Wonderful Words

In my last post I addressed some interesting South African foods. The one before we looked at the differences in the words we use here in South Africa, as opposed to words that are used in America.

There are just so many of these wonderful words, and silly differences, that I could probably write posts for a month and still not have them all covered. But I will make small efforts, and today’s post is one of those.

Takkies  – pronounced ‘tacky-s’
I sometimes forget myself when chatting with my friend in Kansas, and every now and then I revert to South African words. I sent her an email, saying I was taking the children shopping before the schools started up again, because they needed school shoes (they wear uniforms here) and takkies, for sport. Thankfully, the use of the word ‘sport’ helped her to identify what I meant. Takkies is the South African word for sneakers/trainers.

Sucker
If we’re talking slang, then this is most definitely the word for a gullible human being – but I don’t think our country is alone in that line of thinking.
When I offer my daughter a sucker for consumption, I am not offering her the opportunity to eat a gullible human being (yes, cannibalism is illegal here too), but instead I am offering her a lollipop.

Shebeen – pronounced ‘sha-been’
This is the name given to an illegal drinking establishment. If the bottle store (we call it that, you call it a liquor store) is closed, and you’re feeling mighty brave, then you can always find alcohol at a shebeen – although it’s almost double the price of what you’ll pay at the store. It is, after all, what has to be considered a ‘convenience outlet’. The brave part comes in because these are normally located in rural locations, in the middle of an informal settlement, and ‘the party’ is always more than a little rough.

Packet
When you go to the store and are paying for your purchases, they will ask if you’d like a packet. If you have too many items to carry out, this may be a good idea, because what they are offering you is a disposable plastic shopping bag to place said items in. We have to pay for our packets (it’s not a lot, but still), and so it’s always a good idea to store them up at home, and take a few with you the next time you visit the store. I also happen to think it’s better for the environment if we’re re-using as much as possible as opposed to purchasing them each time, just to throw them out. And while I’d like to say that I do this all the time, I am afraid that being human tends to show up in my life sometimes, and I forget!
You can purchase a rather costly canvas shopping bag at the store though, which will last a lot longer than the plastic packets do.

Now now
This is more of a South African expression than a ‘word’. When we say, ‘I’ll do it for you now now’, we mean, ‘I’ll do it for you soon’. We’ll be doing it sooner than ‘just now’ (see the end of this post for that expression’s explanation), but won’t be doing it immediately.
As mentioned before, us South Africans are a strange bunch when it comes to time.

Donga – pronounced ‘don-guh’
When I was still in junior school, we paid a visit to a local game park, and stayed the night. That night, armed with torches, we left the campsite for a night walk, to enable us to hear ‘the sounds of the bush after dark’. Halfway down the dirt road, we were all told to please keep to the right, as there was a huge donga on the left. The strange thing about this word is that it is a Zulu word (one of the African languages of our country) and it means ‘wall’; but when using the word ‘donga’ you are actually referring to a huge ditch / gully type hole. So if I ever blog about a huge donga in the road, or in my yard, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Lekker –  a slang word which has Afrikaans origin, pronounced ‘lack-er’
This has nothing to do with being in lack of anything, so if someone tells you your shirt is lekker, please don’t be offended. The English translation of the word is ‘sweet’, but when we use it in a sentence, or as an exclamation, we’re pretty much saying it’s ‘very nice’. When I was in high school, I used this word a lot – it was cool; I was young; slang was in. Thinking about it now, I am actually surprised at how little I have used it in the past decade. This does not mean I am no longer young and cool. 😛 A lot of South Africans still use it though, so you need to be made aware that it’s not insult, should you ever visit 😉

Stoep – I’m not quite sure about explaining how to pronounce this one, so you can listen to it here. The Afrikaans language is a lot like Dutch, and so the two are often ‘together’ when it comes to sounds and translations – but if you scroll down and listen to it in Afrikaans, you’ll hear that the ‘oe’ sound is a bit shorter.
The direct translation refers to a ‘sidewalk’, but in South Africa we actually use it to describe a front or back ‘porch’. So if someone invites you to come and have coffee with them on the stoep, they don’t mean you’ll be sitting on the sidewalk sipping coffee. They’re referring to their porch – although if they’re trying to be posh (or just prefer being purely English) they may invite you for ‘coffee on the patio/verandah’.

I think I’ll finish today with this:

You’ll hear a lot of Afrikaans being spoken in a lot of parts of South Africa. And there’s a phrase you’ll hear a lot, because us South Africans can be quite polite when we want to be.
It’s the Afrikaans way of saying ‘thank you’ – ‘baie dankie‘. It’s pronounced ‘buy-a dunkie’, but when said quickly to ears that are not accustomed to the words, it can often times sound something like ‘buy a donkey’. My step mother is British, and she says that when she first came to this country, she was confused as to why everyone always told everyone else to buy a donkey, when a simple thank you would have sufficed. Eventually a friend explained it to her, and her confusion disappeared, and has laughed about it ever since.

So I am explaining it to you, so that if you come and visit, you do not feel the need to seek out a farmer to purchase an animal 😉

4 thoughts on “Wonderful Words

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