So You Want to Speak Africaan, Hey?

Braai
What is a braai? It is the first thing you will be invited to when you visit South Africa. 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, and hang of a cold. At a braai you will be introduced to a substance known as mieliepap.

Ag
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, I'll have some more mieliepap then." It can stand alone too as a signal of irritation or of pleasure.

Donner
A rude word, it comes from the Afrikaans "donder" (thunder). Pronounced "dorner", it means "beat up." Your rugby team can get donnered in a game, or your boss can donner you if you do a lousy job.

Eina
Widely used by all language groups, this word, derived from the Afrikaans, means "ouch." Pronounced "aynah", you can shout it out in sympathy when someone burns his finger on a hot mielie at a braai.

Hey
Often used at the end of a sentence to emphasise the Importance of what has just been said, as in "Jislaaik boet, you're only going to stop a lekker klap if you can't find your takkies now now, hey?" It can also stand alone as a question. Instead of saying "excuse me?" or "pardon?" when you have not heard something directed at you, you can say: "Hey?"

Isit?
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 quite appropriate to respond by saying: "Isit?"

Jawelnofine
This is another conversation fallback word. Derived from the four words:"yes", "well", "no" and "fine", it means roughly "how about that." If your bank manager tells you your account is overdrawn, you can say with confidence: "Jawelnofine."

Jislaaik
Pronounced "Yis-like", it is an expression of astonishment. For instance, If someone tells you there are a billion people in China, a suitable comment is: "Jislaaik, that's a hang of a lot of people, hey."

Klap
Pronounced "klup" - an Afrikaans word meaning smack, whack or spank. If you spend too much time at the movies at exam time, you could end up catching a sharp klap from your pa. In America, that is called child abuse. In South Africa, it is called promoting education.

Lekker
An Afrikaans word meaning nice, this word is used by all language groups to express approval. If you see someone of the opposite sex who is good-looking, you can exclaim: "Lekk-errrrrrr!" while drawing out the last syllable.

Tackies
These are sneakers or running shoes. The word is also used to describe automobile or truck tires. "Fat tackies" are big tires, as in: "Where did you get those lekker fat tackies on your Volksie, hey?"

Dop
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. If you are invited over for a dop, be careful. It could be one or two sedate drinks or a blast, depending on the company you have fallen in with. 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.

Sarmie
This is a sandwich. For generations, school- children have traded sarmies during lunch breaks. If you are sending kids off to school in the morning, don't give them liver-polony sarmies. They are the toughest to trade.

Bakkie
This word is pronounced "bucky" and it is a small truck or pick-up. Young men can take their "cherrie" (girlfriend) to the drive-in flick in a bakkie but it is not always an appropriate form of transport because the seats usually don't recline and you may be forced to watch the film.

Howzit
This is a universal South African greeting, and you will hear this word throughout the land. It is often used with the word "No" as in this exchange: "No, howzit?" "No, fine." "Isit?"

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: "I'll clean my room now now,Ma." It is a little more urgent than "just now" which means an indefinite time in the future.

Tune grief
To be tuned grief is to be aggravated, harassed. Be selective about using the term. For example, if your bank manager calls you in for an urgent chat about your overdraft, you should avoid saying: "Hey, listen. You're tuning me grief, man." That would be unwise and could result in major tuning of grief. There are variations. You can say about your boss: "This oke is tuning me uphill."

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 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.

Pasop
From the Afrikaans phrase meaning "Watch Out!", this warning is used and heeded by all language groups. As in: "Your ma hasn't had her morning coffee yet Boet-so pasop and stay out of her way." 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 Donder (or donner)
Literally "kick, shoot and thunder" in Afrikaans, this phrase is used by many English speakers to describe action movies or any activity which is lively and somewhat primitive. Clint Eastwood is always good for a skop, skiet en donner flick.

Vrot
Pronounced - "frot". A wonderful word which means "rotten" or "putrid" in Afrikaans, it is used by all language groups to describe anything they really don't like. Most commonly it describes fruit or vegetables whose shelf lives have long expired, but a pair of takkies (sneakers) worn a few times too often can be termed vrot by unfortunate folk in the same room as the wearer. Also a rugby player who misses important tackles can be said to have played a vrot game - but not to his face because he won't appreciate it. We once saw a movie review with this headline: "Slick Flick, Vrot Plot."

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 ioscope 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 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 pa.

Rock Up
To rock up some place is to just sort of arrive. 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. You can't just rock up for a job interview or at a five-star restaurant. You give them a bell first - then you can rock up.

Scale
To scale something is to steal it. A person who is "scaly" is not nice, a scumbag, and should be left off the Christmas party invitation list.

Ja Nee
"Yes No" in English. This expression's origin is believed to be when a family member starts talking politics (what else do we talk about in South Africa ??) and you don't want to cause a political argument and get klapped or donnerred, then every now and again you mutter "Ja Nee".

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