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Posted by Anonymous User 
Anonymous User
September 14, 2004 01:44AM
Excuse my ignorance, but I have recently been reading the novels about Mma Ramotswe and I have no idea how to pronounce "Mma" nor what it stands for, i.e.: Mrs. is pronounced Missus and indicates a married woman; Mr. is pronounced Mister and indicates a respectful title to a male, etc. Can you please elucidate me on this?

Thank you.
Anonymous User
September 16, 2004 01:22PM
I too have been searching for the answer to this. I finally discovered that there are soundclips of various phrases in Setswana at including "Dumela, mma" and "Dumela, rra" (which is "Hello" to a woman and a man respectively). There "Mma" sounds like "map" without the "p" -- ie, the "a" is very short. I had assumed it was an abbreviation of "Madam" but it seems it is just a word in its own right like our "Mrs".
Anonymous User
Mma Rra
October 29, 2004 12:31PM
Thanks for posting answers here. I've been wondering about the origin of Mma and Rra for a while. I assumed it was polite titles of address akin to "mister" and "madam," but I wanted more info. The pronunciations online are helpful--thanks!

Now if only I could get my hands on some bush tea. I would like to try it, even though Mma Makutsi thinks it smells of rats.

Anonymous User
spreading my wings through internet
December 20, 2004 08:17PM
Isn't internet lovely? I am puertorican (Puerto Rico in the Caribbean). Presently i am cyber dreaming of Africa. My neighbor gave me Tears of the Giraffe some weeks ago, i loved it, specially when Rra accepted the two children. Now she lent me Heavenly Date which i will soon read. Bravo Africa Guide. Hello Botswana, hello Africa!!!
Anonymous User
wonderful reading
January 19, 2005 11:06AM
In my search for the exact meaning of Mma/Rra I reached this forum and just want to share my delight with these wonderful books with you all. I am reading the fifth volume and would hope that Precious Ramotswe does get married. She deserves it. Wonderful is it to learn about the positive sides of Africa. I simply must go to Botswana some time.
Anonymous User
February 08, 2005 07:34PM
yes- Mma Precious makes you want to get it right! I have friends who have been to Botswana
and I live in hopes of seeing Africa someday-These books are great settlers of the soul and
the spirit.
February 11, 2005 04:13PM
I went to Botswana a few years ago and loved it - an absolutely amazing place. I then read all the Precious books and fell in love further. I recently got engaged to a South African and am planning my wedding (in a couple of months time) to be on a boat on the Chobe River in Botswana! Just the most amazing place!
Anonymous User
Rra and Mma
February 17, 2005 03:11PM
I lived and worked as a teacher in Botswana some years ago (and even met some of the real people in Alex McCall's books!). Mma and Rra are marks of respect and thus are more significant than Mr and Mrs. Greeting people politely is one of the first things you must learn to do in Botswana - people get offended if you don't! Correct form is,'Dumela mma/rra - le kae?' You reply, 'Ke teng mma/rra, le kae?' Plurals are bomma and borra and you say 'Re teng' (We're fine') if greeted as a couple or a group. Another point of etiquette is if calling someone it is considered rude to just call their name - you add 'we' (pronounced 'way') straight afterwards - 'Peter- we'. Some of the elders in my village called me 'Kgabo' as a mark of deep respect (not entirely deserved I'm sure). Kgabo means 'monkey' but the monkey is the totem of the Bakgatla tribe and so they were not being rude - far from it!

Hope that was useful!

Bush Tea
April 05, 2005 03:28AM
Bush tea is readily available at most supermarkets...Tazo makes a superb one, as does Numi. Even Stash Teas make a red tea, but I'm not sure if it's made from Rooiboos (sp), the plant from which traditional bush tea is made. Bush tea is yummy, and I don't think it smells of rats one bit!
The meaning of the title
April 14, 2005 05:21PM
Can someone please tell me the meaning of the title of this book - Tears of the Giraffe? Thanks.
Setswana fun!
July 15, 2005 03:33AM
Its pronounced mmmmMa. Setswana is a language that emphasises a lot! Mr or Rra is rrrRaa. And you have to be able to roll your r's. Its an interesting langauge once you get to know it a little
meaning of "Tears of the Giraffe" and bush tea
July 18, 2005 08:04PM
On the last page or so of "Tears of the Giraffe," the meaning is revealed. (Read no further if you don't want it spoiled for you.) Mma Ramotswe gives a traditional basket to the American woman whose son went missing ten years before. She explains that the giraffe gives its tears to the women to weave them into the baskets because they have nothing else to give. It is much more poetically put in the book, of course.

I found a very nice kind of bush tea called "11 o-clock tea" at my local natural foods store. I think it is a more traditional form of the tea, without flavoring, that is common in South Africa. I could be wrong, though. It is very mild and nice, though I too prefer black tea.

Did anyone else notice that Mma Makutsi is suddenly drinking bush tea again in "The Kalahari Typing School for Men", with no mention of her disliking it? I was disappointed to see that--as if Smith forgot about this rather nice little detail he lent her character. Oh well, not everyone can be so enamored of these books (not even the author himself).
mma and rra
August 26, 2005 02:47AM
I was very happy to find this site and learn how to pronounce Mma and Rra. I'd originally had it in my mind that Mma was "Madama", much as the French Mme is "Madame" - but I couldn't come up with a similar word that fit Rra!

Alexander McCall Smith is currently here in Australia at a writer's festival, and was interviewed the other night on the TV.
I therefore heard the pronunciation of "Ramotswe" : Ra MOT sway, although both the interviewer and AMS used her first name rather than "Mma", thus leading me to find this forum to learn the proper way to say that word! <img src="[]]

I have just finished Tears of the Giraffe and am absolutely dying to get the next in the series, Morality for Beautiful Girls. I think I'll be giving the full set as Xmas gifts to a few friends and family (hm, and maybe requesting it myself!).

Re: the bush tea, I had thought Mma Makutsi sat and drank it with Mma Ramotswe several times in the first book, but perhaps she only made the tea. As they were loaned to me, I no longer have the books to look back into!
How to pronounce Mma
August 26, 2005 07:30AM
A PS to my post above -
Further searches on the net found an AMS site wherein the author replied to this query, although his answer confuses me a bit - "long a"?? and "rar"??:

"... Mma is pronounced "mah" (that is, with a long a), and rra is similarly pronounced "rar". The double m and the double r slightly strengthen the mo and r sound, but only slightly. I hope that you enjoy the fourth book in due course!

Very best wishes,
Alexander McCall Smith"

loving the series and only missing #5
August 28, 2005 05:58AM
just finished the kalahari typing school for men on thursday and in the company of cheerful ladies yesterday.
i love them! i never would've picked up the book but a friend referred them and now i'm hooked.

ps-my mom really appreciates the large print copies!
bush tea
February 20, 2006 06:16PM
Someone mentioned they thought bush tea smelled like rat droppings. About 20 years or so ago, the South African health authorities found mouse droppings in the rooibos tea stored in the main RSA warehouse and recalled all the rooibos off grocers' shelves. There was a rush for shoppers to get to the stores before grocers could comply.
Open wide and say &quot;Mma.&quot;
March 21, 2006 07:29AM
LAST EDITED ON Mar-21-06 AT 07:31 AM (GMT)

I am guessing that 'annb' is American, and thus confused by pronunciation suggestions by a speaker of British English, or rather non-American English.

For those of us in Australia/New Zealand, the pronunciation of 'mah' (as in 'bah humbug' or 'say Ahhhh') and 'rar' (as in 'car','far' or 'calm') are almost identical; although I would hazard that Rra is said as a South African person might pronounce 'car' ie much further in the throat than Aussies or Kiwis would say (and of course with the Rr pronounced 'rrrrrolled').

Just finished 'Blue Shoes and Happiness.' Damn but these books are addictive. I never had any desire to travel to Africa before, but now I do - especially since I discovered Tlokweng Road really does exist!

>A PS to my post above -
> Further searches on the net
>found an AMS site wherein the
>author replied to this query, although
>his answer confuses me a bit
>- "long a"?? and "rar"??:
>"... Mma is pronounced "mah" (that is,
>with a long a), and rra
>is similarly pronounced "rar". The double
>m and the double r slightly
>strengthen the mo and r sound,
>but only slightly. I hope that
>you enjoy the fourth book in
>due course!
>Very best wishes, Alexander McCall Smith"

Bush tea, Rooibos, etc.
May 27, 2006 01:17PM
The local supermarkets in Massachusetts (U. S.) usually have some kind of bush tea, in among the various herb teas and so forth. It is usually called Rooibos or "red tea."

I like it a lot.

I find that what I like best is straight Rooibos, no flavorings, no milk or cream, no sweeteners. One problem with the easily-obtained tea (in teabags from supermarkets) is that I find that I definitely like it best when it is very strong. In an ordinary 8 ounce cup I'll use two bags and steep for 6 minutes or more. It does not seem to be possible to steep it too long, by the way. One brand is Kalahari. Most of the brands that include herb teas in their line (Celestial Seasonings, etc.) include some red tea in their lineup.

I now order it over the Internet, for several reasons. It is fairly expensive stuff and is _much_ cheaper in bulk; and I do think the stuff from the real tea places is a little better than the stuff in teabags at the supermarket.

I've tried two places, both good; most recently I've been ordering from Culinary Teas, mostly because they offer 8 ounce packages which at the rate I consume it is about the right sized package.

When made strong as described, it tastes to me very much like "ordinary" tea. It has a nice, sharp bite to it. It's hard to believe it does not have caffeine.
bush tea
April 19, 2007 04:55PM
Yes, I was also puzzled by the fact that Mma Makutsi was suddenly drinking bush tea again. In a later book, the missing information is given by the autor. Maybe he realized it only then?

I love the No 1 Ladies' detective agency books. A friend gave me the first book when I left for a camping tour starting at Victoria Falls in Zambia, crossing Botswana through Chobe NP over to the Okavango Delta (both places are awesome) and then down into South Africa. I read it right there and because I was absolutely impressed by Botswana and its friendly people, and because I knew the places, I loved it a lot. Within some weeks I had read all the following books and I am looking forward to "The Good husband of Zebra drive"...

Here is my advice to everybody: You have to go to Botswana! It's an amazing place! Don't miss the beauty of the Okavango Delta and Chobe NP! And you will love its people, just like you love all the characters in the books!
Beautiful Botswana
May 22, 2007 10:48AM
I must say i am amazed. For the first time i see positive things about Africa on the net. This makes me really happy to know that there are people out there who appreciate the beauty that does exist in Africa.

I am a Motswana(A citizen of Botswana)and speak Setswana. I am currently studying in Australia. I am embarased to say I have not yet read any book from the series, and each time an Australian asks me about the book, i have nothing to say except I have heard about it. I will definately get myself copies after all the good reviews it is recieving from all of you.

Its really intresting the trouble the forumists have been going thru to try and pronounce Mma or Rra. Its weird trying to explain it with writting. But I hope all the attempts to explain have made some of you get the ghist of it.

All i can say to you all is; Botswana is a lovely country, the people pride themselves for being nice, hence one of our national mottos BOTHO- meaning respect, politeness, kindness all mixed together. We are a peace loving nation and always welcome visitors to our country. So if you want to go on a relaxing holiday or learn more about us besides the Tlokweng road, drop by anmytime. You will be greeted with love!
How lovely to hear from a citizen of Botswana!
May 23, 2007 12:28AM
Dear Tee_girl,

It was great to read what you wrote about Botswana, as it confirmed the impression one gets from the books.

I wonder what part of Australia you are in while you are studying? I live in Melbourne (although as an earlier writer noticed, I am American!). I hope you are finding it friendly here too.

Note to all - I still have not read the most recent two books in this series - Blue Shoes and Good Husband. Am dying to, though! The series is SO good!
What a wonderful forum!
June 06, 2007 10:45PM
I stumbled upon this forum while researching the pronunciation and meaning of Mma and Rra. I just began reading the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency this week after purchasing the first four books at a used bookstore. This first book is delightful as I'm sure the entire series is. I'm looking forward to spending part of my summer relaxing with Mma Ramotswe.
July 03, 2007 04:06PM
My partner and i are getting married and both really enjoy this series. We are looking for readings for the service at the moment and like the idea of using an extract from the series. i haven't finished reading all of them yet and read the first 3 some time ago so would be grateful if anyone has any suggestions of where to start looking.
I'll also be able to tell the reader how to pronounce 'Mma' now!
Where to start
July 25, 2007 10:24AM
I should say tee_girl captured it all when she said most people in Botswana are clueless bout the series.
I'm a Motswana too and would like to know where the series starts, as the movie is being shot here now we all want to know a bit about Mma Ramotswe. So please someone send me name of the first book!
Mma Romatswe in a movie
August 01, 2007 04:19AM
That is great news that a movie is being made based upon these charming books. I was introduced to the first one via my book club and am now almost finished with In the Company of Cheerful Ladies. After six books it will be fun to compare what the movie portrays with the characters etc versus what my imagination has conjured up. Kind of like Harry Potter <img src="[]]. Do you know when the movie will be released? Can't wait!
First Book in the Series
January 01, 2008 05:11PM
Hi, I stumbled onto this forum while trying to find out how to say Rra. and Mma. like everyone else.

The first book in the series is "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency". I have the whole series and I'm reading through them for the second time before reading "Blue Shoes and Happiness", the latest, for the first time.

It brought tears to my eyes to see so many others have found this wonderful look into Botswana and its people.

Best wishes,

Shenandoah Valley
January 12, 2008 07:25PM
Amazing how one can imagine a foreign culture without necessarily having visited the place. are there any films that portray the tswana culture like these novels do, would love to watch them.
February 21, 2008 01:29PM
I lived in Gaborone for three months in 2005, where I worked for a German foundation. The first months I lived with a doctor in her house near Princess Marina Hosiptal, and later, I moved into a house in the village, right at Tlokweng Road. If Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors really existed, it could not be more than half a mile from where I lived, because in "The Kalahari Writing School for Men", Mma Ramotswe walks into the Eucalyptus forest, which was just across the road from where I lived- the green velvet monkeys would come over from that forest and play on our roof.
I read my first No 1 Lady's Detective Agency novel on a bus ride from Maun back to Gaborone, squeezed into my seat as the bus was growded with 50 singing, dancing, chatting and chicken-eating batswana ladies on their way back from a YWCA-meeting up there in Maun.
During my stay in Gabs, I had the chance to see a musical at Maruapula School staring the health minister Sheila Tlou (who is also mentioned in the books, I believe) as Mma Ramotswe!

Those there months belong to the happiest and most exiting of my life, and everytime I get depressed by the dark, wet and cold German winter, I like to put on one of the Time Warner Audio Books of the Mma Ramotswe, because I love the way Adojoa Andoh reads. Reminds me of Botswana. And its just great to have a picture in your mind of all the places mentioned, like the damm, the university, the Main mall, Kgale hill. I've even been to Mochudi, and saw the hosiptal, the Kgotla and the school.
I hope, that I will come back to Botswana some day.
July 18, 2008 01:35PM
The link has been changed to:

I have read a couple of the No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and have been stirred to go and visit Botswana. Maybe when my kids are a little older...until then, I'm reading the rest of the books in the series!

August 02, 2008 02:14PM
As you are from Botswana you might be able to tell me what a sotetojane is. It occurs in the first volume in the chapter about the "The witchdoctor's wife".
It appears to be an insect, and I would be interested in the correct zoological name. Thank you in advance.
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