Socks and Underwear

Socks and Underwear: June 2011

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Learn Setswana

I finished the first half of digitizing a small portion of the Setswana-English Dictionary. It has been a while since I first started because it has been a small side project but it has gotten a lot more attention recently. I figured it would be nice for the incoming volunteers. I had thought that I would only need to do one half (Setswana-English) and through computer magic be able to have the other (English-Setswana) but that doesn't seem to be the case.

I have access to a scanner and a pretty good OCR program so about 80% of the English words came out correctly. Beyond that, I am only working with a pocket Dictionary, which by the way lives up to its claims, it indeed fits into my pocket. So this was not an unbelievably difficult task. The Setswana words, on the other hand, were much more garbled so I still had to double check each entry. Reading a dictionary turns out to be not as fun as you might think and a translation dictionary even less so. With that in mind, I started to make a list of the words that entertained me through the drudgery. It can also be viewed as the essential vocab list for Setswana; consider these the only words you'll ever need to know.

Hilarious double meanings

Surely a lot of hilarious situations in the history of Setswana speaking people arouse out of misunderstandings from these words. That might not be true at all but it is funny for me to imagine situations where they did.

dihuba (sehuba) (n), chests; thoraxes; phlegm; donations; breasts.
dinoka (noka) (n), hips; rivers.
dinoko (noko) (n), porcupines; syllables; knuckles; inches.
dipeo (peo) (n), seeds; coronations.
direthe (serethe) (n), butter; heels.
dithunya (sethunya) (n), rifles; flowers; blooms.
ditlhogo (setlhogo) (n), headings; cruelties./ditlhogo (tlhogo) (n), heads; principals.
ditsebe (tsebe) (n), pages; ears.
kgabo (dikgabo) (n), flame; monkey; ape.
lebaka (mabaka) (n), bakery; cause; reason; fact. (it bothers me that bakery gets top billing for this word. Don't get me wrong, I love baked goods but can't facts,reasons and causes have their own word?)
lebese (n), latex; milk.
lebete (mabete) (n), spleen; anthrax.
leboa (maboa) (n), north; mushroom.
lentswe (mantswe) (n), mountain; voice; rock; stone.
leso (maso) (n), death; spoon.
madimo (ledimo) (n), cannibals; gales; storms; hurricanes.
molao (melao) (n), act; decree; law; statute; commandment; rule; bed.
namane (dinamane) (n), calf; interest (finance).
serethe (direthe) (n), butter; heel.
toro (ditoro) (n), dream; pricklypear.

Why were these important enough to put into a small pocket dictionary?
This is a small dictionary. You would think that only the most essential words and phrases would make the cut. Somehow these words ended up passing muster.

bohibidu jo bo mokgona (n), scarlet.
bolwetse jwa borotamadi (n), red water.
difaelepotlana (faelepotlana) (n), dummy files.
dillopo (llopo) (n), barrels (of rifles). (I was imagining a barrel full of rifles and got really confused. I am thinking they are talking about rifle barrels which is still quite specific.
dinyatsi (nyatsi) (n), paramours.
dira boipiletso (v), lodge appeal.
ditsetsekwane: ka ditsetsekwane (adv), on tiptoes.
ipabalelotseleng (n), road safety.
kgeleswakeledi (dikgeleswakeledi) (n), lachrymal gland.
megokonyane (mogokonyane) (n), army worms.
puseletso ya ditshwanelo tsa lenyalo (n), restitution of conjugal rights.
tlhabano ya boitshemo (n), sham fight.
tsirimanya (ditsirimanya) (n), jingle
tsirimana (v), jingle

What is this?
Combing through the dictionary made me realize how many words I know in English. I think it is safe to say that I am mostly to almost entirely fluent but I suppose there are some large gaps in knowledge. I had to look up some of these words and for many I am still unclear. Anybody have any ideas?

dipheretlho (pheretlho) (n), affrays.
diphogo-tsa-morago (phogo-ya- morago) (n), occiputs.
diporaemasetofo (poraemasetofo) (n), primus stoves
dipowana (powana) (n), bullocks.
disepale (sepale) (n), sepals.
ditampana (tampana) (n), tampans.
dithupa (thupa) (n), floating ribs.
ega (v), harrow. ege (diege) (n), harrow.
feite (difeite) (n), whitlow.
karakule (dikarakule) (n), karakul.
kgothego (dikgothego) (n), denudation.
khiba (dikhiba) (n), pinafore.
khotolengwe (dikhotolengwe) (n), monocotyledon,
khotopedi (dikhotopedi) (n), dicotyledon.
lebelo (mabelo) (n), dewlap.
ledi sekasabele (n), gladiolus.
ledibogo (madibogo) (n), ford.
lengope (mangope) (n), donga.
lerumo (marumo) (n), assegai
Lesetedi (Masetedi) (n), Griqua.
mmamasiloanoka (bommamasiloanoka) (n), hamerkop.
mmorogo (meborogo) (n), morgen.
mmotu (mebotu) (n), bee-bread.


Badumedi (Modumedi) (n), Christians.
badumedi (modumedi) (n), believers. (dumelang)
It's interesting to me that one religion has carved out for themselves the entire classification of believers. Nice job Christians.

Dimo (n), cannibal (mythological figure).
The first time I heard about this was in the dictionary.

dinako (nako) (n), times; tides.
Time and tide wait for no man

ditwantshi (twantshi) (n). antibodies.
ditwatsi (twatsi) (n), germs
enta (v), vaccinate; inoculate; graft.
For many scientific words you would really just use a Setswana pronunciation of an English word but not in these cases. These words have a novel word and I wonder why that is.

fensetere (difensetere) (n), window.
I remember this word from early on because the word defenestration means to throw someone out a window.

kase (dikase) (n), cheese.
I think it is a good policy to know the word for "cheese" in as many languages as possible. It can only be helpful

kidikidi (dikidikidi) (n), vertebra.
Go ahead, say that word out loud. Wasn't that a blast!?

kitlano ya meno (n), tetanus.
Unfortunately I don't know what kitlano means exactly but the literaly translation suggests something is wrong with the teeth. Perhaps it is clenching or clamping the teeth since lockjaw is one of the symptoms of tetanus.

kurukurega (v), detribalize.
I would be intrigued who would be considered detribalized and whether that is a bad thing.

latswa ka leleme (v), flatter,
The literal Setswana is "to lick with the tongue". That is one way to put the concept.

lefela (mafela) (n), zero.
Having a concept for zero is a big deal.

magogoša (rel), hoarse.
The "g" in Setswana is pronounced as if you were hocking something up in the back of your throat. There is probably a better and more scholarly way to describe this but I am sticking with my approach. With that in mind consider how great is is to describe having a sore throat while you have a sore throat in Setswana.

šašanyega (v), fizz.
It hurts my brain when onomatopoeia words are not universal.