Mandlakayise Hlatshwayo
2 minute read
15 Feb 2021
1:27 pm

Meet Zamuxolo Joseph Mdwayi, creator of Soweto’s first slang dictionary

Mandlakayise Hlatshwayo

First published in 1999, the dictionary is titled 'Zem’s Iscamtho'.

Zem Joseph Mdwayi wrote Soweto's first dictionary.

Soweto has always had slang of its own, since the 1960s or even way before that, and Zamuxolo Joseph Mdwayi has a dictionary that translates this slang called Iscamtho.

Mdwayi realised that even though Johannesburg has almost all the nationalities of the world, no nationality can claim Johannesburg. He said that Jozi belongs to all those who have intermingled for years and developed an original language of their own, which broke down their communication barriers.

First published in 1999, the dictionary is titled Zem’s Iscamtho. The slang that was formerly known as Tsotsitaal was regarded as the way people from Soweto spoke, and Soweto was known as a crime-infested community.

ALSO READ: Our guide to Ozzie slang

Mdwayi explained that even though Soweto had always been faced with a myriad of challenges, “Soweto is very creative when it comes to serving itself, for whatever purpose”.

The township language multilingual dictionary was edited by Siàn Reese and its second edition was published in 2018.

Mdwayi said: “The language emanates from almost all the other languages one can find in SA.

“Our seniors spoke like that everywhere you went, if you’re interested in understanding the slang, the pocket dictionary will teach it to you and as you learn, you will understand where ‘Soweto’ even comes from.

“Did you know that in SA, back in the days the word ‘enkho’, which sounds like encore, meant the same thing, repeat?”

Dwayi has seen his dictionary reach places like England. Above him formulating the dictionary, his life alone can be likened to a wonder. He can also draw like second nature. And anyone who peruses through Zem’s Iscamtho can agree that it’s flawless.

This article was republished from Soweto Urban with permission 

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