From Babbalas to Yebo

Having been in South Africa for 4 months, we have greatly added to our dictionary of South African expressions, so here is Part II on my Language entry (click here for Part I):

  • Babbalas – A hangover
  • Biltong – Dried meat, like jerky – grows on you!
  • Boerewors – That which goes on a braai (a really long coiled-up sausage)
  • Eish! – Gosh/bummer/ouch/no way – fits in most “welcome to Africa” situations
  • Good’n-you? – Answer to Howzit (I’ve often felt a bit awkward when I only say “good, thanks” and then get “good thanks” back automatically, even though technically I didn’t ask “and you?”)
  • Howzit? – How are you?
  • Izzit? – Oh really? (which sounds funny to us in a dialog such as “I’m planning to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro,” and “Izzit?” as the response)
  • Ja – Afrikaans for yes
  • Just now – Technically this means soon; but in reality not very soon at all, definitely not immediately, might not even be today
  • Kit – Uniform (athletic)
  • Naartje – Tangerine/clementine
  • Shame – You’re kidding/really – hard to translate but used often, like when you’re telling someone an endearing story and they cluck sympathetically on occasion
  • Side – Team
  • Stoep – Patio
  • Takkies – Sneakers/tennis shoes
  • Yebo – Zulu for yes

One last thing on language: I’m very impressed what an effort South Africans make to pronounce words correctly, as opposed to Americans who in my experience quite liberally anglicize most foreign words. For example, even English-speaking South Africans pronounce Gauteng (the province Johannesburg is situated in) the correct Afrikaans way, where the “G” sounds like the “CH” in the German word “Nacht”, making it something like “Chaoteng”. “Haoteng” would be the next best thing but not quite right. Even more difficult to pronounce is the clicking sound Zulu and other native languages incorporate, like in the word Xhosa. That is pronounced “Khosa” preceeded a clicking of the tongue. And again, if, say, a white South African gives you directions through the towns of Kwa-Zulu Natal, you will feel quite inadequate in the face of so much tongue-clicking!

You might also like:

My 43 Favorite South-Africanisms
“Just Now or Now Now”?