If you’re still willing to read more, there are three more branches to the isiZulu concept of ‘abuse’ (and possibly many more undocumented or as yet unfound, seeing as how abuse combines so many taboos, therefore having so much euphemism associated with it):

potoza, cubhacubha & d(l)wengula

Firstly, potoza. It has only one meaning: “press in; feel a soft object”. For this word, V&D (1958) have an example sentence:

Ubopotoza amapetshisi nxa uwezwa ukuthi avuthiwe yini

You must feel the peaches to tell whether they are ripe or not.

Now, bearing this sentence in mind, here’s the headline from yesterday’s News 24 ngesiZulu article:

Baxoshiwe abebepotoza abafundi

they-have-been-dismissed / those-who-were-feeling-their-soft-things / the-learners-as-object

They were fired for molesting learners

The article doesn’t use the strange verb anywhere else – only in the headline. Elsewhere in the article, the more usual hlukumeza is the preferred verb, as well as the taxonomically different ‘d(l)wengula’ (which I’ll get to by the end of this blog post).

Why would you choose the verb potoza? I’m curious. Was it for visual-cortex impact? Were you wanting to evoke the lusciousness of peaches (or figs?) in your headline to hook us?

ikhiwane elihle ligcwala impethu

the beautiful fig fills up with maggots

You succeeded. I’m getting the picture now.

Moving on from that imagery, I disappear into the calm of Nyembezi’s isichazimazwi sanamuhla (1990), and find that potoza has evolved over the 30 years into something less to do with real fruit and more to do with the forbidden variety:

1. cindezela ngesandla into ethambile (njengesithelo nje) – press a soft thing with the hand (such as a fruit)

2. cubhacubha umuntu wesifazane wena ungowesilisa – cubhacubha a female person, you being a male

Hm. I’ve never seen the word cubhacubha before, but I’m now getting aural imagery. I search some more and find that Nyembezi doesn’t have an entry under ‘cubhacubha‘. There is a related word, possibly with the same stem:

incubuncubu – into ethambe kakhulu, inuthunuthu < a very soft thing, softly-well-cooked food / a soft kaross

I think that is quite possibly the first positive image in the last 1000 words I’ve typed. And then I see the verb cubhaza, and the sun goes back behind the clouds:

1. shiya amabala okungcola – leave behind dirty marks

2. dlala ngokudla njengokwenza kwengane ikhetha ekuthandayo kuphela – play with food the way a child does when it chooses only the food that it prefers

Yoh. Visual and Aural imagery all at once. cubhacubha then, according to standard rule of isiZulu linguistics, denotes that the diminutive form of the verb, saying that the people who were fired had only ‘played with their food’ a little bit, along with ‘pressing their soft bits’.

So, leaving behind those words, we’re on to the next. And it’s about as common as nukubeza and hlukumeza. You will, sadly, hear it at least once a day on uKhozi FM and read it three or four times in each Isolezwe – d(l)wengula.

Of course, there’s a reason why that L is in brackets – V&D (1958) don’t have any reference to ‘dlwengula‘, but rather reference ‘dwengula‘. I have a theory about why the L was added, which I’ll get to in a moment. Firstly, dwengula means:

1. Tear, rend (as cloth); plough through a large piece of ground

2. Walk a great distance; tour

3. Talk aimlessly, talk off the point

None of these definitions, except possible the first one through specification using a word like ngokocansi (sexually), actually means ‘rape’. So I keep looking, and I find dlwanguza. It means:

Act or speak in a wild, savage manner; be of violent temper.

Now that’s a bit more specific. And so my theory is that dlwengula was developed as a combination of two concepts (possibly both related to an association of the DL sound with rending, tearing, ripping and eating):

[dwengulatearing through / ploughing] + [dlwanguzaacting violently] = [dlwengularaping]

This change occurred in the space of 30 years, because Nyembezi (1990) contains the modern concept:

dlwengula (isenzo) – gcweleza umuntu wesifazane ngempoqo, lala nowesifazane ngokumpoqa, limaza, gunya

rape (verb) – assault/maraud/plunder a female person by force, sleep with a female by forcing her, injure, overpower

And so we have reached the end of the taxonomies of abuse (for now). Please alight from the train at this station, unless you prefer to continue thinking along its current trajectory (passing through Guantanamo, Amstetten, Auschwitz & Tongaat). Change here for happier blogs and the sunshine outside.

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