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DateOriginal Topic
16th June 2003correct spelling
By Neil Aspinshaw
Does anyone claim to know the correct spelling of " 'sandlwan' ", locally ( ie battle field ) the signposts are Isandlwana, and most SA sites spell it this way, the tendancy in UK is to spell it Isandhlwana, sometimes Isandula. over to you guys to debate this.
also, I live in Nottingham where there are three roads cose together Isandula Rd, Ekhowe road,Chelmsford Road. any other cities with commemorative street names?
16th June 2003Andrew
I think they spell it "Isandhlwana"
16th June 2003Martin Everett
Dear Neil,
You will find many anomalies over the spelling of place names during 19th Century military campaigns. Mainly because maps were a new thing and also it was the British soldier's spelling taken and recorded as spoken by local people. So a number of variations often occurred. The standard way of spelling the battle that took place on 22 January 1879 is Isandlwana and this is recorded on the present day road signs. However, the 24th Regiment has always spelt the battle Isandhlwana. A simliar debate exists only the spelling of Helpmekaar (modern spelling) and Helpmakaar. Hlobane is another example.
16th June 2003Julian Whybra
Modern Zulu orthography (devised by an American in the 70s!) spells the sounds that make up the word as Isandlwana. The previous orthography spelt it Isandhlwana. You can see that dl has replaced the spelt sound dhl. In 1879 no-one was quite sure how to spell it - Isandula is the most common form, though diarists and writers had many individual variants. Within the year it had stabilized as Isandhlwana. To complicate matters, University history departments expect that historical places are spelt in the form at the time in which the event occurred, thus: Petrograd 1917 not Leningrad 1921, Stalingrad 1943 not Volgograd 1981, Grunwald 1453 not Zielony Gora 2003, Dunkirk 1940 not Dunkerque 1940(!), Londinium 61 AD not London, Bechuanaland 1890 not Botswana 1990, the list is endless. Thus most but not all historians (especially those writing at the University of London)writing about Isandhlwana, spell it that way (but not Americans or all S Africans); those writers tending toward political correctness spell it Isandlwana. There is no 'right' form, there are just conventions and personal choices. Make a choice and stick to it.
17th June 2003neil aspinshaw
Martin and Julian,
If in doubt call in the experts, not that being a good old east midlands bloke I am particulally P.C., but I will go for "dlw."


17th June 2003Peter Ewart
Julian, do I detect a note of irony or perhaps a wry grin at modern Zulu orthographical standards being laid down by an American?

We shouldn't be too surprised. As I'm sure you're aware, the Americans were among the first to try to convert the Zulu, and - because it was missionary zeal which led to the sudden glut of Anglo-Zulu dictionaries in the mid-19th century - were well up to speed on Zulu orthography, producing their own efforts contemporaneously with those of Colenso, Callaway, etc. Indeed, American involvement in Natal goes back to the 1830s at least and their organised missionary efforts there certainly pre-dated those of the British, the early presence of Allen Gardiner, perhaps, excepted. They certainly beat the British into Zululand by some years.

From 1857 they were armed with JL Dohne's dictionary - although I accept there is a difference between simple translation and orthography. I suppose they were out-numbered in Natal and Kaffraria by British missionaries from Colenso's time - or at least the 1860s - onwards, but even then I'm not so sure.

It doesn't surprise me, therefore, that an American is responsible for the modern accepted version of Zulu spelling, although I've no idea who he was! (Or is).

18th June 2003Keith Smith

I'm late in again!

Can I refer you to a deligtfiul, but also very useful, article in 'Soldiers of the Queen' No. 110, Sept. 2002. It was called "Insandhlwhata? A fwhootdlhnote" by one Tim Holden. Despite its hilarious title, it does have a serious purpose and describes the confusion over the names of Zulu geographical places and features. It goes into some detail about the varieyies of names used for geographical places and features, including iSandlwana as it might be written (the "" is a prefix which acts as the article).

19th June 2003Julian Whybra
Keith, I too found Holden's article amusing but flawed in that most of the examples he used came from spellings in private letters and internal reports in which no 'official spelling' was used at all, the writers simply were trying to make a spelt stab at the word - these therefore can hardly be considered alternative contemporary spellings.
Peter, no, no irony intended. I understand that that the Zulu orthography 'contract' was given to an American company to complete, not an individual, (the same one that did the Chinese anglicized orthography) though I too would be pleased to know the details.
I do find it galling (and surprising for the 1970s)that that a foreigner should be used to decide on Zulu orthography - were there really no native-born (I use the term in its pc sense) Zulu philological experts?). I did my post-graduate training in Eastern Europe where they were (also surprisingly) absolute sticklers for using contemporary terminology (more so than the Univ of London) so it was rather drummed into me I'm afraid. So I shall still be writing about the Siege of Peking (Siege of Beijing?), the Treaty of Nanking(XXX!?) and Isandhlwana, I'm afraid, when the rest of mankind has gone the way of Pressburg (sorry Bratislava) or Breslau (sorry, PC, Wroclaw). Regards (with tongue in cheek).