Some Legendary Afrikaans Words


This is too good not to share. I hope my overseas readers will enjoy a little insight into the South African vernacular

How do you explain the word “sommer” to an Australian or an Engelsman 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”.

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”.

My best explanation of “just sommer” would be “just because” with no further explanation required. 

“Bakkie” 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.  Our pick-up trucks are called “bakkies” because the load area on the back is of course just another “bakkie” (container)

I find it an indispensable word.

We all know “voetstoets” of course. It’s been officially adopted into South African English. There’s no concise, one-word equivalent in English. “As is” just doesn’t hack it. And it’s such a humorous word, conjuring up images of pushing that brand new car home…

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.

My head is often in a “dwaal

I think “gogga” 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 I think “moffie” is a far better word than all those embarrassed English attempts at defining a homosexual: gay, queer, poofter, etc. aren’t half as expressive. Somehow “moffie” doesn’t sound as derogatory either.

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. No it doesn’t –Gatvol is at least another 10 degrees past “fed-up”! It’s like Blancmange in comparison.

“Gatvol” is a word used more frequently than ever in the workplace these days, with increasing intensity.

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 like milquetoast 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” either. Cowboy movies could be considered “skiet-en-donder” films

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. So somewhere along the line, the English forgot how to “jol”.

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”. Or one could say “Poop and Pay” but that does not convey the correct sense of outrage when one is overcharged for something that is in effect a necessity. 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”. 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!

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 other word like pap, … the English 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? (rascal would be the nearest translation when addressing children in this way but the prisons of full of adult “skelms”)(Mislik is a good description of a whining kid that does not know what he or she wants)

Do you want a ”snot-klap”?'(One that would make your nose run!)

And then there is “moer” which can be used as an adjective or a verb.  As in “I had a moer of a good time last night” or “Do that again and I’ll sommer moer you”.

Ja-well-no-fine – have a good week blogpeeps



12 thoughts on “Some Legendary Afrikaans Words

  1. Nou ja, this was lekker, but of course ‘muti’ and other words like ‘mompara’ and ‘eish’ have been adopted from African languages. Don’t you love some of the Coloured ones like ‘uitgebraaide blikskottel’ – sounding awful, but simply meaning a cooked-out tin dish.

  2. When I was in Rhodesia there were lots of Dung Beetles rolling the Elephant dung around the bush. I was in a pub there and someone tried to hit one with a newspaper, the wings were so sharp or hard that it shredded the paper and kept flying.

  3. And there is “Jislaaik!”. Goodness gracious doesn’t sound right there, either.

    As newbies to SA we used to laugh at the writing on the bus windows: Moenie spoeg nie and Stamp die ruit uit.

    But the weirdest expression to us Dutchies was: Verskoon my, which in Dutch means: Put a clean nappy on me.

    A good Afrikaans word is ‘n Mossienes to describe a car’s cubbyhole.

    Nice blog, optie.

  4. Wonderful words, all of them. Bliksem is onomatopoeia. I feel the lash. One of my faves is ‘opskop’ which says it all. I also like ‘klooster koek’ one of those girls that butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths, but back at the ranch …..!

  5. I know it’s not Afrikaans, but one of the first South African puzzling expressions we came across, was “Just now.” New to the country, we went to buy a car, and the salesman told us to sit down in the office and that he’d be with us “Just now.” He returned about half an hour later, having taken someone for a test drive. 😕

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s