English dictionary compiled by Doke, Malcolm, Sikakana, Vilakazi says:

    jack-in-the-box – udoli ovalelwe ebhokisini okuthi lingavulwa bese uthi qhamukiyane

    • that one is waaaaay harder than mine. haha. A lot of english words didn’t exist in zulu which is why they explain so much for a word… don’t think there’s a ‘right’ when it comes to making up words. haha. (there’s also a very good chance I’m just wrong.) 🙂

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