A Traveller’s Guide to South African Slang (A-D)
Every country has its peculiar turns of phrase – quirks that give local languages flavour, colour and character. But unless you’re a native speaker, local slang can be a tricky to grasp, let alone use. South Africa, with its 11 official languages, is blessed with a rich slang culture that can be quite daunting for foreign visitors – heck, even some residents flounder when faced with some of the more obscure lingo.
To help out travellers from foreign climes (as well as the odd sheltered South African) here’s a directory of common, and not so common, South Africanisms.
Ag: (the g is guttural, so pronounce it in the back of your throat): Oh, as in “Oh no” or “Oh man” or “Oh bloody hell”.
Ag Man: Oh man, with more than a hint of frustration, irritation or annoyance; e.g. Ag man, what did you go and do that for?
Ag Shame: Shame is a South Africanism for pity or sympathy, but it can also be used to indicate cuteness. E.g., Ag shame, did you hurt yourself? And, Ag shame, he got his exam results today and they weren’t good. And, Ag shame, did you see that fluffy puppy?
Arvie: Afternoon, e.g., We’ll pop round for tea sometime this arvie.
Babelas: bubba-luss: Hangover, often the consequence of a really good braai.
Bakkie: buck-key: South African version of the pickup truck. Also used to refer to plastic containers like Tupperware, e.g., What must I do with the leftovers?Sommer stick them in a bakkie.
Biltong: Spiced, cured and dehydrated meat, similar to (but much tastier than) beef jerky. It’s usually made from beef, game and ostrich. A favourite TV snack, and almost essential for any rugby match.
Bladdy: Damn, e.g., I can’t believe the bladdy referee gave that penalty.
Bliksem: blik-sim: To hit or punch, e.g., I’ll bliksem you if you eat my biltong. Also used derogatively, like bastard; e.g., that bliksem stole my bakkie. It can also be used for emphasis, e.g., a bliksems high building.
Boet: Brother, usually used in reference to friends, or any male companion. E.g., Hey boet, did you bring the biltong for the big game tonight?
Boerewors: :boo-rah-vors (roll the r) (wors for short): South African farm-style sausage commonly braaied and eaten on a roll with tomato sauce and mustard.
Bossies (or Bos): Nuts, crazy, insane, usually used to refer to someone who has gone nuts or lost the plot. E.g., She went bos when she saw what the muddy dog did to her white sofa.
Braai: brr-rye (roll that r): Barbecue, when women spend hours in the kitchen preparing salads, meat and puddings and men spend hours getting a fire just right so that they can cook the meat and give the women a “day off”. Alcohol is usually in abundant supply, especially beer.
Bru (or Bro) brew: Similar to boet.
Cafe’: pronounced the French way, but completely different: “Corner” shop or superette where you can buy absolutely anything, except alcohol.
Charf: Flirt, e.g., Check that china charfing my chick.
China: (Alternate spelling Chyna) Friend, pal, buddy. Considered outdated in some circles where bru is more common.
Check: See, look, pay attention. E.g., Check here my china, this is my chick, so back off. And, Check this weird looking butterfly.
Dikbek: Grumpy, upset, sulky, e.g., He’s dikbek because his team lost last night.
Dinges – ding-us: Thingy, whatzit, random item whose name you can’t remember.
Dof: Stupid, e.g., Don’t be dof, of course the Springboks are going to win.
Donner – don-ner (roll the r): Beat up, e.g., I’m going to donner you if you don’t stop checking me skeef.
Doos: Very derogatory for stupid idiot, pretty much equates to female genitalia. Only use it if you’re comfortable with the English equivalent – the c-word.
Dop: Alcoholic drink, usually a spirit of some kind. E.g., Are you going to have a dop before you go? Nooit bru, I’m driving.
Dorp (or dorpie): Small town, usually in the back of beyond.
Doss: Sleep, e.g., Do you want to doss on my couch tonight?
Droëwors – droo-ah-vors: Dried sausage, similar to biltong.
Dwaal: Lost or loss of concentration, e.g., I was in a dwaal and didn’t see the red robot.