So, you’re thinking of visiting South Africa…

22 Oct

… in the spirit of fun, laughter, and education, here are some words you’ll need to know:

*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. At a braai you will be introduced to a substance
known as mieliepap.

*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.

*A rude word, it comes from the Afrikaans “donder” (thunder). Pronounced “dorner”, 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?”

*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?”

Ja well no fine
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. In America , that is
called child abuse. In South Africa , it is called promoting
education. But to get “lekker geklap” is 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

*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 VΓ΄lla, hey?” (Volla is a Volkswagon Beetle)

*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 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, 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
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.” It means
“a little after now”.

Tune grief

*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”.

*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 of a lekker skop,
skiet en donner flick.

*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.”

Rock up
*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

*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 donnerred, 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.

Hope you all enjoyed that! πŸ™‚ Got this in an email yesterday, and since it’s doing the rounds anyway, I thought I’d post it. πŸ™‚



Posted by on October 22, 2009 in Musings



9 responses to “So, you’re thinking of visiting South Africa…

  1. Jack Gilbert

    October 22, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    This is terrific! Hope all is well – create, create, create! As always, Jack

  2. Mike Southern

    October 23, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    Soooo… just what is “mieliepap”? I assume it’s not particularly good, since you take it with resignation.

    Would it possibly be anything like Swedish meatballs? That would probably be G’Kar’s guess. (G’Kar is the Narn ambassador from Babylon 5, on the off-chance some of you didn’t follow the show.)

    • Dave-Brendon de Burgh

      October 24, 2009 at 2:33 pm

      Mieliepap is like mashed potatoes, only clumpier and harder. πŸ™‚ I sound like a complete idiot and I’m sure all SAFrican’s who read this will laugh themselves sick, but I actually can’t think of any other way to describe it! πŸ™‚ It’s usually eaten with a tomato-type sauce over it and accompanies barbequed meat, but it can also be sweetened with sugar and eaten with milk as a breakfast. πŸ™‚ Very nutritious, and practically a staple on its own. πŸ™‚

  3. Mike Southern

    October 25, 2009 at 4:26 am

    Hmmm… that actually sounds pretty good, Dave. Potatoes, like chocolate, are almost always hard to mess up. (By the way, if the potatoes are fluffy, drizzling a thin chocolate sauce on them is pretty good, too. I’m a diehard chocoholic to the end!)

    Anyway, I did a little web search and found several recipes, but none of them seemed to agree on what to use beyond some sort of corn flour. (Which sounds somewhat like what we in America call “grits”, often cooked with milk & butter and eaten for breakfast, with eggs & sausage and/or bacon. I never thought of using tomato sauce on them, though… that might be good too.) If you get a spare moment, how about emailing me a authentic recipe?

    G’Kar once remarked that he thought every species in the universe had its own equivalent of Swedish meatballs. Maybe the same is true of mieliepap, too.

  4. Dave-Brendon de Burgh

    October 25, 2009 at 5:23 am

    Will do, Mike, we’ve got plenty of recipe books at work – will see what there is and send you a recipe. πŸ™‚ I might even post the recipe in the next update – later today. πŸ™‚

  5. Chris Patrick

    November 4, 2009 at 6:34 am

    I love it! I need to go to South Africa!

  6. Fantasy_Fiction_Online

    November 6, 2009 at 5:57 am

    I hail from Australia.
    The only South African (or possibly Zimbabwean) word I know is ‘shongololo’, a word I learned from a Zimbabwean during my childhood.
    Recently I was fascinated to find out that there’s actually a train called the Shongololo Express which travels to seven countries on the southern African continent: South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia. The reason it bears this name is because ‘shongololo’ means ‘millipede’! So apt!

    • Dave-Brendon de Burgh

      November 11, 2009 at 5:19 pm

      This might gross you out a bit, buy Shongololo’s are eaten sometimes. πŸ™‚ I was terrified of the things while younger – now my fear has mellowed a bit: instead of running away, I walk around them. πŸ™‚ But truth to tell, I haven’t seen one in years!

  7. Kimmie

    November 19, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    i just loved the way you described *klap* i honestly cant stop laughing and customers are giving me weird looks.

    you know i’ve lived in SA my whole life and I have never eaten mieliepap…obviously been going to the wrong braais.

    I have eaten a shongololo though. They are dried out by the sun and really dont taste bad. Kinda taste like chips. Just try not to think about what your eating.


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