05 May 2004

Mabitso (Names)

I back-checked the tracks of a visitor to On Sesotho, and ended up reading this article. It is accurate and informative, but I felt compelled to add to it, nevertheless.

It is true that in southern Africa, not only in Zimbabwe, name-givers "are more adventurous, but just as literal." My own name, Rethabile, is a full sentence with subject (re/we) and verb (thab../being happy): We are happy. That's my name. In Lesotho a name is meaningful and usually reflects the parents' temperament or the country's situation. My late brother's name was Khotsofalang, a phrase that means be satisfied, literally.

Other common names are Palesa (flower), Lipalesa (flowers), Thabo (happiness--yes, as in Thabo Mbeki), Thabang (be happy--see the language trend: Khotsofalang, Thabang?), Khotso (peace), Katleho (success), Nthabiseng (make me happy--no, not make my day), but also Ntja (dog) or Lefu (death) for the less common ones.

I once asked my mum why anyone would name their kid Ntja or Lefu, and apparently it's almost always after the death of the sibling immediately before. In naming the younger sibling in such a way, parents cheat death by making him/her/it think they dislike the child, in which case death spares the child.

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