Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Legendary Afrikaans words... One for any Fellow South Africans in Ireland.

How do you explain the word "sommer" to an Australian or an Englishman. Or to anyone else, for that matter. It's not only a foreign word, it's a foreign concept. Perhaps the English never do anything "just sommer" ("Just because" doesn't quite cut it)
But when you've explained it, it's been adopted enthusiastically .. Although there's no Australian equivalent either, they sommer take to the idea. "Why are you laughing? Just sommer."

"Bakkie" (pronounced Bah-key) is another one of those useful "portmanteau" words (see -English doesn't have a word for that, either), very useful around the house, for all sizes and shapes of containers and dishes.
Also used for what they call "utes" in OZ. I find it an indispensable word.

There's no good English word for "dwaal". It doesn't mean dream, or daze. It's close to absent-mindedness, but that's not quite it. Being in one so often myself, I'm not likely to stop using it.

I think "gogga" (very gutteral g's) is the most delightful word for insect I've ever heard. Children all over the world should use it. "Insect" just doesn't stand a chance.

And the exclamation of disgust “sis” (pr: Sies)  -  doesn’t that just obliterate the English “phew”.

And then there's "gatvol".   OK, I know it's very rude. But it's so very expressive, NE? "Fed up" doesn't have half the impact.   It's like Blancmange in comparison. "Gatvol" is a word used more frequently than ever in the workplace these days, with increasing intensity. I get very gatvol when my kids leave their shoes lying everywhere.

While we're on the subject, another phrase which outstrips any English attempt is "Hy sal sy gat sien". (Also rude). "He'll get his come-uppance" is weak in comparison. It definitely lacks the relish.

"Donder" is another very useful word, used as an all-purpose swearword, which again has no good English translation. Used as a verb, it can express any degree of roughing up. As a noun, it is a pejorative, as they politely say in dictionaries, to mean whatever you want it to mean. And there's no good translation for "skiet-en-donder" (shoot & fight - or action film) either.

It says something about the English that they have no word for "jol". Probably the dictionary compilers regard it as slang, but it's widely used for "Going out on the town, kicking up your heels, enjoying yourself..." Not just getting PISSED out of your Skull. (See, there's no English translation) Although curiously, the word "Yule" in Yuletide is related to "jol" and derived from Old English.

I've yet to meet a South African over the age of two who doesn't use the word "muti".   Translation is impossible - "witches potion" is about the nearest I can get.  It needs a long cultural historical explanation.   Between "muti" and the pedantic "medication" , there's simply no contest.

And of course, my personal favourite "Kak en betaal" , which just says it all, doesn't it? A bland and effete English translation would be "Cough and pay", or "Breathe and pay". But it just doesn't cut it, does it? Not by a long drop.

How do you explain the passion of "LEKKER!"? Wow last night was a "lekker jol"

Dudu or doeks. (doo-doo or doox) Telling your infant to go to bed is just not the same as: "Go dudu now my baby!"

How about 'bliksem" - I'm going to bliksem you or ek gaan jou donder! (I am going to hit you!)

Both wonderful Afrikaans expressions with nothing to compare in the English language, at least nothing that gives the same satisfaction.

Trapsuutjies...........the way certain maids and others work. Slowcoach just doesn't do it, hey ?

Mielie pap - there is no word like pap, here... they have porridge, and when they say porridge, they mean
oats.   There's no Maltabela, no Tasty Wheat, no Creamy Meal, no Putu pap In other words, there's no pap!

Mislik - such a 'lekker' word, and one that my kids are familiar with. 'Why are you so mislik, you little skelm? Do you want a snot-klap?'

Which brings us to skelm - here you just get 'baddies', but that doesn't have the same sneaky connotation of a proper skelm, does it?! And snot-klap... fabulous word! How would you say that in English? 'I'll slap you so hard the snot will fly?' Yuk! Just not the same.

Loskop is another favourite (basically If My head wasn't screwed on I'd lose it). The English just don't understand when I say 'Sorry, I forgot - I'm such a loskop!' ha ha

What about Moer! There simply isn't a word here that denotes the feeling behind 'If you don't clean your room, I'll moer you!'

AND WHAT ABOUT 'VUILGAT' or 'poephol'?

And of course.....don't forget the word 'Voetsek!" No direct translation for that either. It just sommer means Shut Up or Go away or "You're talking crap"

And "now now". No one else in the world uses this English version of the Afrikaans concept.

I miss hearing these words. When I hear a South African Accent when I am out and about (or on the TV or most reently on the radio), I feel a little bit warm inside and it makes me smile. Ag Ja people, while I miss my tjommies, Ireland is my home now.


  1. This is a great post!! Love hearing words I've genuinely never heard before!

    1. I can't wait for my folks to arrive so that I can hear the accent properly, not just over the phone!

  2. I LOVED this! I forsee a hell of a lot of 'gatvol' in my future, school holidays start on Thursday! Brilliant, such an interesting post and so educational.

    1. I am so glad.
      My accent is fading fast, but it comes back when I speak to friends back home.

      I get gatvol very quickly with the kids, so I am lucky that we live close to a park where I can let them run round while I read a book and calm down!


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