Jaillan Yehia

6 South African Sayings That I Just Can’t Seem to Shake!

Written by Jaillan Yehia

Post Categories: Africa | Savoir Escape | South Africa
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South African Slang

There seems to be some South African terminology that has taken on a life of its own, and whose fame seems to have spread overseas to folks who’ve never even set foot in South Africa. For me though, there are 6 words which define my time in the country. They are:

1 Izzit?

A total throwback to the 1980’s North London vocab of my youth, once I’d been reintroduced to this phrase there was no stopping me. Now I’m home I’ll continue to say it in a long drawn out and incredulous manner, much to my friends’ annoyance.

‘This monkey stole my Woolworth’s crisps!’. ‘Izzit?!’

2  Shame

As above, this word was constantly uttered in my teenage years, and for the cooler kids would be accompanied by some vigorous hand gestures.

This shop is selling Keep Calm and Carry On merchandise. Shaaaame!

 

3 Enjoy

Never have I been implored to enjoy so much by so many. Every cup of tea, meal, game drive, wine tasting or other experience I tried was accompanied by the invitation to ‘enjoy’. Luckily for all concerned, most of the time I did very much enjoy whatever it was. I concluded that the clever South Africans had come up with a catch all term used in much the same way as the French used Bon Appetite but cunningly this one can apply to anything and everything, not just consumables.

People ‘enjoying’ a wine tasting…

4 Howzit

At first when I was asked Howzit, I replied, in a terribly literal and English way, that yes, it was all going very well thanks very much indeed for asking. Then I realised it pretty much means Hello, and a full reply isn’t actually needed.

Howzit? I’ll be fine if I can just reach down and get a drink of this water, thanks for asking!

 

5 Pleasure

This really was a pleasure…

See No. 3. After I had invariably enjoyed whatever it was I’d eaten, drank or experienced in SA, I’d thank the person responsible, and would, almost without exception, be told that it was a pleasure. At first I believed that it was, but after a while I realised that ‘it’s a pleasure’, often abbreviated to just the word ‘pleasure’ pronounced like ‘plairsure’ was a stock phrase and while sometimes it was heartfelt, other times it was actually robotic.

This brings me to number six.

6  Robot

I’d been pre-warned that South Africans used the term robot to refer to traffic lights, but I never tired of hearing people say it in that wonderful accent. It turned out that most people in the hospitality industry have been warned that Europeans being told to turn right at a robot will have quite different expectations, so they just call them traffic lights, which rather took the fun out of it.

Turn right at the robot. Still makes me smile.

 

Of course there were more than I have listed here. ‘I promise you’, ‘I’m telling you’, ‘ya’, and ‘just now’ cropped up a lot, but these are the 6 words that I will forever associate with South Africa.


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