Sunday, June 13, 2010


Now that all eyes are on South Africa, this guide to some South African slang might be in order. There are only 40 examples here, most certainly not an all-encompassing guide, but it's a good start.

For example, they are missing "shame." This English word takes on a whole new connotation in South Africa - in fact, many meanings, depending on context. It usually means "cute" - as in, when a mom cajoles you into looking at her new-born, you say "Ag, shame..." meaning "Oh, how cute!" (You're probably fibbing, of course, but that's a different story!) Or "I heard about your mom's suicide. Shame." That one means I'm sorry, I sympathize, I feel your pain. It's a remarkably useful expression, called into service when there's just nothing else that can be said! (B.t.w.: "ag" is Afrikaans for oh, oh no, shoot ("shit"), oh dear - it's from the Dutch "acht" and is pronounced with a guttural g.)

"Howzit" is mentioned, but not properly explained. It's essentially "Hello" or "Hey, how you doing?" or "Hi" or, for bumpkins, "I'm honored to make your acquaintance, Your Majesty." Again, very useful.

Another one is "Just now," which they mention in the article, but don't give it nearly enough attribution. Here's the real explanation:
  • "When did you bake these cookies?" "Just now." (i.e. at some indeterminate point in the past - it could be used as a copout if they're stale!)
  • "When does the mailman usually arrive?" "Just now." (i.e. perhaps he's already been here, maybe he's here now, or it could be that he hasn't yet arrived - and I really don't give a rat's ass!)
  • "When are you going to take out the garbage?" "Just now." (i.e. I have absolutely no idea, I'll do it when I feel like it, so there!)
I love the flexibility of this phrase - it can be used to describe the past, the present, the future, and sometimes, never! (There's a "never" example in the article.)

And then there's "Ja, well, no, fine," often smooshed into a single word: Jawellnofine. I'll leave it up to the linked article to describe that one for you!

Enjoy. It may help you to understand the narration while watching the World Cup!

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