They call us the Rainbow Nation, a multicultural diversity of different people from different walks of life all living together in South Africa, a country alive with adventure. Arguably one of the more popular tourist destinations, as a visitor you are likely to hear a number of strange words and confusing sentences. We have 11 official languages so they were bound to mix together to create what we proudly know as South Africanisms. As always we like to make sure our clients are well informed, so here is a handy guide to some of the more popular South Africanisms:
- Awe (ah-weh): A one word greeting meaning hello, how are you?
- Ag (ach): An expression of annoyance eg. “Ag, no man the taxi is late!”
- Ayoba (Eye-yoh-bah): Slang for “cool”
- Braai (bry): The South African version of a barbeque
- Ballie (bah-lee): Used in reference to an older person
- Babbelas (babba-lahs): A hangover-a bad one.
- Boet (Boo-t): Translated from Afrikaans it means brother but it is used as reference to a friend or pal.
- Dololo (doh-loh-loh): Meaning nothing. Usually used sarcastically. For example if someone were to ask you how much money you won at the casino, you would answer with “dololo”
- Dop (dawp): Any alcoholic drink
- Dwaal (dwahl): Not paying attention eg: “I missed the turn off cos I was in a dwaal”
- Eish (ay-sh): A isiZulu and isiXhosa expression referring to surprise or resignation
- Eina (ay-nah): An Afrikaans word meaning ouch or sore
- Gogga (Ggaw-Ggah): Insect, bug, creepy-crawly
- Gees (Gheas): To have spirit, team spirit. Also used to express the “vibe” of supporters at an event like a concert or sports match.
- Gap (Ghup): A colloquial word meaning to have a taste or take a bite out of something
- Howzit (how-zit): An informal greeting, not asking a question in particular. Similar to awe.
- Hayibo (hi-boh): An expression of disbelief or irritation
- Isit (is-it): Surprise exclamation e.g.: “Oh isit?”
- Ja (yaah): Afrikaans word for yes
- Jol (jawl): To party or referring to a party e.g. “That was such a jol!”
- Ja-well-no-fine: Agreeing to something but not convinced
- Just Now/Now-Now: A measurement of time meaning either in 5 minutes, 1 hour or possibly tomorrow, maybe never
- Lekker (le-kah): Meaning great/good e.g. “This food is lekker!”
- Mampara (mahm-parah): The South African word for fool or idiot
- Mzansi (Mmm-zan-see): Refers to South Africa
- Robot: The South African traffic light
- Shame: A typical South African word used for either sympathy or in reference to something good e.g. “Shame, I’m so happy for her!”
- Slap Chips: Similar to French fries but thicker and more like what you would fine in a fish and chips shop
- Sharp-Sharp: Meaning Yes/OK/Good e.g. “See you at 10?”, “Sharp Sharp”
- Shot: The local way of saying thank you
- Tekkies (tech-ees): Our version of trainers
- Taxi: Not like your yellow cabs, this a larger van type vehicle meant to transport large groups of people at one time.
- Tsotsi (tso-tsee): Someone of dodgy character eg: a thug or robber.
- Yebo (yeah-boh): Meaning yes
Enter the competition to find the best “South Africanism”
As you can see we have expressive and often confusing South Africanisms where a “robot” is not a programmable mechanical, “just now” is not a definite unit of time and where “shame” can have two meanings at the same time. But our “South Africanisms” are not just fun for tourists, as locals we love them too and use them with great pride!
In keeping with the “gees” of our beautiful language we will be running a competition to find the best “South Africanism”.
Share your favourite South African saying on twitter or facebook tagging @cellucity #talklikealocal and you could stand in line to win a Blackberry DTEK50 valued at R5999.
Ts&Cs apply, keep it clean and good luck!