Friday, May 16, 2008

Avos 'n Stuff

Howzit little b?

Today I would like to send a love letter to South Africa.

Lately I have REALLY been trying to learn about South Africa, their history, their culture, and, of course, their special words.

I have my reasons. And this studying I have been doing is one of the reasons I have not been hanging around my blog as much as I probably should be lately.

First I want to recognize four special ladies in South Africa who have been helping me. Three for a long time and one nice new lady. Also there is a guy, Glugster, who tries to help when he can, but is busy with his own stuff.

The ladies are little b, Big B, Candy, and FrostyGirl.

little b is really Briget, a very hip and savvy business lady who also runs a rather earthy blog called becauseican. She has been on my blogbuddy list since I started BritishSpeak. Briget lets me call her little b. Even answers to it now. I think she secretly likes me to call her that. She has been faithfully feeding me words whenever she can, since the very beginning. little b is ever so cool I think.

Candy is a writer. A serious writer. A very GOOD writer. Candy is Candy Tothill, and her blog is InsideCandy. Candy has also been a strong friend and supporter of BritishSpeak since the beginning. Thanks Candy.

FrostyGirl is a nice lady I have only recently met. She is giving me words, but she is also patiently teaching me some things about South African culture, and what living is like in that unique country. FrostyGirl is Petro Meintjes and her blog is Ocean Africa. Petro was born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) but came to live in South Africa many years ago, and has been a South African citizen for a long time. Like the other ladies, Petro is a great writer. All of these ladies can write circles around me.

Finally, (and here Tom closes his eyes and smiles, breathing in her imaginary perfume) there is my Bridget. My fiery Warrior Princess. Awesome published author. Irreverent as hell. Awesome poetess. I use the word "awesome" an awesomely lot when I talk about the impossibly talented and intelligent Bridget. She spends a good part of her time lately sitting by the pool with her laptop on her lap firing off pointy little missives to a little doggie in New Mexico. Yes, I'm quite sure I'm in love with Bridget. I am in partial denial, but I am only faking the denial now. She calls herself Dementor, but if there is ever a lady who is the exact opposite of Dementor, it is my Bridget. For she pumps me full of happiness and she makes my soul sing. Dementor not, my love. If you have the guts to take life full in your face, visit Bridget's blog. Not for the faint of heart.

And now that I have bragged about what I have been learning, let me share some cool South African words with you, courtesy of the above people, and others, and my own research. There are many more in my storehouse.

Ag (ach) This is one of the most useful South African words. It can be used to start a reply when you are asked a tricky question, as in: "Ag, I don't know." Or a sense of resignation: "Ag OK.” It can stand alone too as a signal of irritation.

Aita The people of South Africa’s townships have developed an even faster, more efficient alternative to “howzit”, which is Aita. This also means hello and how are you, but only has four letters as opposed to six, equalling a total saving of two letters per greeting per person.

Babalas (buh-buh-lahs) Your tongue feels like sandpaper, someone is driving a nine-inch nail through the back of your skull and foggy images from the night before are crawling into your memory. What does this mean? You have a babalas (buh-buh-lahs) – a hangover!

Bakkie (bucky) This word can refer to a small truck or pick-up. If a young man takes his "girl" (date) in a bakkie it could be considered as a not so "lekker" form of transport because the seats can't recline.

Boet (boot) This is an Afrikaans word meaning "brother" which is shared by all language groups. Pronounced "boot" but shorter, as in "foot", it can be applied to a brother or any person of the male sex. For instance a father can call his son "boet" and friends can apply the term to each other too. Sometimes the diminutive "boetie" is used. But don't use it on someone you hardly know - it will be thought patronizing and could lead to you getting a "lekker klap".

Braai (brye) After soccer, after rugby, after cricket, our top sport is the “braai” – otherwise known as the barbeque. Its our most favourite thing to do, come rain or shine.

Bunny Chow Hollowed out loaf of bread filled with spicy curry. Cheap, filling, messy and very tasty.

Crash Why appoint a designated driver, when you can “crash” – meaning to spend the night over at someone’s house.

Dop This word has two basic meanings, one good and one bad. First the good: A dop is a drink, a cocktail, a sundowner, a noggin. When invited for a dop, be careful! It could be one sedate drink or a blast, depending on the company.
Now the bad: To dop is to fail. If you "dopped" standard two (Grade 4) more than once, you probably won't be reading this.

Dwaal In the beauty of South Africa you may find yourself in a state of sleepy hypnosis brought on by fresh air or magnificent views – don’t be concerned – you are simply in a dwaal.

Eina (aynah) Widely used by all language groups, this word, derived from the Afrikaans, means "ouch." You can say it in sympathy when you see your friend the day after he got home late to his wife.

Eish (aysh) African slang to express surprise or agreement. For example: Aish, that’s a cool car!

Hey (hay) Often used at the end of a sentence to emphasize the importance of what has just been said, “did you remember to do that hey?” It can also stand alone as a question. Instead of saying "excuse me?" or "pardon me?" when you have not heard something directed at you, you can always say: "Hey?"

Howzit South Africans are always on the go and there is little time available for chit-chat. But we are far too polite to abandon common courtesy altogether, so we have evolved an ingenious timesaver: the standard greeting. We have combined the word “hello” with the phrase “how are you?” into a marvellous mixture: howzit?

Izit? This is another great word to use in conversations. Derived from the two words "is" and "it", it can be used when you have nothing to contribute if someone tells you something at a braai. For instance, if someone would say: "The Russians will succeed in their bid for capitalism once they adopt a work ethic and respect for private ownership." It is quite appropriate to respond by saying: "Izit?"

Listen to Pata Pata


  1. I lolled at those words..
    We use them everyday and don't give it a second thought!

    One thing you failed to mentioned was the very well known and often misunderstood phrases:-
    "just now"
    "in a minute"
    can mean anything from 5 min to 5 days...

    so with that I end this comment with ..

    I'll be back in a minute....

  2. Howzit

    Lekker to see our favourite SA words on your blog, hey!!

    Thanks for the mention and the link.

  3. Hahaha - I'm here now, and you may come by my blog for a history lesson any time, Max.
    Some Nordic parallels to you SA words:
    Dwaal: we use the word Dvale for hibernation (as in bears sleeping through the winter) and the same hypnotic daze you're describing, that can also befall you while breathing Norwegian fjord air. Or inhaling Aquavit.
    Lekker - also a well-known Norwegian word, meaning all sorts of good things.
    Crash - #1 Brat crashes places virtually every weekend. So THAT'S what she means...

    So - no man is an island, and no country either - language travels...

  4. Crash and hey are widely used in British English.

    Ach/och may be spelt differently but sounds exactly the same as ag and is used in Ireland and Scotland.

  5. frostygirl-Eish!


    Aita, sheila! Lekker!

  6. Oh I adore you baby!

    I love youb to bits.


  7. omg! how did i miss this? thank you so much for the mention... you're too kind you know :)

  8. Hi Candy. Always a pleasure. You know that. Anytime. :)



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