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What is South Africa’s word of the year?

This is a purely unscientific result. These are just words that in my un-esteemed opinion should be contenders for word or phrase of the year.

Who could forget the column written by Prince Mashele earlier this year in which he called Jacob Zuma the worst president the ANC has ever had? The column was even called "The worst shall govern". It was one of the angriest columns I'd read in a while, and it was here where I saw a word I had never seen in my life. Ruralitarian. I quote, "Far from it; Zuma is not an organic intellectual. He is a lucky ruralitarian who has benefited from an opening created by factional politics in an old liberation movement renowned for leadership excellence, the ANC."

I laughed very hard when I saw that word and hoped it would take off. But alas, it didn't gain as much popularity as I had hoped it would. But for a few days, it was probably the most used word by South African Twitter users.

I took the liberty of looking up the word in the dictionary because after the hoopla about it over the last year in South Africa, I'd completely forgotten what a spear is. I realised while writing this column that I now only know a spear as Brett Murray's painting, The Spear, of President Zuma assuming Stalin's famous pose with his member exposed. The dictionary description of a spear is "a long, stabbing weapon for thrusting or throwing, consisting of a wooden shaft". That dictionary definition is loaded (excuse the pun) considering the subject. With words such as, "long", "thrusting", "wooden" and "shaft", it's just too much. Let your imagination run wild. Or not. Actually, don't.

This is Zuma's palatial residence which reportedly cost about R250-million in state funds. News organisations referred to the residence as a "homestead", "compound", "Zumaville" and "Nkandlagate". People are angry because there are no straight answers. The SABC proceeded to ban the use of the following "racist" words: homestead, compound, Zumaville and Nkandlagate. Funny enough, it was later found that the government's own document used at least one of these words. Some people are so angry about Nkandla that I'm expecting to see slogans that go, "One village, one Nkandla."

Mangaung, AKA Zumaung
The ANC's electoral conference in Mangaung is due to begin this weekend and Zuma is expected to keep the party leadership.

This is the saddest word of the year. The mineworkers at Lonmin's Marikana mine decided to embark on an wildcat strike after they felt their grievances were not being heard by management. After a standoff between the mineworkers and management, police were called in to intervene. Approximately 44 people were killed in violence during the strikes there, 34 of which were shot by police.

There are some who want to insist that "town" or "towning" is a term worthy of being a contender for word of the year. I don't agree. For those of you who don't know what towning is, it means having sex without a condom. (Shameless plug alert: you can find the amusing origins of the word in my book, In My Arrogant Opinion, which is part of the Youngsters series).

This word endured for much of this year. Thanks to that Canadian rapper fellow Drake, the acronym for the phrase "you only live once" became a common term. Luckily, it seems Yolo lived once and is now dead. Speaking about Yolo and death, an American aspiring rapper died soon after tweeting that Yolo. This was his tweet, "@ink2flashyy: Driving tweeting sipping the cup fuck yolo I'm turning it up' quoted Drake song" @ink2flashyy later ran a red light and died in a car crash along with his four friends.

I believe that the overall winner has to be "spear". The reason being that the country and large parts of the world began to talk about it when the ANC complained and also organised a fight against the Goodman Gallery, which hosted Brett Murray's Hail to the Thief II exhibition. The painting was not defaced once, but twice, and there was a call by Cosatu to boycott the City Press because it published a photo of the painting.


With each new incident, it got more talk. Though The Spear incident lasted only a week, the debate freedom of expression and dignity continued for months after.

What do you think is a suitable South African word of the year? Tell us in the comments field.

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