26 September 2004

The toilet, etc.

The toilet is ntloana, or small house, in Sesotho. They say when you gotta go, you gotta go. But how do you declare such an intention? How do you ask those around you to show you where the small house is? Nothing simpler. Remember the following, however: [1.] In Sesotho you add -ng or -eng or -ing to a noun, turning the latter into "the place of + the original noun." Here are a few examples: Bolo (ball), bolong (stadium); joala (alcohol), joaleng (bar/pub/shebeen); leloala (mill), leloaleng (at the miller's); lebota (wall), leboteng (on the wall); 'mele (body), 'meleng (on the body); ntloana (toilet), ntloaneng (at/to/in the toilet).

[2.] Politely does it. Ke kopa ... is the formula you want to learn, and use when asking for things.
Ke kopa metsi.
May I have some water?
Ke kopa lijo.
May I have some food?
Ke kopa ho ea ntloaneng.
May I go to the toilet?
Ke kopa thuso.
I need your help.
Ke kopa pampiri
May I have some paper?

There is also ak'u mphe ..., another polite phrase when asking for things. It is rather informal when compared to ke kopa ..., and sounds something like /ah-comb-pair /. Ah-comb-pair pampiri, or "can you give me some paper." Learn some verbs, and you can take this quite far, indeed.

Ak'u mphe lijo (give me food)--ak'u mpont'se sepetlele (show me the hospital)--ak'u nthuse (help me). You can literally ak'u anything.

Toilets are often plain outhouses in the smaller villages of Lesotho (hence the name of small house, of course). Modern toilets with running water are a city luxury. There are no taboos that I can think of regarding toilets and toilet-going. Basotho regard toilet-going as something essential that has to be carried out, full-stop.

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