(Dar es Salaam University has been modernising Swahili for many years. Readers may wish to update their knowledge of the language and Ben Rawlence therefore has agreed to contribute to this process. His first article follows -Editor).
Mmasai alikuwa juu baada ya kuitwa buzi (a Masai became angry after being called a goat). So ran the headline in a local newspaper.
Mmasai mmoja aliwaacha abiria wenzake hoi kwa kucheka baada ya kuanzisha fujo kwenye daladala. Njiani katika Mbeya na Dodoma Mmasai mmoja alisimamisha basi na kuingia. Alikaa karibu na dada mmoja aliyekuwa amejichubua na mkorogo. Sauti ikatokea upande mwingine, “Sista, lea umepata buzi.” Kusikia hivyo, Mmasai alicharuka na kuanza kumpiga njemba yule huku akisema “Elo, hapana mimi utani na wewe, yaani ona mimi nakula majani?”
The position of the Masai may be similar to that of the visitor not schooled in current colloquial Swahili. The Masai became angry and began hitting his fellow passenger because he thought he had been called a goat (mbuzi). His response “Hello, no me joke with you, you see me I eat grass?” For urban Tanzanians this is the pinnacle of ushamba (backwardness); since for them buzi (lit. Billy goat) has taken on another meaning altogether. Buzi in fact means sugar daddy and this is what the njemba (bloke) was suggesting when he said “Sister today you’ve got a buzi”
It seems as though the proverb is true that: Jogoo la shamba haliwiki mjini (the cockerel from the country doesn’t crow in the town).
Swahili is changing faster than even Tanzanians can keep up with sometimes. Kisa wa Kisasa (a modern story) introduces a few words currently in use that you may not fmd in the Kamusi (dictionary):
kuja juu (to become angry); kuachwa hoi (to die …of laughing); daladala (minibus); kujichubua (to bleach oneself); mkorogo (bleaching mixture); kucharuka (to explode); mtasha (mzungu – white guy); kitu kidogo/chai (a bribe); wamachinga (street sellers).