Reflections VIII – Words

posted in: Life in South Africa | 0

Some of the phrases in common use here are so well-known as to be the clichés spouted by the recorded voice on the open-air bus tour.  The variations of “now”, “just now” and “now now” are  examples of this, but remain true all the same, not least because they reveal the (extremely) relaxed attitude South Africa takes towards time.

There are also Afrikaans words that have become a part of the language of all here, black and white, English-speaking as well as Afrikaans.  A barbecue is always a braai (with its own aisle in supermarkets); a bakkie is a pick-up truck, pap is maize porridge. One of our friends at home had assumed that Afrikaans as a language was dying out, but this is absolutely not the case, and for a large part of the population it is their everyday language: living, working, and for many much-treasured. Many of the learners choose to take Afrikaans classes in school, as it can open doors for example, in certain lines of work.

Other words are less commented-upon, “Shame” being one such.  It is a sort of abbreviation of “What a shame” but has less of that expression’s mild horror, and more a twinkle of complicity and humour.  You hear it a lot.

Even more universal is the pairing of greeting and enquiry after one’s well-being, together with an expectation that you will use the same – “GoodmorninghowareyouImfinethankyou” – that makes one feel guilty at not having got one’s own enquiry in fast enough.

Finally, on the subject of words, a new addition to our blog-site (on the suggestion of Val’s brother Pete): a collection of talking head monologues, each lasting thirty seconds, in which young South Africans talk about anything they want.  It is called “Half a minute” and the link can be found on the home page.

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