What's in a Word | All Blogs


Zulu, anyone?

By Debra Dobbins

English seemingly knows no international boundaries. Our language is like a giant vacuum cleaner, sucking up words everywhere it can.

Case in point: impala. Used to describe a small antelope in central and South Africa, it came into English in 1875 from the Zulu word for gazelle, im-pala, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. Zulu is the language of the Zulu people, most of whom live in South Africa.

It's easy enough to understand why Chevy dubbed one of its vehicles after this creature. Impalas are quick runners, and their curved horns (on males, anyway) and sleek bodies are elegantly eye-catching. “Impala” thus implies speed and good looks.

Wikipedia notes that impalas “communicate using a variety of visual and vocal communication.” Considering the technological advances found in modern vehicles, that connotation seems appropriate, too.

Oh, I can't resist: Bravo to the Zulus for such an interesting word!

Zulu dancer
Photo by Ernmuhl courtesy of Wikipedia

 

The impala is also known for its giant leaps, as high as 3 meters (9.8 feet), according to Wikipedia.
Photo by Arturo de Frias Marques courtesy of Wikipedia

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