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BoojumhunterTuesday 22nd of February 2005 06:42:08 PM
Sawubona - Greetings folks,

I've been asked to write a little article on the nuances of the Zulu greeting "Sawubona" and the response "Ngikhona"... and I thought it would be useful to get some input/feedback on my thoughts.

I don't speak Zulu, but I grew up in South Africa and was always curious about the meaning of certain phrases. Here's what I remember which I used in an article on 'privacy' of all things.

The Zulu greeting, "Sawubona" means "I see you" and the response "Ngikhona" means "I am here". As always when translating from one language to another, crucial subtleties are lost. Inherent in the Zulu greeting and our grateful response, is the sense that until you saw me, I didn't exist. By recognizing me, you brought me into existence. A Zulu folk saying clarifies this, "Umuntu ngumuntu nagabantu", meaning "A person is a person because of other people".

If that is too far removed from our North American perspective, then think back to the long running TV show "Cheers." In the opening song one line predominates, "You want to be where everybody knows your name."

You can find the full article here:

Is my interpretation accurate, my editor seems to think so, but I want to take the time to double check.

Also... along the same theme... what would be the Zulu word for 'meeting' and what nuances surround that word/phrase?

Any help would be appreciated.
Yours truly,
Peter de Jager
joziboyFriday 25th of February 2005 01:18:29 AM
- Hi Peter, my Zulu is pretty rudimentary still, but from the conversations I've had in it and from listening to my favourite radio stations back home, ngikhona is usually the response to 'how are you?' (unjani?) and not to sawubona.
Sawubona does mean 'i see you' (and the plural sanibonani is therefore 'i see you all'). But generally one would respond with either just yebo (yes) and the name of the person who has greeted you'my brother''friend' or yebo sawubona.
Sorry if that just puts a spanner in the works!