South African slang you supposed to know

40 South Africanisms you should know

To help foreigners be well prepared for the World Cup and their visit to South Africa, the Sunday Times has devised this handy lingo guide:

BABELAS (bubble-us): hangover: usage: “jeez, I had too many dops last night. I’ve got a hectic babelas.”

BAKKIE (bucky): What Americans would term a “pick up”. A two seater light vehicle with an open rear cargo area. The rear is often used to transport an impossible number of workers who stare back at you in traffic and make you feel awkward and a bit guilty.

BERGIE: Term used for a type of homeless person in Cape Town. Originates from “berg”, which is the Afrikaans word for mountain, referring to the homeless people who used to live on Table Mountain but who now live mainly in the city. Pronounce the harsh “g” as if you’ve swallowed an insect and are trying to clear it from your throat.

BLIKSEM (bluk-sem): If you’re in a pub and you accidentally spill a beer belonging to a man with a thick neck, he may say: “Do you want me to bliksem you?” Don’t respond. Just run. Run for your life. It’s the Afrikaans word for hit or strike or punch.

BOET: Means “brother” in Afrikaans. An affectionate (though not too much) term for a friend. It’s like saying “dude” or “buddy”.

BROEKIES (brookies): Panties or underwear. Usage: “I phuza’d with this girl last night and she came back to my hotel. When I woke up this morning, she was gone but she left her broekies behind.”

CAR GUARD: Found in most urban areas, a car guard’s office is the parking lot. He keeps an eye on your car while you’re at the match, in the mall or at the pub. You’re expected to tip him when you return to your car and it hasn’t been stolen or broken into. No. That’s a lie. You’ll be expected to tip him even if it has.

DAGGA: Again pronounced with a harsh “g”. Marijuana. Illegal but admittedly very easy to get hold of if you’re inclined. Just ask your car guard.

DINGES (ding-us): An indeterminate, nondescript thing or term for an object whose name you’ve momentarily forgotten. Like this: “Please pass me my dinges there.” “ What?” “My dinges. I want to blow it.” “ You mean your vuvuzela?” “Yes, my vuvuzela.”

DOF: Stupid.

DOP: If someone says “Do you want to go for a dop?” Always say yes. It means you’ll be going for a drink.

DORPIE (doorpee): Small town. But no matter how small, you’ll always find a KFC. And a pregnant 17 year old.

DOSS: Slang for “sleep”. Usage: “Is it cool if I doss at your place tonight?”

EINA (ay-na): Expression of pain, as in “ouch”. Usage: “ooh, looks like Rooney just shattered his pelvis. Eina!”

EISH (aysh): Common term that denotes a wide range of emotions from joy and surprise to confusion and anger. When in doubt, use it.

EITA (ay-ta): Casual African greeting, like “hey”. Actually, it’s the same as “Howzit”.

GATVOL: Literally means “hole fill” in Afrikaans. Means you’ve had enough of something that’s making you angry. Usage: “boet, I’m gatvol of this ref’s bad decisions.” Again with the harsh “g”.

HUNDREDS: Normally  repeated twice in a sentence as in “hundreds, bru, hundreds.” It expressed either total agreement with what someone just said or confirmation that your life is all good (e.g. “how are you?” Ah, hundreds man hundreds”). Can also be used as a way of simply saying yes.

IS IT?: Actually pronounced “buzz us”. It’s a casual way of saying “Oh Really?”. Usage: “Dude, I saw Messy coming out of a ladies toilet yesterday.” “Buzz us?”

JA-WELL-NO-FINE: Nobody really knows what this means, because it doesn’t really mean anything. But we like saying it.

JOL: Party. Can be used either a noun or verb, as in “That was a liker jolt” or “I went jollying last night and ended up in Fabio Cinnabar’s hotel room. It was great. We set fire to it.

JUST NOW: An indeterminate amount of time. If a waiter says “I’ll be with you just now”, it could mean anything from five minutes to ten, to never.

KAK (kuku): Literally “shit”. Popular uses include: “What a load of kaka” and “Don’t talk kaka.”

LADUMA: Celebratory exclamation when a goal is scored. For best effect, try to hold the “u” for as long as possible on one breath, so that the “ma” comes out as desperate choke. Laduuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu…ma.

LANK: Beyond cool is lank cool. Also means a large amount of, as in “There were lank vuvuzelas at the game last night.”

LEKKER (lakka): Great, awesome, amazing


MY CHINA: Or just “china”. An affectionate term similar to “boet”. “Howzit china” is a standard South African greeting. Except when meeting and actual Chinese person. Then you probably shouldn’t say it.

MZANSI: Popular term for South Africa. Best describes our country’s gritty energy and loud African spirit.

NOOIT (noyt): Expression of disbelief or disdain. As in “Aah, nooit! There’s chewing gum on my seat!” or “When I saw that advert with Ronaldo striking a homoerotic pose in a pair of tights underpants, I just thought “Nooit, bru!”

NOW-NOW: Not to be confused with “just now”. Now-now is a much smaller indeterminate amount of time. Hmmm. Don’t worry – you’ll get it.

PHUZA (poo-za): A drinking session. “Phuza Thursday” is a noble tradition in South Africa. Try to uphold it while you’re here.

ROBOT: When you’re asking for directions and someone says: “Left at the third robot,” it is not because our streets are overrun with menacing cyborgs made by Japanese scientists. No. A robot is simply our word for traffic light.

SHARP-SHARP: Okay. This is a complicated one. An expression of agreement. Or a greeting. Or a way of saying goodbye. Or a way of saying “Okay, sure.” Or a way of … forget it.

SIFF: Gross, disgusting. “Check, that guy is picking his nose.” Siff, boet.”

STOEP: A veranda or porch.

TEKKIE (tacky): Common word for sneakers.

TSOTSI (tot-si): Not just the name of the Oscar-winning film made by local director Gavin Hood. Tsotsi is a township term for a young boy who’s already committing crimes like hijacking cars and stealing. Hopefully not from you.

UMLUNGU (oom-loong-gu): African word for “white man”. For a laugh, if someone says “Eita, umlungu!” reply “sharp-sharp!”

ZHOOSH: Very fancy. A word normally utilised by well-kept women with French manicures who will never, ever understand the off-side rule. Use the word if you must (if feels nice in the mouth), but aggressively avoid these women.

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