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South Africanisms Print E-mail
16 January 2007



Ag (pronounced ach as in the German achtung) - This is 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) - Babbelas refers to a morning-after hangover. Picture Van (see below) stumbling into work late, looking pale and holding his hand to his forehead. When asked what the matter is, he answers: "Jislaaik china, I dopped 20 dumpies last night and now I have a hang of a babbelas." Translation: "Gee, my friend, I drank 20 small beers last night and now I have a terrible hangover."

Bakkie (pronounced bucky) - This commonly used word refers to a small pick-up truck. An example would be: "We'll use my bakkie. Then we'll be able to load everything at once."

Bell - This comes from the Afrikaans "bel", meaning to call on the telephone. In the South African context it is used as follows: "I'll give you a bell when I get home." Translation: "I'll phone you when I get home".

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, beef or any other red meat. It is synonymous with rugby, another South African favourite.

Biscuit - In South Africa a cookie is known as a "biscuit". It can also be used as a term of affection, usually between men, as in "Hey, you biscuit", while putting your arm around your friend's neck.

Bloody (pronounced bladdie) - Used as a variation of very, as in: "It was bladdie difficult."

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

Bobotie (pronounced buh-boor-tee) - This dish is of Malay origin and is made with minced meat and curried spices. An egg sauce is poured on top of this and it is then baked.

Boet (pronounced like book) - "Boet" is the Afrikaans word for "brother". Once again it is used as a term of affection, as in: "This guy is my boet!" Beware, however, when a huge Neanderthal says to you: "Hey boet, don't tune me grief." Then it is probably time to leave.

Braai (pronounced br-eye) - This is the popular South African version of a barbecue where meats such as steak, chicken and boerewors (boo-ruh-vorss) are cooked. Boerewors is a traditional spicy South African sausage made of beef or lamb and is also referred to as wors (vorss). Chances are that you will also be introduced to pap en sous (pup en sohss) at a braai. Pap is boiled corn meal, and sous is the sauce it is covered with, usually featuring tomato and onions. A South African might also indicate that he is feeling physically run down by saying "I'm pap." Translation: "I am feeling weak."

Bru (pronounced brew) - A term of affection used among men, meaning "brother". An example would be "Hey, my bru, howzit?"

Bredie (pronounced brear-dee) - This refers to a traditional South African dish, first brought to the country by Malay immigrants. It is a type of mutton stew.

Buck - This does not necessarily refer to a wild animal. South Africans often use the term to refer to their currency, as in: "I only have 10 bucks on me", meaning "I am only in possession of 10 rand". The plural of rand does not become rands.




Café (pronounced kaf-ay, kaffee or kayff) - This refers to the ubiquitous small convenience store, often found on a street corner and stocking items such as cigarettes and cold drinks.

Car words - South Africans put petrol in their cars, not gasoline. Trunks are referred to as boots, while hoods are called bonnets.

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" is a term of affection meaning good friend, as in "This oke's my china". It is term used in casual conversation, and would not be appropriate in more formal surroundings.

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




Deurmekaar (pronounced deer-muh-carr) - This Afrikaans word is used to mean confused, as in "He's a bit deurmekaar", meaning he can't think straight and constantly makes mistakes.

Dinges (pronounced ding-us) - Used when someone can't immediately remember the name of a person or object. For instance: "When is dinges coming around?" or "Please pass me the dinges behind you". Comparative words are "whatsizname" or "whatchamacallit".

Doek (pronounced like book) - A head scarf worn to protect a woman's hair on a blustery day and popularly worn by domestic workers when cleaning the house.

Doll - This colloquialism is popular among kugels in Johannesburg's northern suburbs and is an expression of affection usually between female friends, as in: "Hi doll, where have you been? I've missed you." It can be used interchangeably with "dollface".

Donner (pronounced dor-nuh) - From the Afrikaans word "donder", meaning thunder, but used to mean beat up. Example: "I'm going to donner that ou." Translation: "I am going to hit that man."

Dop - This is used to indicate a drink, usually alcoholic, as in: "Can I pour you a dop?" Alternatively, it can mean failure as in: "I dopped the test."

Dorp - The term used to describe a small (probably very small) town, often on the platteland. This place wouldn't have more than a handful of traffic lights and farmers from outlying areas would comprise a good proportion of the people you would see walking around.

Dummy - Don't worry, no one is being called stupid - there is probably a baby around. South Africans call pacifiers "dummies", as in "Put the dummy in the baby's mouth - that should keep him quiet."

Dumpie - A South African beer served in a brown 340ml bottle. An example of usage is: "Hey bru, throw me a dumpie."

Durbs - Nickname for the city of Durban. Johannesburg is called Jo'burg, Joeys or Jozi, Port Elizabeth is PE, and Potchefstroom is referred to as Potch. Cape Town is just Cape Town or the Afrikaans Kaapstad, which is sometimes changed to Slaapstad, a slur meaning "sleepy town". It is also known more respectfully as the Mother City.

Dwaal (pronounced dwarl) - Used to indicate a lack of concentration or focus. Say a friend is talking to you but your mind is elsewhere. When the friend finishes speaking and looks at you as if expecting an answer, your response would be: "Sorry, I was in a bit of a dwaal. Could you repeat that?" Alternatively a dwaal could mean you are lost and wandering around aimlessly. An example: "I couldn't remember how to get there, so I drove around in a dwaal for a while before I found the right turning."



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Last Updated on 13 February 2013