Hagen Engler
4 minute read
19 Sep 2021
5:45 am

At least humble yourself enough to try pronounce African names!

Hagen Engler

Saying someone's name is too difficult to pronounce is really just shorthand for 'I couldn't be bothered to try', writes Hagen Engler.

JP Smith's attempt to make a joke about Abongile Nzelenzele's surname fell flat. Picture: Ashraf Hendricks

“Uthin’ mhlekaz’?” I asked the gardener as he summoned me outside. It turned out he wanted me to move the laundry dryer so that he could water the lawn in anticipation of summer. “Shap, bhuthi,” I concluded as I returned to my laptop indoors, flushed with the success of yet another outing for my handful of Xhosa words. It’s a limited vocabulary, straddling that difficult line between “shame he’s trying” and “is he making fun of us?” but it’s good to give the old vocab a run, and sometimes there’s a tiny kernel of new knowledge to add to the...