“O jewa ke eng?” – the tweet that broke Twitter norms

I first learnt about the “O jewa ke eng?” tweet when I saw the one by @gogetthatstrap asking about it .

See the date when the tweet above was published?

Being the self-proclaimed Datapreneur, this got my attention. I checked out the original tweet,

… and found that it was published in January 2019. He banna! (#GoogleTranslation)

Don’t ask me why I only discovered “O jewa ke eng?” literally 2 months to the day since it was first published . I can only say that is the way of Twitter – too many topics coming and going all the time, and some of us have other work to do .

For those who may not know, the tweet by Keabetswe was written in Sesotho, an indigenous language of Basotho, one of South Africa’s 12 official languages and also the national language of the neighbouring country of Lesotho . 

Coincidentally, this is also my mother’s tongue, which I speak fluently. That is another reason why I took interest in the tweet.

The literal translation of the tweet is “What is bugging you?” 

Did Keabetswe (a Sesotho name that can be loosely translated “I am gifted”) know that her tweet was going to become this popular when she posted it? My guess is that she did not .

Out of curiosity, I decided to track "O jewa ke eng?" tweet

Now that I found out about this famous tweet 2 months after it was published, which is a long time in Twitter terms, I was curious to see how long it was going to be doing the rounds.

Frankly, I have been surprised that, almost 6 months now, it is still receiving mentions and engagement.

See the dates in the 2 tweets above?

Some quick stats

 Any expert Datapreneur will attest that tweets that get more Replies than RT’s are EXTREMELY rare.

But there is more about this tweet that is out of the norm. Let’s explore.

"O jewa ke eng?" tweet broke the Twitter lifespan norm

According to Max Influence, the lifespan of a tweet is maximum 20 minutes. South Africa’s Twitter trends have followed this global trend closely. 

However, this tweet has proven to be the exception. 

To the best of my knowledge based on analysis of many topical tweets over a 10-year period, this is one of the few original tweets that continue popping back onto Twitter’s trending topics’ radar long after they were published.

The tweet broke the language barrier norm

Analysis of a sample of 2,000 most recent tweets shows that “O jewa ke eng?” has become a global phenomenon, this despite it being written in Sesotho. 

The norm has been that African indigenous language tweets don’t seem to travel far, even within a country where they are relevant due to the multilingualism factor that is so common in Africa – a continent of over 2,000 indigenous languages. 

In South Africa alone, as many as 25 indigenous languages are spoken.

The sample 2,000 tweets that I analysed were seen 4 million times!

The phrase - "O jewa ke eng" has since taken a life of its own across the continent and beyond

The phrase has also become one of the favourite Twitter names.

I suspect Keabetswe has found her calling

However, #Twitter4Good has its challenges

Thankfully, the #BlackTwitterSA detectives have also been on the lookout and ready to pounce

Thankfully, the #BlackTwitterSA detectives have also been on the lookout and ready to pounce

What is it about Keabetswe’s “O jewa ke eng?” tweet that has resulted in the breaking of Twitter norms? 

The answer may be in the related blog. 

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