Final Word

Zuma, Ramaphosa, legacies, the jackpot, and tips


The year 2018 kicks off with much talk about the legacies of a departing-, and an incoming ANC leader, sky high lottery jackpots and plenty tips on how political jackpots will play out.

For those interested in the origin, and sometimes deeper meaning of words and terms, there are some interesting links between the three terms – legacy, jackpot, and tip/s – we are putting on the table. And there is a hint (one of the synonym sometimes used for tip) in some of history of ‘tip.

Tip, a word from obscure origin according to most etymology sources, has become quite a versatile term over the ages that can mean anything from a land outcrop, like the “Southern tip of Africa,” emptying the refuse bin in a “tipper lorry” – which in turn will tip it on a refuse heap – to a useful piece of information given to some-one, like the most likely horse to win a particular race.

During the holiday season the term was probably most commonly used in the sense of a ‘gratuity” to reward satisfactory service at a restaurant or hotel. And, according to one of our sources, Today I Found Out (TIFO), this is probably the oldest use of the term in English.

And, here is our first hint: TIFO writes that “it most likely comes from a popular form of speech among thieves, beggars, and hustlers, called the ‘Thieves’ Cant’ (also sometimes called ‘Rogues’ Cant’), which arose in Great Britain several hundred years ago with the primary aim of keeping non-thieves and the like from being able to fully understand what the thieves were talking about.

“One such slang word in this Thieves’ Cant was ‘tip’, meaning ‘to give or to share’. The first documented usage of ‘tip’ this way dates to 1610.”

Zuma legacy

It for sure did not start with President Zuma in South African political history – examples of friends and family benefitting from insider ‘tips’ can be traced back to the days of Cecil John Rhodes in the Cape Colony and Paul Kruger in the old Transvaal Republic – Zuma’s legacy is set to be dominated nepotism and corruption charges.

This brings us to the origin, history, and meaning of the term ‘legacy  which in English date to the early 14th century as legacie, indicating the office of a deputy or legate from Medieval Latin lēgātia.

By the late 14th century we got legacy, indicating a "body of persons sent on a mission," from Old French legatie for "legate's office," from Medieval Latin legatia, from Latin legatus for "ambassador or envoy" and legare for "appoint by a last will” and “send as a legate."

In the sense of "property left by will" it appeared in Scottish by the mid-15th century.

By the late-16th century it has, however also migrated to the world of politics, culture, and other figurative uses, as illustrated by the following quotes: “Murad died in 1595, leaving to his successor a legacy of war and anarchy; and “As Easterners, Brady and his brothers continued the legacy their father and grandfather had of serving as the military advisors to the politicians that Tim's Western family bred.”

Clearly the term legacy has multiple meanings, and depending on context it are not all always positive, although it carries a rather impressive pedigree, starting off in Latin as indicating an ambassador or emissary.

The jackpot legacy

Few people would argue against the view that a large part of the Zuma Legacy is leaving to the people of South Africa, is that he treated having been elected president of the ANC, and by extension of the country, as having ‘hit the jackpot’ – a jackpot that keeps on giving.

The most common use of the term jackpot is a large cash prize in a game or lottery, especially one that accumulates until it is won. Over time it also took on a more informal and at times figurative meaning of experiencing unexpected huge positive, or negative results on decisions taken.

The term first made it appearance around the 1870 from developments in the card game poker when dealt a traditional five-card draw worth at least two Jacks or better in the first round to open the betting.

In the case where nobody holds “jacks or better”, the hand must be re-dealt with additional ante required, so the pot can grow just from antes.

When the game is finally over, no player can to win with anything less than three of a kind or better.  If, at the end, no one has better than three of a kind or more, then no player gets the pot and the hand is re-dealt with additional ante required to be added to the existing accumulated pot.  Over time this pot can potentially grow quite large, hence “jackpot”.

For Jacob Zuma the final hand was dealt at the December elective conference. How he will be allowed to exit the game, will not only finally define the legacy he is leaving behind, but also the size of the jackpot he retains for himself.

The man who takes over at the table as the dealer of the cards, Cyril Ramaphosa, has already established a legacy of his own as a negotiator of note, who played an important role in delivering an admirable democratic constitution to the country.

Most of the people of the country is hoping that the hand he will be playing will deliver a jackpot for country’s inclusive economic development.

by Piet Coetzer

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