Today, as proclaimed by UNESCO, is International Mother Language Day. This is the day that each one of us is to delight in their mother tongue language: “to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism”.
I shall delight myself by exploring the potency of naming in Sesotho. As we all know, names are intended to convey a message. The question is why would anyone, for example, name a road curve “moqato khaola”? Moqato, if I grant myself permission to be reductionist, is akin to that string in g-string. In the past, when men used to wear that ‘loin garment’ called ts’eea, we referred to the string holding the garment together moqato. So, translated in context, moqato khaola simply communicates how dangerous that particular curve is. It is so dangerous that it can break (khaola) that vital string, which when broken can shame a man. Notwithstanding the dangerousness of this curve, what delights me, particularly as a feminist that I am, is that this confirms to me that indeed women are the best drivers! Otherwise why are they not told to heed the danger?!
Moving right along. If my point is truly to demonstrate the potency of naming, then I think it is fitting to explore names given to some alcoholic beverages in Lesotho. I hope through this exploration, it would be evident why I find the subject of naming delightful. Below is a table with a few of my favourite names given to locally brewed “beer”.
Name Literal translation Interpretation to the translation
Hata-butle-nchanyana Step slowly my boy. Drink this but remember to take it easy ... nice and easy my boy or fall you shall.
Ithoballe-nchanyana Go to sleep my boy. Drink this, it's lights out my boy... the question of home or not becomes mute.
Lebitla-le-ahlame The grave is open. To drink too much of this beverage is but to make an appointment with death.
Qhoma-o-cheche Jump and take a step back. Drink this and you might just feel light on your feet: you will walk with a bounce but it might just be a case of "moving two steps forward and one step backward".
Sekipa-se-ntekane T-shirt is enough for me. Drink this and suddenly it gets so hot ...you might just start stripping and possibly leave your blanket behind; blankets are expensive so this is not desirable at all.