Towning finally explained
April 13, 2013 § 34 Comments
Except from my book, In My Arrogant Opinion
A great deal of intrigue has risen around the word, ‘towning’ or to ‘town’ lately, thanks to the loud and powerful minority on the social networks. Every other day there is someone asking what the word means. To my surprise, I have even seen some of my melanin-disadvantaged brethren use it freely – and correctly at that. I have taken it upon myself to educate those who do not know. So sit down kids and listen to a history lesson you will not find in your textbooks. The origins of Towning. I will give you the raw, naked truth.
Towning is not to be confused with planking. Although it is a form of planking. Don’t worry, I’ll get into it later. I was going to take some time and explain what planking is in case some of you reading this have no idea. Don’t worry if you do not know, you have not missed much. But if you insist and really, really want to know, please consult (to quote George W. Bush) ‘The Google’, and while you’re at it, urbandictionary.com, they are sure to explain to you what it is. Maybe you should simply Google images. As they say, a picture tells a thousand words.
Where was I? Oh yes, towning. This is a very popular word with the Eastern Cape crowd. You can hardly go anywhere without hearing about it. In fact, if it were not for towning, none of us would be here.
Even though the word originated from the Eastern Cape, those who are from that province are aware that it comes from their region, but they would not be able to tell anyone about its history and origins. As a self-appointed towning historian, I believe it is my God-given duty to educate. Well, sit back, get a cup of coffee, tea or whatever it is you drink and take a sip as you read.
Let me cut to the chase right from the get go, beating around the bush isn’t really going to take us far. Do excuse the puns. Don’t worry, you’ll notice them in a second. The term basically means having sex without a condom. Uyatawuna. Ukutawuna. Now you know. However, read on and find out the more interesting aspect of this story. The history of towning. Not so much the history of towning, but the history of the word.
According to legend, ukutawuna originated from one of South Africa’s largest townships, (my hometown by the way) Mdantsane, a township just outside East London. Those of you who have had the misfortune of never having lived there, you have no idea what you are missing. Some of you will know Mdantsane for producing some of the greatest boxing champions in the world and, of course, me.
As an aside, when then world boxing champion Vuyani Bhungu had just won his championship, an interviewer asked him what he was going to do for his family now that he had won. His response is legendary, ‘I’ll braai them all.’ But let me get back to ukutawuna.
Back in the day, there used to be one taxi route from Mdantsane to East London. If you wanted to catch a taxi from Mdantsane to East London (which was simply called town, or as the Xhosas say, ‘etawuni’) you had to go to the biggest taxi rank in the township. The taxi rank is famously known as Highway. To this day I still don’t know how it managed to get this odd name, especially since there is no highway to be seen anywhere near.
As time moved on, a new area developed in greater East London called Vincent. A mall by the name, *drum roll*, Vincent Park Mall, opened there. As one would imagine, it became very popular. In order to accommodate all the people who worked and shopped there, a new taxi route opened up from Mdantsane and it was named, well, you guessed it, Vincent. This means when you were at the taxi rank in Mdantsane Highway, you could get a taxi that could take you directly to Vincent.
At the taxi rank in Mdantsane Highway, you’d hear taxi drivers shouting to passersby, ‘Vincent! Vincent! Vincent! Vincent!’ For some reason, they always felt the need to shout it in rapid-fire bursts of four as if you wouldn’t know you were going there if they just said it once or twice.
Now you need to follow what I’m going to say closely. I wouldn’t want to lose you after we’ve gone so far in this story.
The Vincent taxi didn’t only stop in Vincent but also went to central town. This raised a bit of a conundrum for the taxis that were going to town but not via Vincent. What to call their route? And how to make it seem more attractive?
Remember, previously they simply shouted, ‘Town!’ Now they had to find a more marketable phrase to make their route more attractive. Thus, ‘Town straight!’ was born.
Remember, both routes end up in town, but the one goes via Vincent. The advantage of simply saying ‘Town straight’ meant that you were letting your passengers know that they could go directly to town without having to go via Vincent. That was a waste of their time. The destination is the same but the time to get there is longer if you go via Vincent. Thus the birth of ‘towning’.
When AIDS came, so did condoms. And so clever boys in Mdantsane started referring to sex without a condom as ‘Town Straight’. It was essentially the same as taking a taxi from Mdantsane Highway and ending up in town without having the hassle of taking the long route. If you had sex with a condom it was like taking a taxi from Mdantsane Highway to Vincent, then to town. It was a longer way of getting the same result.
As time moved on, having sex without a condom was no longer referred to as Town Straight, but a Xhosalised version of it, which is ukutawuna. There are several colloquial references to it now. A person who towns regularly is called a town planner.
Happy towning friends. I kid. I kid. (Well, towning does lead to kids)