The basic style of warfare, well, let’s say fighting, amongst the Batswana is stabbing. In traditional battles this was done through a spear and probably through the use of other sharp objects. The verb for such an act in the language is tlhaba. The verb is used also to mean to puncture a hole as well as to slaughter (as in “to slaughter a cow” go tlhaba kgomo). We also use the word to mean “to inject” or to pierce with a needle go tlhaba ka lomao. This meaning is related to that of stabbing. The meaning of slaughtering a cow is easy to understand since for a long time the Batswana have slaughtered their animals (chicken, sheep, goats and cattle) by “stabbing” and cutting a vein in the neck, bleeding an animal to death. So strictly speaking go tlhaba kgomo is to slaughter it with a sharp object. Go tlhabega is to feel uncomfortable; to be pricked in your hurt. We know that the Batswana’s method of choice for killing is stabbing because of the linguistic remnants of tlhaba that litter the Setswana linguistic terrain. The very act of fighting or battling in Setswana between individuals we call it go tlhabana (which literally means to reciprocally stab each other). The linguistic evidence therefore suggests that historically to battle involved stabbing as an integral part of battle. Now the element of stabbing is no longer central to Setswana battles, as battles or fights take a variety of styles. Nevertheless, even with no stabbing involved, to fight is still called go tlhabana. The verb has gone through some semantic extension to include all varieties of competitions between individuals and groups. For instance dikhwaere di a tlhabana captures a competition between choirs. From the verb tlhaba we get a noun form referring to a battle. A fight or a battle is tlhabano (a reciprocal stabbing). To fight someone is also known as go tlhabantsha which is also used mean to meet or to cut through. The word for a battle ground in Setswana is also derived from the verb tlhaba. It is known as matlhabanelo; lefelo le go tlhabanelwang teng. Even now in Kanye there is still a place called Matlhabanelo, where previously heated battles had ensued. While the word has changed meaning, tlhaba still means to stab. One way of showing this is to consider what Batswana use to stab or what can stab somebody. As it is common practice amongst corpus linguists, the best and unbiased way to do this is to study a corpus (a language database) which comprises a representative collection of Setswana texts which show how language is used in context by its speakers. So what is used to stab? The answers include: di/segai (spears), ma/lerumo (spear), lonaka (a horn), mhinyana wa lerumo (spear handle), mitlwa (thorns), sengwe se se bogale (a sharp object), terata, (a piece of wire), and thipa (knife). The word tlhaba is used in a variety of fighting/battling situations which involve hitting or violent attacks for instance: go tlhaba ka setlhako (to kick somebody), go tlhaba ka tlelapa/mpama (to slap somebody). However more than the physical reference to fighting, the word is used in an idiomatic sense with other terms to show an array of meanings. The word appears in the following idiomatic expressions: go tlhabiwa ke ditlhong (to be embarrassed/humiliated/ashamed), go tlhaba kgobe ka mutlwa (to relax/to be at ease). When the sun rises we say letsatsi le a tlhaba (the sun stabs). The expression comes from the sharp sun rays which cut through the sky. This is very similar in meaning to the stabbing of a sharp leading voice in a choir or a musical rendition. In Setswana someone who leads a song we say o a tlhabeletsa, the verb tlhabeletsa has been derived from the verb tlhaba. This use is related to the idiomatic expression go tlhaba mokgosi (to scream/to shout out for help or attention). Go tlhaba motho ka dipotso (hit someone with questions), tlhaba ka dipuo/mafoko (stab someone with words), tlhaba ka lengole (kneel down), tlhaba ka leitlho/matlho (too look at somebody, especially intensely), tlhaba ka samotlhana (fall on your back), tlhaba ka sejabana/sekgono (to rest your elbow on something), tlhaba ka setlankana (to give someone a certificate), tlhaba ka tladimolomo (to kiss), tlhabiwa ke phefo (to have fresh air), go tlhabela pele (to leave/to go/to move on), tlhabiwa ke setlhabi (to have a sharp pain). The very noun setlhabi (a sharp pain) is derived from the verb tlhaba. It literally means the thing that stabs. There are numerous words which are related to the verb tlhaba in the Setswana language. Amongst these is tlhabolola which means to develop. Tlhabolola has a similar meaning as lemolola to till the soil. Tlhabolola literally means to stab the soil with a sharp object and turn it upside down in preparation for ploughing. From this verb we get the noun ditlhabololo “developments” as well as tlhabologo “a state of being developed/civilised” which all have their roots in the verb tlhaba. Go tlhabela lekatane on the other hand, means to slice a melon into several thin slices. The historical study of certain Setswana fighting practices and patterns reveals that principally Batswana used stabbing as a way of fighting. This practice has since become reflected in the linguistic patterns of the Batswana. Fighting patterns have changed significantly over the last 200 years, resulting with significant semantic shift in the language with the word tlhaba and its collocates taking on a more idiomatic slant.