South African English

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The dialect of English spoken in South Africa and surrounding countries, notably Namibia and Zimbabwe.

South African English is not unified in its pronunciation: this can be attributed to the fact that English is the mother language for only 40% of the Caucasian (white) inhabitants (the remainder having Afrikaans as their mother tongue) and only a tiny minority of black inhabitants of the region. The dialect can be, however, identified by many loan-words, mostly from Afrikaans, but increasingly also from isiZulu and other African languages. Some of these words, like "trek", have seeped into general English usage.

Traditionally, South African English has been spoken by white South Africans, but a distinct Indian South African form of English has long existed and an equally distinctive black South African English is developing very rapidly. Convergence between these sub-dialects can be observed, but is a slow process.


SA English -- meaning
bakkie - a utility truck, pick-up truck
braai - a barbecue, to barbecue
impi - horde of warriors
lekker - good, well, OK
shebeen - an illegal tavern, usually frequented by black patrons
sommer - for no particular reason, just because
trek - to move, to wander
tsotsi - thug, criminal, bandit
yebo - yes


There are also a few unique constructions in South African English, where common English words take on new meanings:

SA English -- meaning
boney - motorcycle (from the Triumph Bonneville)
goose - girl, young woman, girlfriend
howzit - hello, how are you, good morning
just now - A short time from now
I beg yours? - I beg your pardon?, Sorry?, Please explain?
izzit (is it) - an all purpose exclamative, equivalent to "really?"
now now - later on (later than "just now")
robot - traffic light
sharp - good, well, OK
tackies - sneakers, plimmsolls, sports shoes.