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I love words.
One of the things I love about words is how they are used in different ways in different places - even amongst people who speak the same first language.
English is one of the 11 official languages of South Africa, and regrettably and embarrassingly the only South African language I speak.
There are some notable differences between Canadian and the South African English that I have observed that quite enjoy.
Here are some of my favourite South African words/expressions:
1) Robot. That thing that turns red to tell you to stop and green to go? It isn’t a traffic light here - it’s a robot. So if someone tells you to turn right at the robot, don’t look for R2D2.
2) Braai. A favourite South African past-time of throwing meat on the grill is braaing, not barbequing.
3) Howzit? Abbreviation of how’s it going? A very quickly spoken greeting, and not always meant as a question.
4) Is it? Spoken as a question but really meant as a comment, like ‘is that so?’. When I arrived, I kept wanting to answer ‘yes, it is’ until I realized that it is meant rhetorically.
5) JYOOOHHHH. One of my favourites. It is more of a sound then a word – akin to ‘Wow!’.
6) Hectic. Used to refer to pretty much anything intense, chaotic, etc… The wind can be hectic, a party can be hectic, a fight, a day… you get the picture.
7) Shame. Anything negative meets a response of ‘shame’ from the listener. Sometimes accompanied by empathy, sometimes not. ‘I missed class today’ – ‘shame’, ‘my friend is sick’ – ‘shame’...
8) Yebo. isiXhosa for yes.
9) Sharp, Sharp (to me the pronunciation sounds closer to chop, chop). Used as a greeting, to say everything is cool, when saying goodbye, etc.
10) ‘Now’ vs. ‘Just Now’ vs. ‘Now now’. One of the most confusing to me. They all denote different urgency. Now is right away as we would understand it in Canada. Just Now is a bit further into the future and Now Now further into the future than that. When my Swedish friend Lena moved here to be with her South African partner, the cause of most of their fights would be when he said he would do something ‘now and now’ and it took days to weeks to do.