It’s official: iKhondom is the Xhosa word for condom
After three years of debate and research, the experts have concluded that the Xhosa word for condom is ikhondom. This and hundreds of other pearls are included in a new Xhosa-English dictionary published by the Oxford University Press Southern Africa this month.
The school dictionary includes a number of words gleaned from the language as it is informally spoken. The "i" section of the book is substantial, with new additions such as: idemokhrasi (democracy); inyukliya (nuclear); igranti (government social grant); iakhawunti (account); iavareji (average); ihelikopta (helicopter); iwindskrini (windscreen); igravithi (gravity) and ikharityhulam (curriculum).
Some definitions are equally casual. The description of inyukliya is: "The nuclear energy station is at Koeberg"; while the definition for ikhondom is: "A condom could tear without you knowing".
According to Oxford University Press, Xhosa is spoken by 16% of the South African population and by 80% of the Eastern Cape population.
The publisher's managing director, Steve Cilliers, said it took 35 experts three years to produce the dictionary. Words were chosen based on their frequent use in texts such as novels, textbooks, and official documents.
"It is also the first [dictionary] to include words from across the South African curriculum, such as life cycle, photosynthesis and vertex.
"The result is a modern, up-to-date dictionary that supports learning and teaching in subjects like natural sciences, maths, as well as the two languages," said Cilliers.
"Our research indicates that widespread use of bilingual dictionaries really could help children acquire the languages they learn."
The Fort Hare University registrar, Professor Michael Somniso, a former African languages lecturer, welcomed the dictionary. He said it showed Xhosa was developing as a language.