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Kaffir (Xhosa) Folk-Lore, by George McCall Theal, [1886], at


Among the natives of South Africa relationship is viewed differently from what it is by Europeans. I have more than once heard Kaffirs accused of falsehood because they asserted one person to be their father or mother at one time and a different person at another time. Yet they were telling the truth according to their ideas. A common complaint concerning native servant girls is that they claim every other person they meet as a brother or a sister. Now, from their point of view, what we should term cousins are really brothers and sisters. It is not poverty of language, for they have words to express shades of relationship where we have none, but a difference of ideas, that causes them to use the same word for father and paternal uncle, for brother and cousin, etc. Bawo is the word used in addressing father, father's brother, or father's half-brother. Little children say Tata. But there are three different words for father, according as a person is speaking of his own father or uncle, of the father or uncle of the person he is speaking to, or of the father or uncle of the person he is speaking of. Speaking of my father, bawo is the word used: of your father, uyihlo; of his father, uyise. Malume is the brother of any one called mother. Ma is the word used in addressing mother, any wife of father, or the sister of any of these. The one we should term mother can only be distinguished from the others, when speaking of her, by describing her as uma wam kanye-i.e., my real mother; or uma ondizalayo-i.e., the mother who bore me. Speaking of my mother, ma is the word used: of your mother, unyoko; of his or her mother, unina. A paternal aunt is addressed as dadebobawo-i.e., sister of my father. Mnakwetu is the word used by females in addressing a brother, half-brother, or male cousin. Males, when addressing any of these relations older than themselves, use the word mkuluwa; and when addressing one younger than themselves say mninawe. Dade is used in addressing a sister, a half-sister, or a female cousin. Females, when speaking to any of these relations younger than themselves, usually say msakwetu. Mtakama is an endearing form of expression, meaning child of my mother. Bawomkula is the address of a grandfather. Makulu is grandmother. Mtshana is the son of a sister.

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