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1. A member of a Bushman people of eastern Namibia and western Botswana.
2. The Khoisan language of the !Kung.
Usage Note: The orthographically unusual word !Kung is the name of a people who have traditionally lived as hunter-gatherers in the Kalahari. The language of the !Kung, like many other indigenous languages of southern Africa such as Khoikhoi, Xhosa, and Zulu, employs a series of consonants called clicks that are only rarely found outside of this area of Africa. In English, clicks are found only in a few interjections, such as tsk-tsk, which is technically a repeated alveolar click in which the front end of the tongue is pressed up against the alveolar ridge behind the teeth. The exclamation point in !Kung symbolizes a similar click, but with the front part of the blade of the tongue against the palate close to the alveolar ridge. It is thus called a postalveolar click. In the Xhosa language, which belongs to the Bantu group of languages, the letters xh represent another kind of click made further back in the mouth, on one side or both of the tongue, and accompanied by a puff of air. This sound (similar to that used by a rider when urging a horse to move on) is called an aspirated lateral click.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.