Sunday, May 02, 2010

What does that mean?

I sometimes forget that my many blog readers are not South Africans, as one kindly pointed out on my last post. Hell, even I didn't quite know how sjamboks are made! :)

So, in the spirit of being a good host for the upcoming influx of tourists who will be coming to watch the 2010 soccer World Cup, I thought I'd take some time to educate those not from around these here parts.


Ag (pronounced agh, as in the Scottish loch) - Generally used at the beginning of a sentence, either to express resignation - as in: "Ag well, I guess that's just the way it is" - or to indicate irritation, as in: "Ag no man! What did you do that for?"


Babbelas (pronounced bub-buh-luss) - A hangover. "Jislaaik, china, I dopped 20 dumpies last night and now I have a hang of a babbelas" would translate as: "Gee, my friend, I drank 20 beers last night and now I have a terrible hangover."

Bagel - An overly groomed materialistic young man, and the male version of a kugel.

Bakgat (pronounced buck-ghut) - Well done, cool, awesome.

Bakkie (pronounced bucky) - A pick-up truck.

Bergie - From the Afrikaans berg, mountain, originally referring to vagrants who sheltered in the forests of Cape Town's Table Mountain and now a mainstream word for anyone who is down and out.

Biltong (pronounced bill-tong) - This South African favourite is dried and salted meat, similar to beef jerky, although it can be made from ostrich, kudu or any other red meat.

Bioscope - A cinema or movie theatre, originally a defunct international English word that has survived longer in South Africa because of the influence of the Afrikaans bioskoop.

Biscuit - In South Africa a cookie is known as a biscuit. The word is also a term of affection, as in "Hey, you biscuit".

Bliksem - To beat up, hit or punch - or a mischievous person.

Blooming (pronounced blimmin) - A variation on very, as in: "That new bakkie is blimmin big."

Bobotie (pronounced buh-boor-tee) - A dish of Malay origin, made with minced meat and spices, and topped with an egg sauce.

Boerewors (pronounced boor-uh-vors) - Literally, farmer's sausage. A savoury sausage developed by the Boers - today's Afrikaners - some 200 years ago, boerewors is South African food at its most traditional.

Boet (pronounced like book, with a t) - A term of affection, from the Afrikaans for brother.

Boma (pronoumced bow-mah) - An open thatched structure used for dinners, entertainment and parties.

Bosberaad - A strategy meeting or conference, usually held in a remote bushveld (bos) location such as a game farm.

Braai (pronounced br-eye) - An outdoor barbecue, where meat such as steak, chicken and boerewors are cooked, served with pap and sauce.

Bru (pronounced brew) - A term of affection, shortened from Afrikaans broer, meaning brother. An example would be "Hey, my bru, howzit?"

Bredie (pronounced brear-dee) - A traditional South African mutton stew, first brought to the country by Malay immigrants. It now refers to any kind of stew.


Café (pronounced kaf-ay, kaffee or kayff) - The ubiquitous small neighbourhood convenience store, often found on street corners and stocking cigarettes, cold drinks and newspapers.

China - To most people China is the country with the largest population in the world, but to a South African it can mean something entirely different. China means good friend, as in "This oke's my china". It's one of the few Cockney rhyming slang words to survive in the country, coming from china plate = mate.

Chommie - Friend, from the English chum.

Cooldrink, colddrink - This is the common term for a soda, such as Coca-Cola. Ask for a soda in South Africa and you will receive a club soda.


Deurmekaar (pronounced deer-muh-carr) - An Afrikaans for confused, disorganised or stupid, as in "He's a bit deurmekaar.

Dinges (pronounced ding-us) - A thing, thingamabob, whatzit, whatchamacallit or whatsizname: "When is dinges coming around?"

Doek (pronounced like book) - A head scarf worn to protect a woman's hair on a blustery day or when working.

Donga - A natural ditch resulting from severe soil erosion. From the isiZulu for wall.

Donner (pronounced dor-nuh) - Beat up. From the Afrikaans donder, meaning thunder.

Dop - An alcoholic drink: "Can I pour you a dop?" It can also mean failure: "I dopped the test."

Dorp - A small town on the platteland.

Droewors - Dried boerewors, similar to biltong.

Dummy - A baby's pacifier.

Dumpie - A South African beer served in a brown 340ml bottle.

Durbs - The city of Durban.

Dwaal (pronounced dwarl) - Lack of concentration or focus: "Sorry, I was in a bit of a dwaal. Could you repeat that?"


Eina (pronounced ay-nuh or ay-nar) - Ouch! Can also mean sore.

Eish (pronounced aysh) - Used to express surprise, wonder, frustration or outrage: "Eish! That cut was eina!"


Fixed up - Used to mean that's good or sorted. Example: "Let's meet at the restaurant." The reply: "Fixed up."

Flog - No whips implied. South Africans use flog to mean sell, as in "I've had enough of this old car. I think it's time I flogged it."

Frikkadel (pronounced frik-kuh-dell) - A traditional meatball.

Fundi - Expert. From the Nguni umfundisi, meaning teacher or preacher.


Gatvol (pronounced ghut-foll) - Taken from Afrikaans, this means fed up, as in "Jislaaik china, I'm gatvol of working in this hot sun." Translation: "Gee my friend, I'm fed up with working in this hot sun."

Gogga (pronounced gho-gha or gho-gho) - Insect, bug. From the Khoikhoi xo-xon.

Gogo (pronounced goh-goh) - Grandmother or elderly woman, from isiZulu.

Graze - Eat.


Hang of - Very or big, as in: "It's hang of a difficult" or "I had a hang of a problem".

Hap (pronounced hup) - Taste, bite, as in "Take a hap of this".

Hey - The popular expression hey can be used as a standalone question meaning pardon or what - "Hey? What did you say?" Or it can be used to prompt affirmation or agreement, as in "It was a great film, hey?"

Howzit - A traditional South African greeting that translates roughly as "How are you?", "How are things?" or simply "Hello".


Indaba (pronounced in-daa-bah) - A conference or expo, from the isiZulu word meaning a matter for discussion

Inyanga - A traditional herbalist and healer.

Is it (pronounced as one word: izit) - An expression frequently used in conversation and equivalent to is that so? It is sometimes used to express mild surprise. For example: "My ironing board is the same colour as yours!"; the reply: "Is it?"


Ja (pronounced yaa) - Yes.

Jawelnofine (pronounced yar well no fine) - A mix of Afrikaans and English, this is similar to the rhetorical expression "How about that?" It is used to express surprise and a sense that things aren't really fine but there's not much you can do about it.

Jislaaik (pronounced yis-like) - An expression of outrage or surprise: "Jislaaik, I just saw Elvis!"

Jol - A versatile word with many meanings, including party, disco, having fun, or just thing.

Jozi - The city of Johannesburg.

Just now - If a South African tells you they will do something "just now", they mean they'll do it in the near future - not immediately: "I'll do the dishes just now." (or possibly never).


Kak - Meaning shit. As in "That was a kak day." Not considered by many South Africans to be a swear word.

Kif - Cool, neat, great or wonderful. From the Arabic kayf, meaning enjoyment or wellbeing.

Koki (pronounced koh-key) - A coloured marker or felt-tip pen.

Koppie (pronounced kor-pie) - A small hill.

Kugel (pronounced koo-gell) - An overly groomed materialistic young woman, from the Yiddish for a plain pudding garnished as a delicacy. See bagel.


Laduma! (pronounced la-doooooooooooo-mah) - A popular cheer celebrating goals scored at soccer matches, from the isiZulu for it thunders.

Lappie (pronounced luppie) - A cleaning cloth.

Lekgotla (pronounced lek-ghot-lah) - A planning or strategy session.

Lekker (pronounced lekk-irr with a rolling r) - Nice, good, great, cool or tasty.


Madiba (pronounced muh-dee-buh) - An affectionate name for former President Nelson Mandela, and the name of his clan.

Mal - Mad, from the Afrikaans.

Marmite - A popular spread made from a salty vegetable extract and used on bread or toast.

Mielie (pronounce mih-lih) - Maize or corn. A mielie is a maize cob, and mieliemeel is maize meal, the staple diet of South Africa.

Muti (pronounced moo-ti) - Medicine, typically traditional African medicine, from the isiZulu umuthi.

Mzansi - A popular word for South Africa.


Naartjie (pronounced nar-chee) - The South African word for tangerine, Citrus reticulata. Often thrown in anger at referees during rugby and soccer matches when the decision goes against your team.

Nappy - A baby's diaper.

Nca - Fine, beautiful. Pronounced with a downward click of the tongue.

Nê - Really? or is that so? Often used sarcastically.

Now now - Shortly, in a bit: "I'll be there now now."


Oke, ou - A man, similar to guy or bloke. The word ou (pronounced oh) can be used interchangeably.


Pap (pronounced pup) - The staple food of South Africa, a porridge made from mieliemeel (maize meal) cooked with water and salt to a fairly stiff consistency - stywepap being the stiffest. Pap can also mean weak or tired, and a papsak is cheap box wine sold in its foil container.

Pasop (pronounced pus-orp) - An Afrikaans word meaning beware or watch out.

Pavement - South Africans walk on pavements and drive cars on the road (at least that's the idea). The pavement is the sidewalk.

Platteland (pronounced plutt-uh-lunt) - Farmland, countryside. Literally flat land in Afrikaans, it now refers to any rural area in which agriculture takes place, including the mountainous Cape winelands.


Robots - Traffic lights.

Rock up - To arrive somewhere unannounced or uninvited. It's the kind of thing friends do: "I was going to go out but then my china rocked up."

Rooibos (pronounced roy-borss) - Afrikaans for red bush, this popular South African tea made from the Cyclopia genistoides bush is gaining worldwide popularity for its health benefits.

Rooinek (pronounced roy-neck) - English-speaking South African, from the Afrikaans for red neck, but without the connotations given the term in the US. It was first coined by Afrikaners decades ago to refer to immigrant Englishmen, whose white necks were particularly prone to sunburn.

Rubbish bin (alternatively dustbin or dirt bin) - Garbage can.


Samoosa (pronounced suh-moo-suh) - A small, spicy, triangular-shaped pie deep-fried in oil. Originally made by the Indian and Malay communities, samoosas are popular with all South Africans.

Sangoma - Traditional healer or diviner.

Sarmie - Sandwich.

Scale, scaly - To scale something means to steal it. A scaly person is not to be trusted.

Shame - Broadly denotes sympathetic feeling. Someone admiring a baby, kitten or puppy might say: "Ag shame!" to emphasise its cuteness.

Sharp - Often doubled up for effect as sharp-sharp!, this word is used as a greeting, a farewell, for agreement or just to express enthusiasm.

Shebeen - A township tavern, illegal under the apartheid regime, often set up in a private house and frequented by black South Africans. The word is originally Gaelic.

Shongololo - Large brown millipede, from the isiZulu ukushonga meaning to roll up.

Skelm (pronounced skellem) - A shifty or untrustworthy person; a criminal.

Skinner (pronounced skinner) - Gossip, from Afrikaans. A person who gossips is known as a skinnerbek: "Jislaaik bru, I'm going to donner that skinnerbek for skinnering about me." Translation: "Gee my friend, I'm going to hit that guy for gossiping about me."

Skollie (pronounced skoh-li) - Gangster, criminal, from the Greek skolios, meaning crooked.

Skop, skiet en donner (pronounced skorp, skeet en donner) - Action movie. Taken from
Afrikaans, it literally means kick, shoot and thunder.

Skrik - Fright: "I caught a big skrik." means "I got a big fright".

Skrik vir niks - Scared of nothing.

Slap chips (pronounced slup chips) - French fries, usually soft, oily and vinegar-drenched, bought in a brown paper bag. Slap is Afrikaans for limp, which is how French fries are generally made here.

Slip-slops, slops - Sandals or rubber thongs with a thin strap between the big toe and the next toe.

Smaak stukkend - Love to bits. In Afrikaans smaak means like, and stukkend means broken.

Sosatie - A kebab on a stick.

Spookgerook - Literally, in Afrikaans, ghost-smoked. Used jokingly, the word means mad or paranoid.

Smokes - Cigarettes.

Snoek (pronounced like book) - A popular and tasty fish, often eaten smoked. If you're lucky you may get to experience a snoek braai - a real South African treat.

Spanspek - Cantaloupe, an orange-fleshed melon. The word comes from the Afrikaans Spaanse spek, meaning Spanish bacon. The story goes that the Spanish wife of a colonial English governor insisted on eating melon instead of bacon for breakfast, leading her bemused Afrikaans-speaking servants to coin the word.

Stoep (pronounced stup) - Porch or verandah.

Stroppy - Difficult, uncooperative, argumentative or stubborn.

Struesbob (pronounced s-true-zz-bob) - As true as God, the gospel truth.


Tackies - Running shoes or sneakers. Fat tackies are extra-wide tyres.

Tannie (pronounced tunny) - An Afrikaans word meaning auntie, but also used for any older female of authority.

Taxi - Not a metered car with a single occupant, but a minibus used to transport a large number of people, and the most common way of getting around in South Africa.

To die for - An expression popular in the affluent suburbs of Johannesburg and Cape Town, denoting enthusiastic approval for an object or person: "That necklace is to die for."

Tom - Money.

Toppie - Old man.

Toyi-toyi - A knees-up protest dance.

Tsotsi - A gangster, hoodlum or thug - and the title of South Africa's first Oscar-winning movie. Although Will Smith thought otherwise at the awards ceremony, the word is not pronounced "sossy".

Tune grief - Cause trouble.


Ubuntu - The Southern African humanist philosophy that holds as its central tenet that a person is a person because of other people.


Velskoen (pronounce fell-skun) - Simple unworked leather shoes.

Vetkoek - a doughy doughnut like snack filled with jam or curried mince. Literally translates as fat cake because the dough swells up.

Voetsek (pronounced foot-sak) - Go away, buzz off.

Vrot (pronounced frot) - Rotten or smelly.

Vuvuzela - A large and colourful plastic trumpet with the sound of a foghorn, blown enthusiastically by virtually everyone in the crowd at soccer matches. The word is said to be a rough translation from isiZulu and means making noise.


Windgat (pronounced vint-ghut) - Show-off or blabbermouth. Taken from the Afrikaans, it literally means wind hole.

So my friends, now that you have been educated in South African, go forth and confuse!


medea said...

Awesome! Thanks.

yizucrap said...

Thanks for an idea, you sparked at thought from a angle I hadn’t given thoguht to yet. Now lets see if I can do something with it.

cheap clomid