Terms of Respect in Botswana

imageI’m currently reading a series of books that takes place in Botswana called  The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith.

When reading the first book, you quickly come upon the term "Mma" (pronounced "ma") used before a woman’s name and "Rra" (pronounced "ra" with a rolling "r") used before a man’s name.  I was curious and looked them up.  They’re both terms of respect used in the Setswana language. "Mma" is like "Ma’am" or "Madam", or a more respectful form of "Mrs."  "Rra" is like "sir", or a very respectful form of "Mr."

"Dumela" can be used before "Rra" and "Mma" to say, hello sir or ma’am. 

You can hear a Botswana Greeting Song called Dumela below…

This article was posted on Wednesday, January 11th, 2012 at 11:09 pm and is filed under Books & Stories, Botswana, Customs and Traditions, Greeting Customs, Hello Songs, Setswana, Songs by Theme, Tswana, Words & Phrases. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

5 Responses to “Terms of Respect in Botswana”

  1. Jan Says:

    I just finished reading same and wondered about how to pronounce Mma and Rra, thanks for helping!

  2. Debbie Says:

    Thankyou for this explanation it was very useful.

  3. JoseK Says:

    What I found is there is an emphasis on respect in Botswana not encountered in places like the US. For example, entering a shop or dental offuce, say, it’s important to acknowledge those who are already present.

    The easiest way to do this is to say “dumelang”, a plural form of dumela that is something like saying “hello, you all”. That will establish you as a respectful person.

  4. Cindy Says:

    I’m listening to the audio book, and the “m” sound in Mma is prolonged, as if someone was saying “mm, good”.

  5. Anna Says:

    I’m wondering about the use of Rra and Rre. Sometimes they use one, sometimes the other. What is the difference? Is it young and older, married and unmarried for example?

Leave a Reply