18 October 2004


Litlhapa means insults, or expletives, or pejorative language. Everybody knows, they are the first thing we learn in a new language. I've noticed, however, that litlhapa are quite different in different languages. The word Mmao /m-MA-oo/, or 'Your Mama,' 'Ta mère' in French, 'Modare to' in Farsi, is one of the few international ones. Say Mmao to anyone in any culture and you get punched in the kisser on the spot.

In Sesotho, Ntata'o, or your father, wouldn't hurt anyone. It would probably draw a bemused chuckle from the victim. But in Farsi, Pedar sag is a common insult. It means 'your father is a dog.' I laughed, the first time. Another one is Pedar sookhtay, or 'your father is burnt.' You can stop laughing now.

Here are some common Sesotho litlhapa:
  • Mmao /m-MA-oo/ : Your Mama
  • Masepa'a Mmao /Mah-SI-pa-A-m-MA-oo/ : Your Mama's shit
  • O tla nyela /Oo-tla-nyela/ : You're gonna shit (i.e.: I'm gonna kick the shit out of you)
  • Molala'a mmao /mo-la-la-A-m-MA-oo/ : Your Mama's neck
  • Bono sa Mmao /BO-no-SA-m-MA-oo/ : Your Mama's ass
  • O oa nyela /o-oa-nye-la/ : You're shitting (i.e.:You're talking crap)
  • Nyo'a Mmao /NYOA-m-MA-oo/ : Your Mama's vagina (The ultimate tlhapa. It's a death wish)
  • Marete a Mmao /ma-re-te-A-m-MA-oo/ : Your Mama's testicles (Paradoxical, yes. We'll go to any lengths to degrade womenfolk, won't we?)
Insults are thus odd. What's more, one person's insults are another's jokes. Whenever someone tells me that my father is burnt, I laugh my ass off. And, I've noticed, the better you speak and control a language, the less its litlhapa are funny. They start hurting. Conclusion: As long as you're laughing at the target language's litlhapa, you still have a long way to go.


tmohlabi said...

In fact in Sesotho, you are not supposed to say anything about somebody's mother especially when you are angry... E.g. "you will see your mother," "U tla bona 'Mao," is an insult.... Who doesn't want to see their mother, that's the question

Rethabile said...

True. Anything about dear mum hurts, and people know it, so they use it. There is also: "Ke 'mao ntho'e?"