Lekker to Stellenbosch some okes
DID you know that you can use the word "Stellenbosch" as a verb?
During the second Anglo-Boer War, British officers who had failed to display any conspicuous valour in the face of enemy fire, or who were downright cowards, were sent to Stellenbosch while their superiors considered what to do with them. Back in those days, to be "Stellenbosched" was a badge of the utmost dishonour. (I don't know about you but I can think of a whole raft of current politicians who should be Stellenbosched without delay.)
Another word we got from that great conflict - but that is now almost completely obsolete - is to "maffick".
Being a man of letters, so to speak, I possess a very large dictionary and my large (Collins) dictionary defines mafficking as "to celebrate extravagantly and publicly". My dictionary is silent on "Stellenbosching", but it does, at least for now, recognise "maffick", derived from the exuberant celebrations in which many Londoners engaged after word came through in 1900 that the siege of Mafeking (today Mahikeng) had been relieved.
From the war of 1899 to 1902 the English-speaking world adopted the word "khaki". This is actually an Urdu word but that was the colour the English troops wore while out in the veld/veldt (the English are not quite sure how to spell the latter).
Published in 2000, my dictionary is already showing its age. For instance, it describes "tweet" as "an imitation or representation of the thin chirping sound made by small or young birds". And that's all. There is no reference to short internet-enabled messages of 140 or fewer characters and the "F" section makes no reference to a thing called Facebook.
My 2000 Collins does, however, have "monkey's wedding" (S. African informal. a combination of sunshine and light rain") and gogga (S. African informal. any small animal that crawls or flies, esp. an insect).
Being, as I may have mentioned, a man of letters, it will come as no great surprise to you to learn that I have more than one dictionary.
One of the other literary weapons in my arsenal is the Oxford Dictionary of Foreign Words and Phrases. One page of the "D" section of this publication contains such words as "dominee" ("pastor of the Dutch Reformed Church"), "donga" ("ravine or watercourse with steep sides") and "dop" (brandy, especially of a cheap or inferior kind").
The English language is a constantly evolving beast of great complexity, variety and wonder. It used to derive its vocabulary from Britain and the dominions and, to a lesser extent, from the minor English-speaking colonies. But these days it is increasingly being fed by a polyglot English-speaking world that no longer doubts the language's world-wide dominance.
South African English must stand up and be counted among the contributors to the world's lingua franca (funny how we haven't yet come up with an English word for that concept).
With Heritage Day bearing down on us, I was wondering about the state of our current spoken heritage and what words our contemporary situation might contribute to the English vocabulary. What, for instance could it mean to "vavi" and could you make "goldfieldish" an adjective for something relating to a business deal that is terribly murky and generally stuffed up?
What about this one? Phiyega: S.African informal. A senior official who is entirely and consistently oblivious to what is going on around him or her.
(In case you missed it, it has just emerged that the national police commissioner's PR consultant has been running a brothel from his home in Randburg. One might be tempted to admire Makhosini Nkosi's entrepreneurial pluck in starting what he calls an "interesting B&B", one that is home to "the finest selection of ebony goddesses". The whole thing would be too funny for words, except that we're getting a bit tired of sniggering at the follies of our betters and their acolytes. The revelation of the ebony goddesses in the suburban B&B came shortly after Phiyega announced the appointment of a Gauteng police commissioner (who, it turned out, was facing criminal charges).
Send your suggestions for words inspired by South African current shenanigans that should be in the English language to peterdelmar@ vodamail.co.za or @peterdelmar on twitter.
First prize wins a copy of my latest book; second prize wins two copies.
I'm holding thumbs that you all have a lekker jol this Heritage Day and that the babalaas the next day isn't too hectic.