Ugly in Zulu

Ugly is just two letters in Zulu bi, and it makes sense when you add the necessary prefix.  DON’T say it like bill, bike or bipolar.  It’s a soft ‘b’.

He is ugly.
She is ugly.
They are ugly.
I am ugly.

It is quite sad when a kid utters that last example.  It usually happens in Europe and North America where kids of African or Asian parentage are in the minority. 

One little boy ran to his mother crying, “He said I’m Chinese.”  The mother, a colleague born in Hong Kong said it’s very hard, despite all the reassurances they give him at home. 

Last week, a teenager who might be from Sudan or Congo, was taken off the bus by a Transit inspector because she refused to pay.  She had green contact lenses and a blonde weave.  Some people born in Africa still bleach their skin.
The Zulu word -bi also means bad or evil.

Izulu li-bi.
The weather is bad.
Lo-kudla ku-bi.
This food is bad (tasteless).
I-manager yi-mbi.
The manager is bad (very angry).
A-ba-sebenzi ba-bi.
Workers are very angry.
I-traffic yi-mbi.
Traffic is bad.
I-gambling yi-mbi.
Gambling is bad.

Nonqaba waka Msimang is the author of Sweetness, a South African novel.”


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