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Say it like a South African

SOUTH AFRICA | Sunday, 13 May 2012 | Views [290]

Said like a South African


Of course there are going to be certain things that are said differently from country to country. That’s a given isn’t it? But when you are in an English speaking country, isn’t it funny and somewhat fascinating to experience the variations and discover where they arise from? Well I think so anyway.

I mentioned in another entry that Saffas just love to abbreviate words, and I absolutely stand by this statement. These can extend from place names (think Durbs, J Bay & PE) to everyday things (flops & avo) and pretty soon after landing in South Africa you will begin to realise that these shortenings occur regularly.

But it’s certainly not just abbreviations that I’ve noticed; there are whole other words and expressions that we don’t use in the UK. Sure, we speak the same language, but believe me, we may as well not be at times the difference is so vast. South African English has a flavour of its own and the 11 different national languages (borrowing freely from Afrikaans) are thrown in to the mix, totally confusing a naïve international like yours truly.

OK, so let me give you a few examples, and forgive me for some of these being a bit gross. A bogey is called a snolly and a poo is called a plonky. Dumpies in fact are beer bottles, bakkies are open backed trucks and of course we all know a braai is a BBQ. A koki is a felt tip pen and tackies are trainers.

I’m sure many of you have heard the expression ‘howzit’, which in South Africa is used to greet pretty much anyone really.  It doesn’t necessarily denote a question and definitely doesn’t need an answer; it is more of the general ‘hey how’s it going’ that we may use in the UK.  To ‘have a jol’ means to go out and party, (maybe you go with your ‘chommie’ (friend) or ‘boet’ (mate), which after too ‘dops’ (drinks) may result in a ‘babbela’ or hangover. ‘Eina’ (ouch).

I’ve listened to Rog on the phone and noticed that amongst his ‘normal’ English vocabulary is the usage of ‘oh my hat’ instead of ‘oh my god’ and when something is shocking or interesting, he says ‘sure’ (said in an expressive way) or my personal favourite ‘yoh’, said with the same expression.

In a more formal situation, you will often be communicated to ‘go well’ once you leave an accommodation establishment or restaurant, or will be told ‘you must sleep well’ if you see someone before bedtime. The latter took a bit of getting used to as I wasn’t used to such authoritarianism and kindness in the same sentence.  During a meal, you will almost always be asked by the waiter, ‘are you still fine?’ regardless of whether you have been asked if you are in fact ‘fine’ in the first place.

What to say when…

You want to express how nice something is –lekker. (This meal is lekker)

You are not exactly sure how long you’ll be –now now. (I’m coming now now)

You will be a little longer than ‘now now’ –just now. (I’ll call you just now)

You need to respond but can’t think of what to say –izit?

You want to give your statement more effect –hey? (It’s a nice day hey?)

You want to say everything is good and in order –sharp sharp (often said by petrol station staff)

You want to express surprise or disbelief –eish

Tags: communicating, languages, slang, south africa

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