Friday, 26 August 2011

KwaZulu-Natal – writely so!

I met a lady called Peggy at a function some years ago. "Is Peggy a pet name or a shortened version of something else?" I asked.

"No, it isn't short for anything," she replied. "I was actually supposed to have been Gwen, but when my grandfather went to register me he couldn't remember what my mother had said my name was and wrote 'Peggy' on the birth certificate. So Peggy it was and that was that!"

The situation with KwaZulu-Natal's registered name isn't quite that bad, but one thing our poor province does suffer from is the frequent misspelling of its name – even, I'm very sad to have to say, on a number of signs in Pietermaritzburg relating to our local university.

Figuring out why KwaZulu-Natal can be the only correct spelling is not that difficult if we would only think logically about the components of the name.

The two main parts of the name are obviously KwaZulu and Natal. When our new democracy brought with it the renaming of our province, the old name, Natal, was combined with KwaZulu, the name of the "homeland" that had been set aside for the Zulu people of this region under apartheid. The only logical way to join the two names was/is through the use of a hyphen, in the same way that we use a hyphen in double-barrelled surnames like Bowden-Smith, Mlambo-Ngcuka and Fraser-Moleketi. This makes any form of the name without the hyphen, like KwaZulu Natal, incorrect. One sometimes sees the two parts "joined" with an oblique – KwaZulu/Natal – but this is also incorrect, since an oblique doesn't join words, but usually indicates a choice between the items concerned. The spelling KwaZulu/Natal would, therefore, imply that the name of the province is either KwaZulu or Natal, which is obviously not the case.

The first part of the name, KwaZulu, also clearly consists of two parts: Kwa, meaning "the place of", and Zulu. Since Zulu is a proper noun, or name, it has to start with a capital letter. This makes the spelling Kwazulu as part of the full name incorrect.

One of the first things mastered by nearly every child privileged enough to learn to read and write is the correct spelling of his or her name. Is it too much to expect literate adults in KwaZulu-Natal (including the relevant personnel at our university!) to be able to spell the name of our home province correctly?  – ws – 

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