/ 3 June 2010

The A-Z of South Africanisms

The A Z Of South Africanisms

One of the Mexican forwards stumbles during a tackle. “Sorry, man” the South African defender says. “Aha,” the Mexican thinks. “An admission of guilt!”

Actually, what the South African is really saying in this hypothetical scenario is that he is sorry for the Mexican. He is not expressing remorse.

Saying “sorry” to someone that you have not wronged is one of the many wonderful South Africanisms foreigners will come across at the World Cup.

Following is an A-Z glossary of other typical terms or expressions found in South African English, which is heavily influenced by the country’s 10 other languages.

Ayoba: A slang word for cool that has been made into a World Cup refrain by sponsor MTN, which has incorporated “ayoba” into all its advertising, e.g. “We don’t say ole, we say ayoba!”

Babalas: Hangover, taken from the Zulu word isibhabalazi. Usually treated with a sachet of Grandpa (a local headache powder).

Cooldrink: A chilled soda or a euphemism for a bribe. e.g. “If you buy me cooldrink, I’ll forget about that speeding fine.”

Dagga: Marijuana.

Eish!: An expression of surprise/resignation, e.g. “Eish, I’m so broke.”

Fong Kong: A counterfeit, e.g. a fong kong football jersey .

Geyser: It’s got to do with hot water alright, but it’s the hot water tank in a house, not a spring.

Howzit/heita: “How are you?” in English and a mix of Afrikaans and Xhosa.

Is it/izzit?: An expression of surprise, used even when the preceding statement did not include the verb “to be”, e.g. “Brazil first play North Korea” or “I have a toothache.” Response: “Is it?”

Just now/now now: Denote varying levels of urgency. Phoning someone “now now” is sooner than “now” or “just now” but not as soon as “right now”.

Kugel: A middle-class girl or woman from northern Johannesburg, who speaks with a nasal voice and is preoccupied with her appearance

Lekker: From the Afrikaans word for delicious, meaning nice or fun, e.g. “We had a lekker time last night.”

Muti: A catch-all term for African medicinal remedies and rituals. Footballers can use muti to bring bad luck on a rival team.

Ne: Used liberally by Afrikaans speakers for emphasis, e.g. “I went to the shop, ne, and I bought some milk, ne, and then I came home, ne…

Ouma: Afrikaans word for grandmother or old woman. Also the name of a brand of rusk.

Pap: A stiff porridge made of maize. Pap ‘n vleis (meat) is the staple dish in townships.

Robot: Traffic lights, which you “jump” rather than go through, e.g. “Jump the robot and take a short [first] right.”

Sharp sharp: Understood, agreed, sorted.

Tsotsi: A gangster or thug. Also the title of an Oscar-nominated South African film about a robber in Johannesburg.

Umqombothi: Popular cheap beer made of sorghum and maize.

Vuvuzela: Plastic trumpets blown by South African fans, which are being talked up as the 12th man of the host team because they have the effect of deafening their opponents

Woza: “Come” or “come on” in Zulu, e.g. “Woza 2010!”

Xhosa: One of South Africa’s biggest ethnic groups and a language of the same name that is sprinkled with clicks. The “xh” in Xhosa is pronounced as a click.

Yebo: “Yes” in Zulu.

Zulu: South Africa’s most populous nation and widely-spoken language. — sapa-dpa