Besides recognisable characteristics of South African English, such as ‘Vrystaat’, ‘ou boet’ / ‘ou swaer’, ‘eksê’ or ‘nogal’, speakers of South African English give clear indications – even if their accent is not marked – of their being South African. Many of our South African English structures have unexpected meanings or usages which are not found in General English. South Africans are also, like their counterparts elsewhere, linguistically creative, and have coined many new English words and phrases. You may readily recognise some of these items, but there will be others which you will be surprised to learn are unique to South Africa. It is this, as much as our accent and the borrowings, which makes South African English quite as distinctive as any other World English.
Would you, for instance, recognise South African English if you came across debates about labour brokers or transformation; or if you heard of someone who was making eggs, ordering monkey gland sauce, having a cadenza, busy dying or taking their pavement special to the vet? Would you identify a fellow South African if you were told that she still told you about something, or that someone is a real Model C, or that the teachers are threatening a chalkdown? And what about the children playing doctor-doctor – are they South African?
Maybe you have been surprised when you came across an overseas visitor who was waiting impatiently because someone had promised to meet her just now but had not yet arrived ten minutes later. Maybe you confused the visitor further by replying, ‘No, I’m fine’ when she inquired after your health.
And what about the person who says she is having a boyfriend in Jo’burg, or threw the cat with a stone, or forgot her jersey at the restaurant or enjoys hot-hot chips? Or perhaps he tells someone that a situation is very, very dire and that he therefore needs an advice? These may sound strange – or even incorrect – to some, but it is still English, just a different type of English: South African English.
All of these are examples of the unique English elements of the English that has been made in South Africa. And this book aims to regale you with many examples of South African English. An understanding of these items can be useful and enlightening to South Africans themselves in our linguistically rainbowed nation, as well as to strangers in our midst, who may well wonder what on earth we are talking about.
Written in an accessible style, each chapter features words and phrases from different aspects of life – some serious and some not so serious – with actual examples of usage from written and spoken sources. All this is interspersed with pictures and illustrations that liven up the text.
‘I found the text well informed, informative, astute and wonderfully entertaining – surely a good recipe for a “popular” publication! It may have an additional appeal as a reference work as well as being a discerning and shrewd reflection on current SAE usage. It has an appealingly brisk pace as well as being visually attractive. The inclusion of “real” newspaper cuttings, reports, advertisements, op-eds, Wikipedia entries etc. makes for a very grounded discussion – often usefully suggesting the sheer variety of possible usages of a term.’ – Reviewer