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Thread: The meaning of Ubuntu (may shake some feathers)

  1. #1
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    The meaning of Ubuntu (may shake some feathers)

    Please note that I'm not posting this with any bad intentions and I love Ubuntu coz its something from us,Africans, but I disagree with Ubuntu Linux's definition of the actual word "ubuntu". I may be wrong, but I discussed with so many people about this... long before I joined this forum, from last year when I first came across Ubuntu.

    Ubuntu definitely has something to do with humanity. Actually the word humanity (from my background in Ndebele and Zulu) is very close to ubuntu. A more direct translation would be humaness. The word also has origins in Bantu-related languages which are actually Southern African. Ubuntu is used with the same meaning and philosophical context in these languages:

    Shona - Hunhu
    Ndebele/Zulu - Ubuntu
    Setswana - motho
    Sotho - botho

    I could be wrong but I believe the way Ubuntulinux defined the word is wrong

  2. #2
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    Re: The meaning of Ubuntu (may shake some feathers)

    Quote Originally Posted by tinonetic
    A more direct translation would be humaness.
    I'm not familiar with exactly that word. Do you perhaps have in mind either "humaneness" (acting compassionately toward others) or "humanness" (being like a human)?

  3. #3
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    Re: The meaning of Ubuntu (may shake some feathers)

    The Ubuntu site used to quote Desmond Tutu on its front page but I note that thr reference is no longer there.

    However the Ubuntu philosophy of Desmond Tutu is the interpretation used by Canonical.

    “Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language. It speaks of the very essence of being human. When we want to give high praise to someone we say, "Yu, u nobuntu"; "Hey, so-and-so has ubuntu." Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, "My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours." We belong in a bundle of life. We say, "A person is a person through other persons." It is not, "I think, therefore I am." It says rather: "I am human because I belong. I participate, I share." A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they are less than who they are.” - Desmond Tutu
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    Re: The meaning of Ubuntu (may shake some feathers)


  5. #5
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    Re: The meaning of Ubuntu (may shake some feathers)

    humaness is definitely not English, if i'm not mistaken.
    but from my knowledge of the word ubuntu, humaness is much closer to it than humanity, that is by making a direct, grammar-ignorant definition.
    i could be wrong but i would like to hear an opionion of someone who speaks zulu,xhosa etc and what they think about that definition

  6. #6
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    Re: The meaning of Ubuntu (may shake some feathers)

    As the original poster said, it's a Bantu word which can be found throughout most of Africa. Even though there are many languages on the continent, most are from the Bantu language tree. Kind of like how French, Spanish, Italian, and others are all Romanic languages.

    In some, the meaning of Ubuntu is more literal than others, but I've never heard a definition that didn't mean something good, like humaneness, or freedom.

    When I was in Dar Es Salaam, the buses routes that went downtown had Ubuntu on them. It was expained to me that Ubuntu implied the core, or head, or heart. More abstractly the central essence.

    I recently read a story about Linuxcafe here in Toronto. They had a sign on their building that said Ubuntu4u, and a Rwandan woman came in and informed them that in her language that meant 'free for you'. Of course they gave her a free Ubuntu cd.

    I would much prefer that Bishop Tutu's definition be used for this distro. That 'ancient African word' is bad in a couple of ways. It implies that Africa is a homogeneous place, instead of a 53 country continent, each with it's own history and distinct cultures. It could be educating people on a specific culture like Xhosa or Zulu (since their definition is what is actually meant here). But instead one of the most popular distros is enforcing western stereotypes about a one-country continent where one word means the same thing everywhere on the 2nd largest continent on the planet.

    And it smacks of silly notions of African mysticism. It's a modern word that is used in modern conversations. We use words in english that happen to go back hundreds and thousands of years too, but we don't go around calling them 'ancient'.

    As a side note, the word as it was used in the struggle against apartheid, and during the aftermath does have vaugely equivalent western versions having to do with struggle against oppression: "None of us are free until all of us are free". "You can't keep a man down on the ground without getting down on the ground with him". The kind of sentiments that say we can't treat other people like animals without becoming animals ourselves. Taking away someone elses humanity (by enslaving them, or demonizing them, etc) also takes away your humanity.
    Last edited by kanem; March 10th, 2006 at 08:05 PM.

  7. #7
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    Re: The meaning of Ubuntu (may shake some feathers)

    Some words can not be directly translated. They can lead toward simular meanings, but not the exact word. My wife is Filippina and some of the words she says can not be translated. They are as they just are..

    IMHO, if ubuntu translated to cow poopee, I would still use it. Ubuntu is the best linux distro out and the community around it is supported by many nice folks.

    Cheers,
    Joey
    Mac Mini: OSX 10.9 Mavericks, i7-3720QM 2.6Ghz, 16GB RAM, 1.25TB Fusion Array, Intel HD4000 iGPU
    Photo Blog on Youtube: www.youtube.com/user/ExodistPhotoBlog
    Linux User: 380654

  8. #8
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    Re: The meaning of Ubuntu (may shake some feathers)

    I have said it before....I dare you to take away my Ubuntu...

    And I agree with Bandit....cow poopee or not, I will wallow and roll around in it. I have dived into cow dung pile and I am not coming out!

  9. #9
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    Re: The meaning of Ubuntu (may shake some feathers)

    Quote Originally Posted by tinonetic
    Please note that I'm not posting this with any bad intentions and I love Ubuntu coz its something from us,Africans, but I disagree with Ubuntu Linux's definition of the actual word "ubuntu". I may be wrong, but I discussed with so many people about this... long before I joined this forum, from last year when I first came across Ubuntu.

    Ubuntu definitely has something to do with humanity. Actually the word humanity (from my background in Ndebele and Zulu) is very close to ubuntu. A more direct translation would be humaness. The word also has origins in Bantu-related languages which are actually Southern African. Ubuntu is used with the same meaning and philosophical context in these languages:

    Shona - Hunhu
    Ndebele/Zulu - Ubuntu
    Setswana - motho
    Sotho - botho

    I could be wrong but I believe the way Ubuntulinux defined the word is wrong
    Sawubona

    I agree with you on the humanity thing. The version used for Ubuntu sounds a bit jazzed up and a bit removed from isiZulu. But then again some languages are hard to do a literal translation of as you seem to lose the meaning.

    My Zulu is pretty bad at the moment. Strange thing is that as a kid (4-7yrs) I was pretty good in it seeing I spoke it a lot but lost it. Maybe it's time I try to speak it a bit more especially seeing i live in the Zulu kingdom...

    tinonetic, where are you from ?

    Sala kahle!
    Last edited by mips; March 10th, 2006 at 08:45 PM.

  10. #10
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    Re: The meaning of Ubuntu (may shake some feathers)

    Ubuntu is an ancient african word, meaning "I can't cunfigure Debian".

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