/ 25 April 2005

Local, lekker and official

This is a must-have reference book for South Africans and foreigners alike who wish to delve into the nuances and homebrew flavours of the local version of English.

Described by the publishers as ‘the most substantial and comprehensive English dictionary available and one that is more up-to-date that any other local adult dictionary”, this version has

15 000 local words included among the standard 200 000 words listed in the tenth version of the Concise Oxford Dictionary.

Starting with ‘abakwetha” (a young Xhosa who has been to initiation school) and ending with ‘Zozo hut” (a prefabricated building used for accommodation, storage, etc), this is a dictionary that has taken lekker South Africanisms off the street and onto these formal pages.

The local terms are a mix of slang and formal words borrowed from other South African languages, commonly used acronyms (like AU, Gear and Nepad), political concepts, as well as business and legal terms that locals are familiar with but which may not be understood by people

elsewhere in the world.

Other interesting words include ‘kwaito” (a style of popular dance-music featuring rhythmically recited vocals over an instrumental backing with strong bass lines); ‘makwerekwere” (an informal and derogatory term for immigrants from other African countries); ‘black-chip” (a company owned or managed by black people, or controlled by black shareholders); and ‘chalkdown” (a local teachers’ strike).

Gauteng dwellers plagued by the dreaded creepy-crawly, the parktown prawn, will be glad to know that it also gets a mention. And for those who like to cheat a little when playing Scrabble and refer to the dictionary, handy inclusions like ‘kif” (fashionably attractive, or cool) could make all the difference to a winning score.