The Afrikaans Challenge - translating to English - by Irene de Bruyn
Please note: This article contains some Afrikaans words and expressions that some people may find offensive.
Although I am now living in Australia, where English is the prevalent language, I still find myself using Afrikaans words and expressions, either because there are just no equivalents in English, or the Afrikaans version is so much more pithy.
Often the Australians I speak to are intrigued by the words and find them expressive, even when I give them a censored translation of their meaning. (It depends on the company).
One of these delicious words is "gril". It almost makes you shiver to say it. There's no concise English equivalent - "puts my teeth on edge" is about the nearest, and how cumbersome it is. And "gril" is usually used with rolling of the eyes and expressions of disgust, which just
aren't conveyed by the English phrase.
How do you explain the word "sommer" to an Australian? (Or to anyone else, for that matter). It's not only a foreign word, it's a foreign concept. Perhaps the English never do anything "just sommer". But when I've explained it, it's been adopted enthusiastically here. Although there's no Australian equivalent either, they take to the idea of it."Why are you laughing? Just sommer."
"Bakkie" is another one of those useful "portmanteau" words (see - English doesn't have a word for that, either), very useful around the house, for all sizes and shapes of containers and dishes. Also used for what they call "utes" here. I find it an indispensable word.
We all know "voetstoots" of course. It's been officially adopted into South African English. There's no concise, one-word equivalent in English. "As is" just doesn't hack it. And it's such a humorous word, conjuring up images of pushing that brand new car home...
There's no good English word for "dwaal". It doesn't mean dream, or daze. It's close to absent-mindedness, but that's not quite it. Being in one so often myself, I'm not likely to stop using it.
I think "gogga" is the most delightful word for insect I've ever heard. Children all over the world should use it. "Insect" just doesn't stand a chance.
And I think "moffie" is a far better word than all those embarrassed English attempts at defining a homosexual: gay, queer, poofter, etc. aren't half as expressive. Somehow "moffie" doesn't sound as derogatory either.
And then there's "gatvol". OK, I know it's very rude. But it's so expressive, ne? "Fed up" doesn't have half the impact. It's like blancmange in comparison. "Gatvol" is a word used more frequently than ever in the workplace these days, with increasing intensity.
While we're on the subject, another phrase which outstrips any English attempt is "Hy sal sy gat sien". (Also rude). "He'll get his come-uppance" is like milque toast in comparison. It definitely lacks
"Donder" is another very useful word, used as an all-purpose swearword, which again has no good English translation. Used as a verb, it can express any degree of roughing up. As a noun, it is a pejorative, as they politely say in dictionaries, to mean whatever you want it to mean. And there's no good translation for "skiet-en-donder".
It says something about the English that they have no word for "jol". Probably the dictionary compilers regard it as slang, but it's widely used for "Going out on the town, kicking up your heels, enjoying yourself..." (See, there's no English translation) Although curiously, the word
"Yule" in Yuletide is related to "jol" and derived from Old English. So somewhere along the line, the English forgot how to "jol".
I've yet to meet a South African over the age of two who doesn't use the word "muti". Translation is impossible - "witches potion" is about the nearest I can get. It needs a long cultural historical explanation. Between "muti" and the pedantic "medication" , there's simply no contest.
And of course, my personal favourite "Kak en betaal" , which just says it all, doesn't it? A bland and effete English translation would be "Cough and pay", or "Breathe and pay". But it just doesn't cut it, does it? Not by a long drop.
More funny ones..... jou bliksem, wag 'n bietjie, nie so haastig nie, just now, sakie-sakie music
ou swaer, Ya, nee How are you? No, I'm fine thanks
How many more can you add? Please email us yours so we can share them with others!
South Africanisms...things you will hear South Africans saying .......
A beginner's guide to the South African language/culture
Doo-Doo or Du-Du (pron. with a short 'oo')
Meaning going to sleep or taking a nap. Probably more African than Afrikaans. We have always told our little babies and children to go du-du or 'time for a du-du.'
Benoud (pron. ba - note)
Afrikaans for anxious or fearful, but not a good translation. More like a combination of apprehension, anxiety and fear, all rolled into one!
What is a braai? It is the first thing you will be invited to when you visit South Africans. A braai is a backyard barbecue and it will take place whatever the weather. So you will have to go even if it's raining like mad. At a braai you will be introduced to a substance known as mieliepap. (type of grits)
Pron. yaa, meaning yes, affirmative or just an acknowledgment like yeah or yip.
This one of the most useful South African words. Pronounced like the "ach" in the German "achtung", it can be used to start a reply when you are asked a tricky question, as in: "Ag, I don't know." Or a sense of resignation: "Ag OK, I'll have some more mieliepap then." It can stand alone too as a signal of irritation.
This one is used a lot..... Pronounced like the word above combined with Shame. Can be used in various contexts as in "that's adorable!" or "that's horrible!" can be confusing but its always a reaction to something.
Afrikaans word used as a sign of complete exasperation as in "Oh good grief!" pronounced with the same sound as Ag! combined with 'tig' also using the throat! Most expressive when children make a big mess in your kitchen and leave it for you to clean up! Used like 'My (pron. may) Magtig, what a mess!'
A rude word, it comes from the Afrikaans "donder" (thunder). Pronounced "dorn-er", it means "beat up." A team member in your rugby team can get donnered in a game, or your wife can donner you if you come back from a braai at three in the morning.
Widely used by all language groups, this word, derived from the Afrikaans, means "ouch." Pronounced "aynah". You can say it in sympathy when you see your friend the day after he got donnered by his wife.
Often used at the end of a sentence to emphasize the importance of what has just been said, as in "You're only going to get donnered if you come in late again, hey?" It can also stand alone as a question. Instead of saying "excuse me?" or "pardon me?" when you have not heard something directed at you, you can always say: "Hey?" Could also be fairly derrogatory, when calling someone whose name you don't know, as in "Hey you, come here!"
This is another great word to use in conversations. Derived from the two words "is" and "it", it can be used when you have nothing to contribute if someone tells you something at a braai. For instance, if someone would say: "The Russians will succeed in their bid for capitalism once they adopt a work ethic and respect for private ownership." It is quite appropriate to respond by saying: "Izit?" (Really?!)
This is another conversation fallback. Derived from the four words: "yes", "well", "no" and fine", it roughly means "OK". If your bank manager tells you your account is overdrawn, you can, with confidence, say: "Jawelnofine."
Pronounced "klup" - an Afrikaans word meaning smack, whack or spank. If you spend too much time in front of the TV during exam time, you could end up getting a "klap" from your mother. Can be used with reference to giving someone a good slap as in "You gave that oke a snot klap!" In America, that is called child abuse. In South Africa, it is called promoting education. But to get "lekker geklap" can also mean to get motherlessly drunk.
An Afrikaans word meaning nice, this word is used by all language groups to express approval. If you enjoyed a braai thoroughly, you can say: "Now that was lekk-errrrrrr!" while drawing out the last syllable.
These are sneakers or running shoes. The word is also used to describe automobile or truck tyres. "Fat tackies" are really wide tyres, as in: "You've got lekker fat tackies on your Vôlla, hey?"
Pron. dorp.This word has two basic meanings, one good and one bad. First the good: A dop is a drink, a cocktail, a sundowner, a noggin. When invited for a dop, be careful! It could be one sedate drink or a blast, depending on the company. Now the bad: To dop is to fail. If you "dopped" standard two (Grade 4) more than once, you probably won't be reading this.
This is a sandwich. For generations, school- children have traded "saamies" during lunch breaks. In South Africa you don't send your kid to school with liver-polony (liver sausage like Neese's!) saamies. They are impossible to trade.
This word is pronounced "bucky" and can refer to a small truck or pick-up. If a young man takes his "girl" (date) in a bakkie it could be considered as a not so "lekker" form of transport because the seats can't recline.
This is a universal South African greeting, as in "how is it?" and you will hear this word throughout the country. It is often accompanied with the word "Yes!" as in: "Yes, howzit?". In which case you answer "No, fine."
Now now or Just now
In much of the outside world, this is a comforting phrase: "Now now, it's really not so bad." But in South Africa, this phrase is used in the following manner: "Just wait, I'll be there now now, or "I'll see you just now" ." It means "a little after now" or in a short while.
To be tuned grief is to be aggravated, harassed. For example, if you argue with somebody about a rugby game at a braai and the person had too much dop (is a little "geklap"), he might easily get aggravated and say.: "You're tuning me grief, hey!". To continue the argument after this could be unwise and result in major tuning of grief.
This is an Afrikaans word meaning "brother" which is shared by all language groups. Pronounced "boot" but shorter, as in "foot", it can be applied to a brother or any person of the male sex. For instance a father can call his son "boet" and friends can apply the term to each other too. Sometimes the diminutive "boetie" is used. But don't use it on someone you hardly know - it will be thought patronizing and could lead to you getting a "lekker klap".
Pron. pus-orp. From the Afrikaans phrase meaning "Watch Out!", this warning is used and heeded by all language groups. As in: "The boss hasn't had his coffee yet - so you better pasop boet" Sometimes just the word "pasop!" is enough without further explanation. Everyone knows it sets out a line in the sand not to be crossed.
Skop, Skiet en Donner
Literally "kick, shoot and thunder", this phrase is used by many South African speakers to describe action movies. A Clint Eastwood movie is always a good choice if you're in the mood for a lekker skop, skiet en donner flick. Charlize Theron has been in some good Skop Skiet & Donner movies...her name is pron. Trorn!
Pronounced - "frot". A expressive word which means "rotten" or "putrid" in Afrikaans, it is used by all language groups to describe anything they really dislike. Most commonly intended to describe fruit or vegetables whose shelf lives have long expired, but a pair of old tackies (sneakers) worn a few years too long can be termed "vrot" by some unfortunate folk which find themselves in the same vicinity as the wearer. Also a rugby player who misses important kicks or tackles can be said to have played a vrot game - opposite to a "lekker" game (but not to his face). A movie was once reviewed with this headline: "Slick Flick, Vrot Plot." Also if you get "motherless", this could also be referred to as being 'vrot'.
To rock up is to just sort of arrive (called "gate crash" in other parts of the world). You don't make an appointment or tell anyone you are coming - you just rock up. Friends can do that but you have to be selective about it. For example, you can't just rock up for a job interview.
To scale something is to steal it. A person who is "scaly" has a doubtful character, is possibly a scumbag, and should rather be left off the invitation list to your next braai.
"Yes No" in English. Politics in South Africa has always been associated with family arguments and in some cases even with physical fights. It is believed that this expression originated with a family member who didn't want to get a klap or get donnered, so he just every now and then muttered "ja-nee". Use it when you are required to respond, but would rather not choose to agree or disagree.
As in 'sawma' - meaning "just because" . If a Mom asks her child why he stole a cookie, he'll say "Sommer !"- especially when there is no reason.
A widely used Zulu word meaning medicine, pronounced 'mooty' as in "Have you taken your Muti?"
Extreme surprise - Jislaaik, those takkies are vrot!
Pronouced : Eik-orna! A Zulu response to something unbelieveable as in "no way!" or "not a chance" - Aikorna!
An expression of amazement - as in "Bliksem, thats incredible!" Similar to Jislaaik!
A Fundi (pron. Foen-dee) is someone who is an expert in something as in "He's a real fundi at Maths!" (as in mathematics, never math!)
An idiot - someone who is really stupid! (pron. moo-gchoo)
Something suspect, as in "Jislaaik, that oke was a crook - very dodgy character!"
Pron. sees, meaning Yuk!
Pron. Shong-ga-lor-lor - A Zulu word for a large black millipede with a crusty shell in segments which goes "crunch" when you step on it accidentally
Pron. Fill 'em - same as in film or movie
Pron. Goo - ff, accent on the first syllable - meaning a swim, as in "I'm going to have a quick goef!"
Unacceptable teenage word for a fart!
Guy / pub slang for taking a pee, as in 'I need a slash"
Wandering around aimlessly and can't focus on anything, as in "I'm in a complete dwaal today!"
Pron. Dong- ga, A ditch at the side of the road, a calvert as in " I veered off the road and went into a donga!"
Pron. felt, The bush or countryside
Pron. Boen-doo, as in "After I hit the donga, I found myself bundu bashing in the veld!"
Pron. foot-stzek, An acceptable expletive meaning get moving out of here!
Pron. Hum-ba, A Zulu word with the same meaning as above, but not rude.
Pron. skate, meaning a loser, hobo, a down and out person
Pron. ts-sot-si, A Zulu word for a ganster, hoodlum
Pron. Da-gha, Marijuana as in Cannabis
Pron. Kuk, meaning crap - as in "That Dagga is really Kak!"
Pron. por-mp, Extemely rude version of to have sex!
Pron. "nigh" as in "night" means sewing or the act of sticking your needle into something. Crudely can mean sexual intercourse, also known as having a "pomp".
Un-pronounceable by a non-SA! Slang Afrikaans for family-in-law as in family that have been "sewn" to you by virtue of a "pomp".
Pron. Do-is. Afrikaans for 'box" - used to decsribe a stupid person (very rude, not to be used in poilte company) referring to a woman's genitalia! As in " Stop being such a complete doos!"
Going for a walk, as in "I'm going walkies with the dogs!"
Pron - to-gh, meaning something like "Oh Dear!" or Gosh!
Pron. Skot-til, A plough shear shaped wok used for cooking at a braai (barbecue) outdoors sometimes comes attached to a propane bottle
"Hey?""Excuse me?" or "pardon?" when you have not heard something directed at you, you can say: If you want to use it at the end of a sentence, you can say something like "Ag donner, this mieliepap is very hot, Hey"
Is it? This is a great word in conversations. Derived from the two words "is" and "it", it can be used when you have nothing to contribute If someone tells you at the braai: "The Russians will succeed in their bid for Capitalism once they adopt a work ethic and respect for private ownership." It is appropriate to respond by saying: "Is it?"
Mielie Pap: pron. meely pup - the SA version of grits - a corn meal staple that is eaten for breakfast or at a Braai with a lekker tomato & onion 'Sous' (sauce).
"Mrs Balls" Chutney: She actually existed! She has earned a place of honour in South African kitchen history. Chutney is, of course, of Indian origin and is pickled fruit prepared with vinegar, spices and sugar. South Africans are known to eat it with everything, including fried eggs. Some even put it on their mieliepap.
"Now Now": In much of the outside world, this is a comforting phrase:
"Now, now, don't cry-I'll take you to the bioscope tomorrow." But in South Africa, this phrase means a little sooner than soon: "Ill clean my room now now now, Ma." It is a little more urgent than "just now" which means an indefinite time in the future.
Boet: This is an Afrikaans word meaning "brother" which is shared by all language groups. Pronounced "boot" as in "foot", it can be applied to a non-brother. For instance a father can call his son "boet" and friends can apply the term to each other too. Sometimes the diminutive "boetie" is used. But don't use either with someone you hardly know - it will be thought patronising and you'll probably get 'donnered', hey.
Graze: In a country with a strong agricultural tradition, it is not surprising that farming words crop up (pun intended) in general conversation. Thus to graze means to eat. If you are invited to a Bioscope show, you may be asked: "Do you want to catch a graze now now?.
Catch a tan: This is what you do when you lie on the beach pretending to study for your matric exams. The Brits, who have their own very odd phrases, say they are getting "bronzed". Nature has always been unkind to South African schoolchildren, providing beach and swimming pool weather just when they should be swotting for the mid-summer finals. If you spend too much time catching a tan at exam time, you could end up catching a sharp klap from your Dad.
Don't lie: It means unbelievable or amazing. It does not mean that the person telling a story is lying.
Great website with tons more South African slang-isms!