Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Idler, Friday, January 14





A NUMBER of distinctly South African words have been added to the Oxford English Dictionary. Some have been introduced to English from various African languages and Afrikaans.

Afrikaans, the dictionary notes, has been a particularly rich source of loanwords.

Well, the dictionary always did kick off with "Aardvark" (warthog), closely followed by "Aardwolf" (hyena) and "Aasvogel" (vulture), with "Zulu" about third item from last.

New words included are "deurmekaar", an adjective applied to something that is confused, muddled, or mixed up – inspired no doubt by the Brexit debacle - and "voetstoots", first used as a legal term to describe "the buying or selling of items in their existing condition and today used more generally as an adverb to describe actions carried out unconditionally, without reservation or qualification."

Yes, voetstoots is a term used in Roman-Dutch law – pushing away with the foot – meaning that an item is sold as is, the seller not responsible for any subsequent defect.

How would the English language manage without our input?

Other new words in the Oxford Dictionary are "Amakhosi" (1857), a collective term of Xhosa and Zulu origin for tribal leaders or chiefs in traditional Nguni societies, and "ubuntu" (1860), a word signifying the fundamental values of humanity.

Other words on the list, including some slang, are: bunnychow, district surgeon, dwaal, eina, gumboot dance, howzit, ingcibi, ja, ja well, kasi, kif, Mzansi, sakkie-sakkie, sarmie, shackland, skedonk, spaza, tickey box, traditional healer and wine of origin.

I'm surprised they weren't all there already, though I must confess to being mystified by "incibi" and "kasi". "Mzansi" is a rather silly name for South Africa. It means "down there".

"Tickey box" is surely a little archaic. The tickey was the small, silver threepenny bit that disappeared with the calamity of decimalisation. A tickey box was a telephone booth, which doesn't exist any more, while the idea of a call of unlimited duration for the equivalent of two-and-a-half cents is today in the realm of fantasy.

There's a way to go. Future editions of the Oxford English Dictionary need to contain words like skebenga (politician), bambaduza (dancing close) and poepdronk (very drunk).

It all adds up to enrichment of the language, coloration of our vocabularies and is to be encouraged.


IT'S with sadness that I note the death of Stephanie Churton, a grand old lady of art in Durban.

Steph began drawing and painting when she was a child of 11. She died the other day at the age of 92, still painting. Her prodigious output included portraits, landscapes, still life – roses were a speciality – and some amusing experimentations.

Her early mentor was Professor Jack Grossert, and from there she took off, painting mainly in oils though also using other mediums. Her skill and decorative flair made her work popular. One of her last projects was a portrait of her much-loved friend and care-giver Bonnie Nene, who was also teaching her Zulu. This was a lively mind.

I count myself fortunate to have three of Steph's paintings hanging in my flat.



A STREAKER runs through a golf club with a towel covering his face. Three female members are sitting in the lounge.

"At least that's not my husband," says one.

"No, it isn't," says the second.

"He's not even a member," says the third.

Last word

Any woman who thinks the way to a man's heart is through his stomach is aiming about 10 inches too high.

Adrienne E Gusoff

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