From awê to zamalek: slang every self-respecting South African should know

Check your fluency in the kiffest language there is with this A to Z guide to Saffaisms

28 June 2020 - 00:04 By Mila de Villiers
Saffaisms unite us all.
Saffaisms unite us all.
Image: Siphu Gqwetha



"Ag, shame."

"Nought, bru ..."


"Otherwise you well?"

Yoh, we South Africans mos know how to create a vocab that unites us all, x-sê! Schmaaking what you see? Read on ...

A is for awê: "Awê, hoe lykit?" "Keen for a dop after graft?" "Awê." "Checkers has a Tassies special! Awê!" A greeting, an affirmation, and an exclamation: ja-nee, kyk, this monosyllabic aphorism is more multipurpose than a larney Vaalie's Kruger K-Way camping kit.

B is for babelas: Hangover, katzenjammer, delirium tremens. Jislaaik, Eurocentrism does not do the siff sensation of post-phuza vrotness justice. You know of what I speak! Min lus for the morning-after babelas? Stick to Bring Your Own Bompie jols, bokkie.

C is for china: A tjommie, guzzie, bru, connection, friend. Derived from Cockney rhyming slang (china plate rhymes with mate). Your chinas are the top dogs. The soul ous. The beulah brasse. The kiff kids. The kwaai cats.

D is for dala what you must: A dictionary entry of "dala": /daah-lah/ (v) 1. to do 2. to create. Any South African, anywhere: "Going through kak? Just remember to dala what you must." Simply put? The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. (Kap aan before you kap om.)

E is for eish: Popularised by the preferred dop of your archetypal Afrikaner (Klippies of niks nie!), eish isn't merely an alternative way of pronouncing ys. Frustration: as in "Eish, why is this blerrie robot always out of order?"; disbelief, as in "Eish, I can't believe I spent 500 ZARs on e-Tolls this month"; and even joy, as in "Eish, that was a kiff jol!" can all be conveyed via this single word. Impressive, nè?

F is for finish and klaar: That's it.

G is for gwaai: Pick the china you'd want to bum a smoke off: a) "May I have a cigarette, mate?" or b) "Swaai a gwaai there, my guzzie." (Selected B? One time.)

H is for hundreds: Is life lekker? Are you in agreement with someone? Are you dala'ing what you must? Then everything's hundreds, bru, hundreds! (And yes, the repetition is required.)

I is for izzit: Throwback Thursday to the nation's favourite caricaturist Afrikaans advert, which had us all replacing our soutie "is its?" with "izzits".

J is for jissis: And its numerous variants. Ja, no, look, hey - from jassis to jislaaik to jislaaikit, South Africans have found lank visionary ways of blaspheming without offending the religious among us. Halala!

K is for kiff: Why struggle, choosing between cool, dope, rad, schweet and awesome when you can just gooi a kiff "kiff"? Finish and klaar.

L is for larney: Fênsie, grênd, posh, swanky, bourgie, zwish. Larneys schmaak dinner parties, Woolies and complaining about how windy Cape Town is. Specially if they don't live in the Mother Shitty.

If ever there was one word met with both trepidation and self-parodying wit by white South Africans, mlungu is it

M is for mlungu: "No, Shereen. It's not offensive. Debbie shared an article about it on Facebook." If ever there was one word met with both trepidation and self-parodying wit by white South Africans, this is it. It is regarded as a comical term of endearment by 95% of SA's mlungus. The remaining 5% should do themselves a favour and send Debbie a friend request.

N is for nca: Kiff squared. Lekkerder than lekker. Naaser than Naas Botha. The nca'ist of all Saffaisms to say out loud. You can't go wrong with this one, ous!

O is for one time: When "yes" or "I agree" is too dry, opt for "one time". It'll always do the trick.

P is for phuza: This Zulu term for imbibing has entered the local lexicon with a purpose that skriks for niks, uniting Mzansi's bacchanalian revellers via the nca weekly tradition of Phuza Thursday. Tjorts to that! (PSA @our president's slogan-writers: Cyril Ramaphuza Thursday has a nice ring to it, 'ey?)

Q is for qha: A Xhosa adverb that translates to "only". Add it to any sentence when you really have something to emphasise. "I can't go out tonight. Janu-worry left me with qha -R10.20 in my bank account!"

R is for rawl: A brawl, but laak, the boet version thereof. One oke tuning another oke swak? Jissis bru, you're now mos asking for a rawl! Think fragile-masculinity-meets-the-Kyalami-mamparras. *cue eye-rawl*

S is for Saffa: Are you stoked for keDezemba? Can you tell the difference between a kota and a bunny chow? Do you secretly think one of your colleagues is a bit of a moegoe? Has it taken you longer than the allotted 10-minute break to buy pies and gwaais during a 12- (read: 14-) hour Intercape bus trip? Are you gatvol of load-shedding? Have you ever been kakked on for leaving your takkies at home on atletiekdag? Is Zam-Buk truly the real Makoya? Do NikNaks-stained fingers make you the moer in? If "yes" to any of the above - awê, you're a Saffa!

T is for 'tsek: Often accompanied by the presence of an unwelcome V&A Waterfront seagull's attempt to zop your slaptjips, this interjection demanding something to bugger off has a 50-50 success rate. SA's fowls are tawwe bliksems, my guzzies. Yet the pleasure one derives from hearing and/or uttering an impassioned "'tsek, djy!" is second to none.

U is for umkhaba: Ah yes, the (less brutal) Zulu equivalent of a boeppens, aka the jutting gut that many a Saffa proudly cradles owing to one too many Cyril Ramaphuza Thursdays. #GeenSkaam.

The easiest way to spot a Vaalie? Head to a coastal destination in December

V is for Vaalie: The easiest way to spot a Vaalie? Head to a coastal destination in December. They're plentiful in Plett, Umhlanga, and CT. GP licence plates aside, keep a sharp eye out for anyone who - after spending a few seconds in the sun - resembles the opposite of a lesser camouflaged transvaalense: they burn faster than you can say "lut's claamb Laahn's Head". 'Strues God.

W is for whatkind/what kind: In Durbz? Exchange howzit with whatkind: "Whatkind, cuz!" Elsewhere in the country? It's a proclamation of indignation aswell: "You charfing my chick? What kind, bru?!"

X is for x-sê: Had to take some liberties with this one, x-sê. Askies .

Y is for yoh: Shocked? Surprised? Stoked? Yoh can be applied to all three emotions. Elongate the ô sound for max effect.

Z is for zamalek: Or, as our Canadian connections would say, "Carling Black Label". Yebo, zamalekker's origins can be traced back to the land of ice hockey and excessive politeness. (Honestly - what kind?) But we'll get back to that now-now 'cause this mlungu is lank keen for a post-graft dop.

Hamba kahle, chinas.