Joe Pickett Joe_Pickett at HMCO.COM
Tue Dec 12 00:05:22 UTC 2000

Well, I'm afraid I'm still batting zero, Dennis.

I think it's spelled matatu (not matutu). My bad. My wife is the one who
has been to Kenya (three times now). She corrected my pronunciation

It could well be a plural in Swahili.

For what it's worth, here's another website:

<<A number of years ago, I got "MATATU" on my license plate. I frequently get
                                           asked what it means. I used to try to explain to people what it really means, but
                                           soon gave up on that. People just don't get it. I tell them that it means "taxi" in
                                           Swahili. But those of you who have been to Kenya, and travelled in a matatu,
                                           know that that really does not sum up the experience if riding in a matatu.

                                           "Matatu" comes from the swahili word (or Kikuyu, depending on who you listen
                                           to) for "three." It used to cost 3 shillings to ride in a matatu. But what is a matatu?
                                           These days, a matatu is usually a minibus, or other public transportation in Kenya.
                                           When I was in Kenya, a matatu was usually (and probably still is, farther from the
                                           larger cities) a pickup truck, with a cover on the bed. For a few shillings a piece,
                                           as many people as can cram in there, with their baggage, and perhaps some
livestock, can get a ride to where they are going. And often there would be baggage on the top, and perhaps some chickens on top,
and several people hanging out the back door.>>

Joe Pickett

"Dennis R. Preston" <preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU>@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on 12/11/2000
06:49:00 PM

Please respond to American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>

Sent by:  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>

Subject:  Re: jitney

Joe may be right, but I am still suspicious (since ma- is the ubiquitous
plural prefix attached even to foreign words (even when they are plural
suffixed in the donor languages). I ain't impressed by the Lonely Planet
quote (any more than I am by their restuarant suggestions).


>Few (well, really none) are the occasions when I have had the opportunity
>to correct Dennis Preston,
>but I'm pretty sure matutu is a singular noun. Matutu may be a plural word
>in other African usage, though.
>Joe Pickett
>from the Lonely Planet Travel Guide on the web
>Driving in Tanzania is a trade-off between speed and potholes. Traffic
>density is
>                                low outside main towns, so your main enemy
>is the holey road surface. On the
>                                mainland at least, car rental is still an
>expensive option. By bus, don't expect much.
>                                On the long-haul routes there's generally
>choice between luxury and ordinary, but
>                                these are very relative terms. On short
>hauls the choice is between ordinary buses
>                                and dalla dalla - the Tanzanian equivalent
>of a Kenyan matutu.
>"Dennis R. Preston" <preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU>@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on
>04:38:19 PM
>Please respond to American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Sent by:  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Subject:  Re: jitney
>Matutu is surely a plural.
>>I think the "people mover" car or truck has various names in various
>>English speaking countries.
>>I know in Kenya that call it a matutu. I'd heard that some people in the
>>NYC area also call it this because so many drivers are from Africa. I
>>no confirmation of this, however.
>>In Liberia they call it a moneybus (even though it's usually a pick-up
>>There are probably many other names.
>>Joe Pickett
>>James Smith <jsmithjamessmith at YAHOO.COM>@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on 12/11/2000
>>11:51:48 AM
>>Please respond to American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>Sent by:  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>Subject:  Re: jitney
>>The only use of "jitney" with which I am familiar is
>>for cars, vans, and small trucks used in unregulated,
>>free-market mass transport in places such as Africa,
>>the Phillipines, and Mexico and Central America
>>--- Drew Danielson <drew.danielson at CMU.EDU> wrote:
>>> OK, first let me acknowledge that my grammar tanked
>>> in my last message.
>>> I hereby "grammar-flame" myself.
>>> I did some reading on the word "jitney" yesterday.
>>> From what I was able
>>> to dig up on the Internet, it generally refers to
>>> independently-owned or
>>> private vans or small buses that usually follow a
>>> fixed route.  But
>>> sites that describe a "jitney" in Pittsburgh
>>> consistently refer to
>>> independently-owned, for-hire cars (with drivers).
>>> In an informal
>>> interview with a Pittsburgher at the gas station
>>> where I bought some
>>> cigarettes last night the gentleman stated,
>>> "Pittsburgh's cornered the
>>> market on jitneys."
>>> I wasn't able to find this definition in connection
>>> to other cities
>>> (searching on google.com for "jitney" "[name of
>>> city]").  The Victoria
>>> Transport Policy Institute defines "jitney" thusly,
>>> "[j]itney services
>>> use vans or small buses to provide self-financing,
>>> privately operated
>>> transit service."  In this case, it's used as a
>>> technical term for a
>>> type of shuttle service.
>>> Note:  In my searching, I found that there's a play
>>> by August Wilson
>>> about a Pittsburgh jitney driver currently playing
>>> on Broadway (it's
>>> called: "Jitney").
>>James D. SMITH                 |If history teaches anything
>>SLC, UT                        |it is that we will be sued
>>jsmithjamessmith at yahoo.com     |whether we act quickly and decisively
>>                               |or slowly and cautiously.
>>Do You Yahoo!?
>>Yahoo! Shopping - Thousands of Stores. Millions of Products.
>Dennis R. Preston
>Department of Linguistics and Languages
>Michigan State University
>East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
>preston at pilot.msu.edu
>Office: (517)353-0740
>Fax: (517)432-2736

Dennis R. Preston
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at pilot.msu.edu
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

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