Posts Tagged ‘babel’

Know Your O’s

So, this will be very hard for our American readers to understand, but there’s a whole brand of socially acceptable racial stereotyping native to Durban. Seriously, people here use these terms broadly, and it’s not racist in any way — even when used by people outside of the groups being described. People at my work use them every day to describe themselves and each other.

In no certain order, the KZN racial slang goes something like this: (The ‘o’ is short for ‘oke’ or the SA slang for ‘guy’, short for – and rhyming with – the English ‘bloke’):

Charo – any person of Indian origin
Breado – Hindi person
Porridgeo – Tamil person
Slumo – Muslim person
Wito – a White person (pronounce with the Afrikaans W, which sounds like a V – so, Vito)
Bruino – a colored person


Read Full Post »

In Stores Now

Spotted around town recently…

Snake and gecko repellant - could have used the latter at our old house.

(Apparently I can’t link from a caption, so here’s the gecko story from Cape Town if you wanted to see…)

Note to bakery managers: if you're going to offer a product that looks like butt crack, maybe refrain from including a filling.


SAfrican for "potted plant". Not the same thing in Americanese...


Read Full Post »

Language Lesson: What a Shame

I’ve heard the word “shame” more in the past 3 weeks than ever in my life! The SA usage can be roughly equated to “awwww” in the U.S. – so for something cute, or something pitiful.

So, taking Roxy around town, people stop us all the time to look at her and say “Oh, shame! She’s so small and adorable!”

My lecturer at school last night stopped mid-sentence during her lesson when she saw my eye bulged shut and tears rolling down my cheek to say “Shame! What happened to your eye?”

It’s also a general short-hand for where Americans would say “that’s a shame”. So if you tell someone you can’t meet them for cocktails because your eye is swollen shut… “Shame. We’ll do it later this week then.”

I could use that cocktail right about now! Here’s pug in your eye…


Read Full Post »

Language Lesson: We Be Illin'

There is an anomalous pronunciation in SA of the short I sound (the sound found in words such as ‘tip’ and ‘pill’), and one that I couldn’t think of a good way to describe. Until the other day when my trainer was explaining an exercise and used this sentence: “Don’t pull, just be still”. And the way she pronounced ‘still’ made it rhyme with ‘pull’. Don’t pull, just be stull.

We change our own pronunciation of several words in order to be easily understood – we order ‘mulk’ for our coffee and ask the gas station attendant to ‘full’ up the tank. In a restaurant at the end of the meal, we ask for the ‘bull’. And, of course, we can often be found sipping on a nice glass of ‘wuskey’!

Read Full Post »

Language Lesson: Ehzzit

The second in our series of South African language lessons shall be the ubiquitous response, “is it?”. The closest equivalent in American would be “really?” – the somewhat generic response to any informative statement. 

Person #1: This is my natural hair color.
Person #2: Really? 

You’re not actually questioning the truth of the statement by saying “really?”, just saying something to acknowledge the statement was made. SAfricans would replace the “really?” with “is it?”. Which in the case above, makes perfect sense and jibes with all established grammatical rules. This is my natural hair color. / Is it?

However, SAfricans reply with “is it?” to almost ALL informative statements, regardless of whether the “it” is the  grammatically correct modifier.

Person #1: My brother lives down the street.
Person #2: Is it?

Though with the accent, it sounds more like “ehzzit?”

You with me now now?

Read Full Post »

Just because most South Africans speak English doesn’t mean we always understand what they’re saying. And vice-versa: John and I are constantly checking ourselves to make sure we haven’t slipped an American-ism into a sentence when speaking to a local. One of the strangest differences in the local dialect that we hear repeated over and over again is the use of the word “now”.

In typical SA style (read: slooooow), now doesn’t mean “immediately” – it means “soon”. It’s common for me to meet my trainer at the gym as she’s walking another client out and have her say over her shoulder “I’ll be with you now“.

There’s also just now, which falls sometime between “now” and eternity. If a receptionist tells you your doctor will see you just now, you better have brought a book. It might be 10 minutes, it could be an hour. TIA. We confuse people all the time by employing the American usage of “just now” which is actually a past tense expression (I just now realized that I have to be somewhere; He finished his paper just now).

Finally, there’s the most urgent of the three: now now. As in, “I’m sorry for the wait – your sandwich will be ready now now“. (Not that anyone in SA apologizes for slow service, but for the sake of example…)

Lesson over. You with me now?

Read Full Post »