Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Monday, 17 September 2012

Chassis, chesisi, or kiunzi?

There are certain foreign words that just don't respect international boundaries and they find expression and usage in far away places, much farther than where they came from.
Chassis is one of them. It made its way from French into English usage. How, I do not know. And where alternatives do not exist in other languages, the use of English words is widespread. Inevitably, in Swahili chassis is also widely used although its spelling is not always correct, as is the case with this instance of a motorcycle chassis number that was written on a motorcycle pending the issuance of a registration number.

The standard Kiswahili translation is chesisi, which sounds familiar or kiunzi, which does not - even to Swahili speakers. As someone who prefers originality, I would prefer the latter word but its use will most likely create a few problems. Try to tell a customs official: namba ya kiunzi ni [the chassis number is...] SH42A-105716 and no will will understand you.

Kiunzi has been in the authoritative Swahili - English dictionary, Kamusi ya Kiswahili-Kiingereza published by Taasisi ya Uchunguzi wa Kiswahili (Institute of Swahili Research) of the University of Dar es Salaam since 2001 but is yet to appear on the online English to Swahili Dictionary.

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