Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
South African English
Anglo African or African Anglish (often called South African English) is the dialect of English spoken in South Africa and surrounding countries where Anglo Africans live notably Namibia and Zimbabwe.
South African English is not unified in its pronunciation: this can be attributed to the fact that English is the mother tongue for only 40% of the white inhabitants (the remainder mostly having Afrikaans as their mother tongue) and only a tiny minority of black inhabitants of the region. The dialect can be, however, identified by many loanwords mostly from Afrikaans but increasingly also from Zulu and other African languages. Some of these words, like "trek", have seeped into general English usage.
Traditionally, white South Africans have spoken South African English, but a distinct Indian South African form of English has long existed, and an equally distinctive black South African English is developing very rapidly. Convergence between these sub-dialects can be observed but it is a slow process.
The convergence process was exposed to a humourous treatment by Robin Malan in his book 'Ah Big Yaws' written in the mid 1970's. The book is concise, and conforms more or less to the spoken dialect of Cape Town in 1974-1976, in the northern Cape Town suburbs of Bellville and Durbanville, where Malan resided, and in the University town of Stellenbosch, where he was at the time a lecturer of spoken English. This book is often considered a high point of South African written wit, and a low point for South African linguistics, although it is now considered an important cultural time-capsule, as it also gives a pocket outline of white South Africa immediately before the social and political chaos of the 1980's.
The fourth edition of the Dictionary of South African English was released in 1991.
South African English spoken by whites bears some resemblances in pronunciation to a mix of Australian English and British English. Afrikaans has heavily influenced only those living in Afrikaans areas.
The most noticeable difference in pronunciation is probably the flat "i", so that "six" is pronounced in a way sounding like "sucks", and "today" like "to die". This is a part of the vowel shift that has occurred in South Africa as well as New Zealand.
- pan = /pɛn/
- pen = /pen/
- pin = /pɨn/
- pun = /pan/
One difference between (white) South African English and New Zealand English is in the pronunication of 'ar' and 'ow', as in the pronunciation of the sentence 'park the car downtown'.
- New Zealand: pahk the kah dehwn tehwn
- South Africa: pawk the kaw dahwn tahwn
English as spoken by black South Africans is influenced by intonation and pronunciation of African languages:
- work --> weck
- win --> ween
- car --> kah
- book --> boook
- dirty --> detty
- garden --> gaddin
- fast --> fust
- town --> taun
- broken --> braucken
- ag man - oh man
- baas - boss
- babbelas - hangover
- bakgat - expression of appreciation for something very well accomplished; cool.
- bakkie - a utility truck, pick-up truck
- ballas - testicles (rude)
- befok - excellent, insane, esp. 'bos befok', shell shocked (rude)
- bergie - down-and-out, bum (root: 'berg', mountain)
- bioscope, bio - cinema, movie theatre (now dated)
- biltong - dried meat, similar to jerky
- blou - to be tired
- boerewors - spicy sausage
- bokkie - a nubile woman (from Afrikaans for "small goat" or "deer")
- bosberaad - strategy meeting held outdoors, eg, game reserve.
- bottleneck - means of smoking dagga through a broken off neck of a beer bottle
- bra, bru - male friend (prob. from Afrikaans word for brother)
- bushie - very derogatory term for a Coloured person
- braai - a barbecue, to barbecue (from braaivleis)
- checkers, checkas - a plastic bag/packet (used esp. by black people), named after a popular supermarket chain
- cherrie - a desirable woman, a young woman, girlfriend (originally a virgin)
- chommie - a friend (root: English 'chum')
- choon - to plead with, to flirt, to talk to
- coombie - a minivan (root: The Volkswagen 'Combi' van)
- cunt - female genitalia, mean vicious person who has done someone harm
- dagga - marijuana
- doos - idiot (can also mean female genitalia) (rude)
- dop - Alcohol, To drink alcohol.
- dorpie - small town
- droewors - lit. 'dry sausage', similar to biltong
- dronkie - drunkard.
- druk - to have sex (Afrikaans: push)
- eina! - ouch!
- eish! - wow!
- ek sê - you there (used to address a person who is not known), I say
- Fanagalo - pidgin language, mixture of Zulu, English, Afrikaans, Sotho and Xhosa. Developed on the mines in Guateng as a means for workers from different parts to talk to each other.
- flouie - an unfunny (weak) joke (used by Gauteng Indians, from Afrikaans word for weak)
- gatta - a policeman
- gatvol - Fed up, had enough. (From Afrikaans).
- gesuip - very drunk, intoxicated, plastered. Original Afrikaans meaning for an animal drinking (water) - of course.
- gom - bumpkin, redneck (in US sense, not to be confused with rooinek)
- gooi - throw, chuck
- gwaai - cigarette, to smoke
- hau? - an expression of surprise
- hott'not - derogatory term for a Coloured person
- impi - horde of warriors
- ja - yes
- jaags, jaks - horny, promiscuous (root: 'Jag', to hunt)
- jirre - wow! (Afrikaans: 'Here', meaning 'Lord')
- jislaaik! - wow!
- jisus - wow! (from Afrikaans pronunciation of Jesus)
- jol - to have fun, to party, can also refer to a disco or party
- kaffir - extremely derogatory term for black person (derived from the Arabic for a non-believer) but now very loaded
- kak pronounced "kuk" - shit, crap
- kerels - police (Original Afrikaans meaning: guys). In English pronounced as: Care-Rills. "The kerels are coming, watch out!"
- kiff - (adj.) cool, neat, great, wonderful
- klap - to smack in the face. (From Afrikaans). "He got klapped in the bar".
- kugel - Jewish woman, usually affluent
- kwaai - cool, excellent (Afrikaans: angry. Compare the US slang 'phat')
- laaitie, laitie - a younger person, esp. a younger male such as a younger brother or son
- larnie - a white (esp. upper class) person, a rich person of any race. a term of respect for a peer
- lekker - nice, good, great (lit. sweet)
- maader - excellent, very good (used esp. by Durban Indians)
- mealie - millet corn, staple diet
- maats - friends
- meid - derogatory term for a black woman (from maid)
- moegoe - stupid person (Edit this line for more precise definition)
- moer - to assault (from Afrikaans moerd - to murder)
- moerse - big, massive, impressive. "I had a moerse piece of meat at the braai". "He scored a moerse try."
- moffie - male homosexual (derogatory).
- munt - derogatory term for black person (from muntu, singular of Bantu)
- muti - medicine (From Zulu, witch doctor remedies)
- naai - to have sex (lit. 'to stitch')
- ne - do you know what I mean?
- ou (plural ouens) man, guy, bloke (also oke)
- pashasha - good, ok (see sharp below)
- patla - a poor (unfunny) joke (used by Transvaal Indians)
- patla patla - intercourse
- platteland - a rural area
- poes, poos - female genitalia. Extremely rude.
- pomp - to have sex (from Afrikaans word for pump)
- possie - a house (esp. used by Durban Indians), presumably derived from position
- rand currency, divided in to 100 cents, also used in plural 'ten rand'. Older English South Africans tend to use the plural form as 'ten rands'.
- rooinek (literally 'red neck') derogatory term for English person
- sies - expression of disappointment, annoyance - ag, sies, man
- skief - to glare at someone (root: Afrikaans 'skeef', skew)
- sadza - Zimbabwean term for mealie or maize meal
- sarmie, zarmy - sandwich
- sat - dead, passed away - see 'vrek' below. (Pronounced as sut in English)
- seriyaas - indeed, yes really (derived from seriously)
- shebeen - illegal drinking establishment in black township
- skelm - crook.
- skollie - gangster, donation
- skommel - to masturbate (from Afrikaans word for shuffle)
- skraal - very hungry. (Durban region).
- skyf - cigarette, a puff.
- slaat - to hit, to take
- smaak - to like another person or thing
- smaak stukkend - to like very much or to love to pieces (literally). "I smaak you stukkend" = "I love you madly".
- soapie - soap opera
- sommer - for no particular reason, just because
- soutpiel, soutie - (literally 'salt dick') derogatory term for English-speaking white South African*
- sosatie - a kebab on a stick
- steek - stab, poke (with knife); have sex. "He/she steeked her/him" = "He/she poked her/him".
- stiffy - common name for a 3½ inch floppy disk
- stekkie - a woman (used esp. by Durban Indians)
- swak - broke. Original Afrikaans: weak. "I'm swak, ek sê". Also used to express disgust or derision (depending on tone and context), eg "It's swak that I failed the test"
- tannie or thannie - an older female authority figure, used most often by Indians. Derived from the Afrikaans word for "aunty"
- tatie or tati - insane, crazy or eccentric
- tekkies or takkies - sports shoes
- topi or topee- an older male authority figure. Used most often by Indians
- trek - to move, to wander
- tsotsi - thug, criminal, bandit
- vaai - to go, to leave (The Afrikaans spelling is waai. In Afrikaans w is pronounced as v in English)
- vaalie - mildly derogative term used by people at the coast to describe a tourist from inland (Root: Old Transvaal province)
- veldskoen(s) - desert boots
- vrek - derogatory term for dead. (Original Afrikaans meaning for an animal dying).
- windgat - highty-tighty; highty and mighty; snobbish. (Afrikaans)
- yebo - yes
- zol - marijuana
- zola budd - a minibus taxi- named after the athlete (esp. used by blacks) (falling into disuse)
- zot - derogatory term for black person
*On account of his supposed divided loyalties- one foot in South Africa, the other in England, and genitals in the sea.
Abbreviations for place names
- Alex Alexandra, township to the north of Johannesburg
- Bloem Bloemfontein
- Durbs, Tekweni - Durban
- Eastern Province - Eastern Cape
- Free State originally short for Orange Free State, now official name for Free State Province
- Jo'burg, Jozi, Joey - Johannesburg
- Mother City - Cape Town
- Toti - Amanzimtoti, (resort town outside Durban)
- PWV - Pretoria Witwatersrand Vereeniging (conurbation around Johannesburg and Pretoria, briefly name of province now called Gauteng Province- now dated)
- RSA - Republic of South Africa
- TBVC states - collective term for the homelands Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei under apartheid (now defunct)
- Vingo - Masvingo in Zimbabwe
- Western Province - Western Cape
- Zim - Zimbabwe (Zimbabweans call South Africa 'South')
English words with different meanings
There are also a few unique constructions in South African English, where common English words take on new meanings:
- ablution block - outside toilet, washroom also in Australian English (not used)
- aunty - a term of respect for any older woman.
- boney - motorcycle (from the Triumph Bonneville )
- book of life - national identity document (now dated)
- boss - term of respect when talking to a peer
- boy - a black man (derogatory, although commonly used by older white South Africans without meaning to be)
- bra, bru - male friend (prob. from Afrikaans word for brother)
- bunny, bunny chow - loaf of bread filled with curry, speciality of Durban, particularly Durban Indians
- cafe - convenience store, not a place that serves coffee
- check - to look, "check this" - "I'll check you later"
- chief - a "respectful" term used to address a black man, often condescending
- china - mate, pal (from Cockney rhyming slang; 'china plate'= mate)
- chow - to eat, food. "Have you chowed yet ?" - "We'll buy some chow, just now".
- coloured - mixed race
- cool drink - soft drink, fizzy drink
- coolie - very derogatory term for an Indian person
- costume - bathing suit
- dam - reservoir
- garden boy - a black male gardener (of any age) (derogatory, although commonly used by older white South Africans without meaning to be)
- girl - a black woman, esp. a black female domestic worker (derogatory, although commonly used by older white South Africans without meaning to be)
- goose - girl, young woman, girlfriend
- groovie, groovy - generic name for a soft-drink can (dated), named after a now defunct product
- Dutchman - derogatory term for Afrikaner
- handle - to maneuver a motor vehicle, in a proficient way
- hang - heck, hell (a hang of a lot)
- hey? - eh? is/isn't that so?
- homeland - separate state for black South Africans under apartheid
- howzit - hello, how are you, good morning
- I beg yours? - I beg your pardon?, Sorry?, Please explain? (also in Australian English)
- izzit (is it) - an all purpose exclamative, equivalent to "really?"
- just now - later (later than 'now now' or 'now')
- lank - very, extremely
- location - an urban area populated by black, coloureds or Indians (dated, replaced by the term township in common usage)
- matric - school-leaving certificate (grade 12)
- mineral - soft drink (used by Durban Indians or older Afrikaners)
- now - fairly soon (not as soon as 'now now', but sooner than 'just now')
- now now - soon (sooner than 'now' and 'just now')
- plank - derogatory term for Afrikaner (derived from an older insult, "An Afrikaner sounds as thick as a plank (ie, very stupid) when he speaks English")
- plural - a black person (dated, derived from the sometime name of an Apartheid ministry)
- pump - to have sex with
- robot, robo - traffic light
- rock spider - derogatory term for an Afrikaner. (Warning: in Australian dialects it has the very different meaning of "child molester".)
- sharp - good, well, OK
- shame! - interjection; used when speaker believes something is unfortunate. Also used to denote cuteness. "Ag, shame!" when seeing a baby, for instance.
- standard - school year (now replaced with grade system as in North America)
- takkies - sneakers, plimsolls, sports shoes; also car tyres.
- taxi - shared taxi (usually minivan) as well as taxicab
- tea room - convenience store (used esp. by Durban Indians)
- township - urban area for black, Coloured or Indian South Africans under apartheid
- uncle - a term of respect for any older male.
Terms in common with American and Australian English include 'freeway' (British English 'motorway') and 'bucks' meaning money (rand instead of dollar). South Africans generally refer to the different codes of football, such as soccer and rugby by those names, although some white South Africans may refer to rugby as 'football' as in some parts of Australia as well New Zealand. However, this is not common, and among most South Africans the term 'football' means soccer.
The influence of Afrikaans accounts for idioms in South African English like "are you coming with?" (are you coming with us?), and the ubiquitous "hey?" instead of "isn't it?", "aren't you?".
- He's not coming with, hey? He's not coming with us, is he?
- She'll be here just now. She'll be here soon.
- Ja well, no fine. Things are okay, so-so.
- Hey Bru. You know who I am? Excuse me but what do you think you're doing?
Another influence is the use of the word 'comma' as in decimal comma, instead of 'point' as in decimal point.
- The rand closed at 7,25 [seven comma two five] against the US dollar. The rand closed at 7.25 [seven point two five] against the US dollar.
Speakers of African languages may confuse 'he', 'she' and 'it', as the third person singular is often the same. "Madam is not here. He is in England." - "Shees braucken, shees not wekking."
South African English Contributions to World English
Several South African words, usually from Afrikaans or native languages of the region, have entered world English: aardvark; apartheid; commando and trek.
English Academy of Southern Africa
The English Academy of Southern Africa (EASA) is the academy for the English language in the world, but unlike such counterparts as the Académie française, it has no official connection with the government and can only attempt to advise, educate, encourage, and discourage. It was founded in 1961 by Professor Gwen Knowles-Williams of the University of Pretoria in part to defend the role of English against pressure from supporters of Afrikaans. It encourages scholarship in issues surrounding English in Africa through regular conferences, but also remains controversial among language scholars in South Africa for its strong encouragement of International English and British English against emerging Black South African varieties of English.
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