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Title: IsiNgqumo  
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Subject: Languages of South Africa, Bahasa Binan, Slang, Argot, Lesbian and Gay Equality Project
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IsiNgqumo, or IsiGqumo,[1] (literally "decisions" in the language itself) is an argot used by the homosexuals of South Africa and Zimbabwe who speak Bantu languages, as opposed to Gayle, a language used by the homosexuals of South Africa who speak Germanic languages. IsiNgqumo developed during the 1980s.[2][3] Unlike Gayle isiNgqumo has not been thoroughly researched or documented, so figures on numbers of speakers are nonexistent.[4]

IsiNgqumo is a Nguni language and seems to have derived from Zulu. IsiNgqumo is often considered a Western invention by indigenous Zimbabweans but it was actually a creation of indigenous homosexuals, an only recently self-aware group.[2]


Although the following sample conversation may be slightly obscene, it is a good representative of isiNgqumo '​s use as most of its vocabulary has some connection to sex or gay men.[5]


"Isiphukwana sake, kuyavuswa na?"
"Kuncishiwe" (or) "kuyapholwa"

Zulu translation (to show difference):

"Ubolo sake, kuyakhulu na?"

English (literal translation):

"His little stick, has it awoken?"
"It's not talented" (or) "it makes one cold"

English translation:

"His penis, is it big?"
"It's small" (both terms mean the same thing, and are very derogatory)


The origin of the vocabulary used in the above sample is given below:[5]

  • The word isiphukwana comes from the Zulu word uphuku (meaning "stick") with the suffix "-ana" (meaning "small"). Iisiphukwana is the IsiNgqumo variant of the Zulu word uphukwana.
  • Vuswa is the Zulu word for "woken up" in the passive tense.
  • Maye comes from the Zulu word for expressing shock (the equivalent of a gasp in our culture). This is used instead of the Zulu word for yes, yebo.
  • Injini literally means "taking on for a ride", and finds its origins in the Zulu word for "engine". In Zulu, the word imbuqo word is used for the same purpose.
  • The word uncishiwe originates from Zulu as "not given", but is used in IsiNgqumo to mean "not talented". Kuncishiwe has the same meaning as "It is not talented". Uncishiwe can also mean "ugly", or can be used as a generic insult.
  • Pholwa is passive tense for the Zulu word for "cool". Kuyapholwa could be translated as "it makes one cool". Like ncishiwe, pholwa can be used as an insult.

See also


  1. ^ Rudwick, Stephanie; Ntuli, Mduduzi (2008). "IsiNgqumo – Introducing a gay Black South African linguistic variety". Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 26 (4): 445–456. Retrieved 25 June 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Epprecht, Marc (December 1998). "The 'Unsaying' of Indigenous Homosexualities in Zimbabwe: Mapping a Blindspot in an African Masculinity". Journal of Southen African Studies 24 (4): 631–651. Archived from the original on 25 June 2014. Retrieved 25 June 2014.  (see also original source archived here)
  3. ^ Cage, Ken; Evans, Moyra (2003). Gayle: The Language of Kinks and Queens: A History and Dictionary of Gay Language in South Africa. Houghton, South Africa: Jacana Media.  
  4. ^ Cage, Ken (10 August 1999). "Gayle – Gay SA Slang". Q Online (Mail & Guardian). Archived from the original on 18 August 2000. Retrieved 18 August 2000. 
  5. ^ a b Cameron, Edwin; Gevisser, Mark (2013). Defiant Desire: Gay and Lesbian Lives in South Africa. Routledge. p. 183.  
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