7 South Africanisms



Rolling off the tongue as one word, this phrase has taken on a sarcastic twist to mean that someone telling you something might be pretending to tell the truth, but actually the reality of the situation is the opposite. You might indeed go yah-well-no-fine to this explanation, for instance.

“Ja Nee” (yah-near)

Translated, this means “Yes No” in Afrikaans. Yes, this is a paradox. No, it’s not seen as a contradiction in terms. South Africans know exactly what it means: So-so. Maybe.

“Gatvol!” (ghhhh-aht-fall)

Translated literally, this word means ”the hole is full.” Used as a term of absolute frustration, one is gatvol when one has had enough. The emphasis on the ”g” makes this word particularly effective. You know that when someone is gatvol, well, that’s the end of your bullshit…

“My China!”

South AfricanismsNo, not the country. Your best friend is your China. Don’t ask where it came from; just accept it and next time you see your best buddy, say, “Howzit, my China!”

“Howzit!” (howz–it)

South AfricanismsHere’s another term used in everyday conversation. South Africans are well-known for asking complete strangers walking by on a street: “Hello, and how are you?” Howzit sort of shortens that to “How is it?”

“Eish!” (aish)
South AfricanismsUsed in everyday lingo by South Africans across the racial and class divide, ”eish!” is a term that could best be described as an exclamation of light shock. Sort of like ”oh shucks.”
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