Sunday, April 02, 2006


Ag nooit my bru (Yes my friend). It has come to my attention that I tend to opgemix (mix-up) a bunch of different lanuages on this here blog. And I'm sick of typing out the translation for CPE over and over again. So I'm gonna one time it china (just do it once mate) with a non-exhaustive glossary post. If you spot (see) something missing or feel something should be added, comment it and I'll update this post. You can checkout this post often 'cos I'll stick it up in right at the top of the links. OK Now so you found this post already, there are some more resources at the bottom of the page.

AF for Afrikaans
EN for English. Mainly for South African slang
FR for French
TT for Totsi Taal, Words from South Africa's 12th language
XH for Xhosa
ZU for Zulu

Amandla! Ngawethu! (XH/ZU)
The word "Amandla", meaning "power", was a popular rallying cry in the days of resistance against Apartheid, used by ANC and UDF supporters. The leader of a demonstration would call out "Amandla!" and the crowd would respond with "Ngawethu!", meaning "It is ours!", completing a South African version of a rallying cry: All Power! To the People!. These two words are still associated with struggles against oppression.

African National Congress. The current ruling party in South Africa who carried the mainstay of the struggle against Apartheid.

Agence National Pour l'Emploi. National Employment Agency. French government run job shop.

Banlieue (FR)
Suburb. This can include suburbs both affluent and under-privileged. Recently the word has often become short-hand for the Parisian suburbs, particularly of the Seine-Saint-Denis district (department 93) which are very under-privileged areas, with large immigrant populations and high unemployment. These were suburbs where November 2005 uprisings were strong.

Boere (AF) Noun pl.
Police. Cop. Pig. Babylon System. Originally from the word "Boer" meaning "Farmer". In more english terms, this latter half of an egg and bacon breakfast, is commonly reviled by one and all. Specifically this term has been used for the SAPS (South African Police Services) who really made their name under apartheid (as the SAP), but cops around the world are all of the same ilk, and are thus Boere. Fuckers one and all.

Bos Befok (AF)
Bos Befok, or Bossies, is the Afrikaans phrase for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It translates literally as Bush Befucked, and comes from soldiers experiences in South Africa's Wars from the 1970's to 1990's, originally derived from fighting in the bush but also referring to the urban conflicts during the 1980's. If you would like to know more about Bos Befok and PTSD, check out the SA Veterans Association website.

Braai (AF)
Barbeque. BBQ. Cooking meat, chicken, fish or vegetables over an open fire. A traditional South African pastime and usually a social event. South Africans will braai for breakfast, lunch, dinner, rugby games or just for the sake of it. Only wimps use gas or electric braais. Purist braaiers will not use fire lighters either as that can negatively influence flavours. As a side note, although braais are popular in France, the tendency is singe meat in open flame. This is not actually good braai practice, where one should cook over hot coals not in the flames.

Confédération Générale du Travail (General Confederation of Labour) - France’s largest trade union confederation. Was strongly influenced by the French Communist Party, importantly during the events of 1968, despite its anarcho-syndicalist origins in 1895 but it cut ties with them in the 1990s.

China (EN)
Mate. Buddy. SA English slang but orignally from Cockney rhyming slang of "China Plate".

Chookie (EN)
Prison. Jail. The Slammer. Originally from the Afrikaans "Tjoekie".

Contrat Nouvelle Embauche. Contract for a New Hire.

Confédération National du Travail. National Confederation of Labour. Also known as CNT-F or CNT-Vignoles. French anarcho-syndicalist union grouping.

Con (FR)
Translates literally as Cunt, but is also used to refer to stupidity and thickness. See Doos.

Congress of South African Trade Unions. Biggest Trade Union grouping in SA.

Contrat Premiere Embauche. First Employment Contract. This is the law which the 2006 student rebellion opposed. It allowed employers to sack under-26s in their first two years of employment without having to give any reason.

Contrat Nouvelle Embauche. Contract for a New Hire. A similar employment contract to the CPE which applies to small companies of less than 20 employees.

Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité. French riot boere. Not as hectic as as SA riot boere because they don't carry live ammunition, but intimidating in their blue RoboCop suits. They live in barracks and are isolated from society, they have a bad reputation for brutality, in particular in the banlieues, where ordinary police do not venture at night.

Departement (FR)
France is divided into 100 departements or districts, all of which are given a two digit number (there are two 20’s - 2A and 2B). The system dates back to 1790, and according to Wikipedia “they were designed to deliberately break up France’s historical regions in an attempt to erase cultural differences and build a more homogeneous nation. Most départements are named after the area’s principal river(s) or other physical features.”

Doos (AF)
Literally means Box. Or Cunt. Take your pick. A muli-purpose word which also denotes stupidity and thickness, much like the French words Con or Connard. Calling someone a stupid doos is laying it on thick. Use it.

Durbs (EN)
Durban. eThekwini.

Fédération Anarchiste. French Anarchist Federation.

Flic (FR)
Police. French Style. See Boere above.

Fliek (AF)
Film, movie, motion-picture.

Joburg (EN)
Johannesburg. Joeys. Jozi. Egoli. Igoli. The world's biggest over-grown mining camp. Ever.

Heita (TT)
Hello. Howzit. Salut. Heita Daar would be Hello There.

Hou bek jou naai (AF)
Shut up you fucker. Afrikaans insult. Famously appeared on a poster when George Bush visited Cape Town in 2003.

Kak (AF)
Shit (EN). Merde (FR). The stuff that gets trapped on your shoe.

Klaar (AF)
Clear (EN), Claire (FR). The best way to say this word is really in the expression "finis 'n klaar?", which would translate as "finished and clear?". But that's not really enough to explain such a beautiful word; you also have to appreciate another word; "klaarblijklik" which would translate from the original Dutch, roughly, into "clearly (EN)" or "clairement (FR)". Using this word at the appropriate moment, in whatever language, can be used to enormous effect. Don't forget it. It's one of my favourite words ever!

Mlungu (XH)
Whitey. White person. Derogatory, but go for it in my book. See "Doos" and "Con".

Pan Africanist Congress of Azania. Sometimes rival to the ANC, and more profoundly driven by a Black Consciousness ethic.

Parktown Prawn (EN)
A ghastly member of the King Cricket family.

Parti Communiste Francaise. French communist party. Slighty more left than the PS.

Poephol (AF)
Arsehole. Pretty much the same meaning everywhere.

Parti Socialist. French Socialist Party. About as exciting as a cold wet grey blanket.

Sharp (TT)
Cool. A Popular, trendy word among South Aficans, who also say "Sharpshoot" as a way of affirming something cool that's been said.

Slaapstad (AF)
Cape Town. Kaapstad. Isixeko Sasekapa. iKapa. Visdorp. Tavern of the Seas.

Totsi (TT)
Gangster. A fact of life in South Africa. We are all Totsis 'cos SA is one big gangster culure ever since Cecil John Rhodes made it big selling ice cubes to thirsty miners way back in the 1870's. Totsi Taal (Dutch for language) refers to the language we all speak.

Toyi-Toyi (TT)
Southern African dance that became famous for its use in political protests in the apartheid-era South Africa. Toyi-toyi could begin as stomping of feet and spontaneous chanting during protests that could include political slogans or songs, improvised and previously made. Some sources claim that South Africans learned it from Zimbabweans. Unarmed protesters used it as a way to intimidate armed soldier and riot police of the white government. It became in integral part of any political protest and ANC meeting. After Apartheid ended, people have used toyi-toyi to protest their grievances against the current government policies. Something I still need to teach the French.

see also: Wikipedia, Wavescape, SA Expats, The Alternative Dictionaries, Argot - French Slang, Cool slang, African Voices, Themba and Bizza, Afrikaans Insults


1 comment:

Cybonator said...

To add to your def of toyi-toyi: it was also a specific march used by MK whilst training troops. very effective at making new recruits fit fast.

And it's 1980s, not 1980's. You're better than that, you've got a graduate degree in English.

Oh, and clever use of "mainstay" in describing ANC's role during struggle, where for most part they were elsewhere