To Call or Not to Call a Spade a Spade: The Dilemma of Treating 'Offensive' Terms in "Duramazwi Guru reChiShona*"

  • E Chabata
  • WM Mavhu


As noted by Béjoint (2000: 6), the main objective in dictionary-making is to define words and terms. This is especially the case if the fact is accepted that dictionaries are mostly con-sulted for word meaning and that, in the consultation process, the user hopes to acquire and/or verify certain information. However, as again noted by Jackson (1988), Landau (1984), Svénsen (1993) and Zgusta (1971), among others, the description of word meaning is one of the greatest difficulties with which the lexicographer has to cope. This article discusses some of the challenges facing lexicographers when defining 'offensive' headwords in a monolingual dictionary. It is based on experiences of defining such headwords for the general-purpose, medium-sized, synchronic, monolingual Shona dictionary, Duramazwi Guru reChiShona (henceforth DGC) (Chimhundu et al. 2001). DGC was compiled and edited by a six-member team of mother-tongue speakers of Shona who are researchers at the African Languages Research Institute (ALRI). The article also discusses some of the strategies the team of editors adopted as ways of dealing with offensive words in DGC. One such strategy is the use of euphemism in defining. Keywords: alri, culture, definition, theoretical definition, practical definition, dictionary, euphemism, lexicography, monolingual diction-ary, offensive headword, shona

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2224-0039
print ISSN: 1684-4904