The power of slang (or not)

This from one of my favorite blogs: Schott's vocab

In a fascinating June 2008 article, IRIN/PlusNews reported that “while many communities struggled to break the silence about H.I.V. and AIDS formally, informal or slang terms for the epidemic were proliferating.” These terms, PlusNews observed, are “almost uniformly negative” and reinforce the stigma of the disease.

Below are some examples of African H.I.V./AIDS slang terms, from IRIN/PlusNews articles published in June 2008, November 2008 and April 2009.

Amesimamia Msumari | “Standing on a nail”; euphemism for being skinny … referring to AIDS-related weight loss. (Tanzania, Kiswahili.)

Ato Nai Ise | “Five and three” (5 + 3 = 8, and “eight” sounds like “AIDS”). (Nigeria, Igbo.)

Ba Mo Tshwarisiye Noga | “They threw a snake at him/her” – (refers to H.I.V.; the shock when someone discovers his or her status). (South Africa, Sepulana.)

Departure Lounge | An H.I.V.-infected person is in the departure lounge awaiting death. (Zimbabwe.)

F.T.T. | “Failure to thrive” (adapted from the medical phrase, now used to describe H.I.V.-positive children). (Zimbabwe.)

Ka-Onde-Onde | “Thing that makes you thinner and thinner.” (Zambia, Nyanja.)

Kabari Salama Aalaiku | “Excuse me, grave.” (Nigeria, Hausa.)

Kaleza | “Razor blade” (Refers to a person being thin as a result of AIDS-related weight loss). (Zambia, Bemba.)

Kukanyaga Miwaya | Contracting H.I.V. is like “stepping on a live wire.” (Tanzania, Kiswahili.)

Ogopa | “Fear” – a word used by young men to describe H.I.V.-positive women. (Kenya, Kiswahili.)

Omukithi Gwo Paive | “The disease of the present.” (Namibia, Oshiwambo.)

Onale Jwa Radio | “He/she has the disease talked about on the radio” (radio is the primary method of disseminating H.I.V./AIDS knowledge). (Botswana, Setswana.)

Pisar Na Mina | Contracting H.I.V. is like having “stepped on a landmine.” (Angola, Portuguese.)

Tewo Zamani | “Sickness of this generation.” (Nigeria, Hausa.)

Tracker | If you are suspected of being H.I.V. positive people say God is tracking you, like the popular southern African service that tracks and recovers stolen vehicles. (South Africa,)

Udlala Ilotto | “Playing the lotto” / ubambe ilotto – “won the lotto” (said of someone suspected of being H.I.V. positive; Lotto is the national lottery). (South Africa, Isixhosa and Isizulu.)

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Jeff Vankooten is a speaker and author focusing on the power of resilience to effectively engage the challenges of change. He helps leaders, businesses, and organizations develop the skills necessary to thrive in an increasingly unpredictable business environment.
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