South Africa is a diverse country made up of a rich tapestry of people, cultures and stories. Each of these threads make up for some colourful uses of language, and how we communicate is one characteristic that has made us truly unique the world over.
Jo’burg, an ethnic melting pot, saw its mining history birth the likes of fanagalo – a pidgin hybrid of isiZulu, and bits of English and Afrikaans. The eclectic and our oldest city, Cape Town, has continued to also be a hub of African, Eastern and European cultures, which have naturally culminated in a few off-kilter colloquialisms. There are countless terms from all parts of the country that are unique to the respective regions, and those that have even made their way to mainstream conversation and it’s evident in our everyday slang.
Here are five South African slang words you can start with to blend in with the locals:
The Afrikaans word that means “good”, “great” or “nice” would be one of the easiest to apply. “The food was lekker,” for example.
Another favourite that’s used across provinces, can be used interchangeably to express certainty as you would with “sure” or as a greeting instead of “hello”. “I can meet you there, for sho,” for example.
This may be South Africa’s ultimate “filler” word when you’re either at a loss for words or want to express a dire situation. For example, “Eish! I forgot the keys.”
This would traditionally refer to a staple food of the country made from maize, but for some, it’s use denotes an unsavoury situation. “Yes, we lost the game. It was pap.”
When someone or something has fallen short of expectations, they’ve simply delivered “dololo”. “I asked for a glass of water. What did I get? Dololo,” for example.
These are just a few examples. Speaking with the locals may be the best way to learn slang and how to apply it.