Lo­cal is lekker in Ox­ford

‘Kif’ ver­sion of dic­tio­nary fea­tures 25 South African words

Daily Dispatch - - Front Page - ZISANDA NKONKOBE zisan­[email protected]­patch.co.za

In Mzansi, a typ­i­cal night out on the town in­volves cruis­ing the streets in a trusty ske­donk, en­joy­ing a bunny chow from the lo­cal spaza shop and later get­ting down to some good old sakkie-sakkie in the com­mu­nity hall.

Sound kif?

If you have no idea what any of these words mean, feel free to con­sult the lat­est ver­sion of the Ox­ford Eng­lish Dic­tio­nary. These, plus 19 other South African words, make up 25 of the lat­est ad­di­tions to one of the old­est and most used Eng­lish dic­tio­nar­ies in the world.

Ex­plain­ing the lat­est in­clu­sions in a blog posted on their web­site in De­cem­ber, Ox­ford Eng­lish Dic­tio­nary world Eng­lish ed­i­tor Danica Salazar said these words had been bor­rowed into Eng­lish from some of the most widely spo­ken lan­guages in the coun­try.

A num­ber of Afrikaans words made the cut, with one of the words from this lan­guage first used in the Eng­lish lan­guage in the early to mid-20th cen­tury.

A per­haps sur­pris­ing in­clu­sion are five words with their roots in isiXhosa and isiZulu, with the old­est of these words dat­ing back to the late 19th cen­tury.

In­cluded in this list is amakhosi which was first used in Eng­lish back in 1857. Amakhosi can be de­fined as a col­lec­tive term for tribal lead­ers or chiefs in tra­di­tional Nguni so­ci­eties. Ubuntu (1860) is a word which sig­ni­fies the val­ues of hu­man­ity in African so­ci­eties, in­g­cibi (1937) is a per­son who per­forms cir­cum­ci­sions on young men and

Mzansi, a word dat­ing back to 1999, is the Xhosa name for SA.

Toyi-toyi, the name of a dance-like move usu­ally per­formed with chant­ing or singing dur­ing marches or ral­lies which started among black ac­tivists dur­ing the anti-apartheid demon­stra­tions back in the 1980s, is said to have its et­y­mol­ogy in a Bantu lan­guage.

Afrikaans words in­clude deurmekaar

(1871) which means some­thing that is con­fused or mud­dled up, and voet­stoots (1883), a le­gal term de­scrib­ing buy­ing or sell­ing items in their ex­ist­ing con­di­tion.

Then there are the uniquely South African words, such as ske­donk, an old, di­lap­i­dated car, plus the word kif which is used to de­scribe any­thing con­sid­ered cool. Ac­cord­ing to Salazar, a

ske­donk is prob­a­bly named such in imi­ta­tion of the bangs and splutters such a car makes, while kif can be traced back to “kaif”, an Ara­bic word mean­ing en­joy­ment or plea­sure.

“Be­yond bor­row­ings, SA is also rep­re­sented in this lat­est up­date by uniquely South African uses and com­bi­na­tions of Eng­lish words, all of which en­tered the lan­guage in the lat­ter half of the 20th cen­tury,” the blog post reads.

“De­spite its name, bunny chow is not rab­bit food, but a hol­lowed-out loaf of bread filled with curry, a pop­u­lar take­away dish among South Africans.

“A spaza shop is a small, un­li­censed shop in a town­ship, usu­ally one run from a per­son’s house.

“In SA, a sand­wich is a sarmie; a ca­sual greet­ing of ‘how’s it go­ing?’ is short­ened to ‘howzit?’; and a non-com­mit­tal, re­signed, or ironic ‘what­ever’ is ex­pressed as ‘ja well no fine’, pro­nounced quickly, al­most as one word.”

Pub­lisher Ter­ence Ball, of Her­itage Pub­lish­ers, said these in­clu­sions could as­sist in pre­serv­ing the lan­guages.

“Look at Latin, it’s a dead lan­guage but there are still Latin words used till to­day. The same could hap­pen here. The in­clu­sion of these words in the Ox­ford Eng­lish Dic­tio­nary could see them still used cen­turies later, thereby pre­serv­ing them, but only time will tell.”

In agree­ment is Zola Wababa, di­rec­tor and chief ed­i­tor of the isiXhosa Na­tional Lex­i­cog­ra­phy Unit based at the Uni­ver­sity of Fort Hare, who said the in­clu­sion of isiXhosa words was sig­nif­i­cant as dic­tio­nar­ies were tools which pre­served lan­guages.

He how­ever added the im­por­tance of pro­vid­ing proper def­i­ni­tions for these words, while also en­sur­ing that the words were used in the proper con­text by their users.

He said: “A lan­guage grows by bor­row­ing from other lan­guages. Look at the Eng­lish lan­guage, for ex­am­ple. There are a lot of bor­rowed Greek and Latin words, so much that many don’t even know that those words are not re­ally Eng­lish. This is how lan­guage grows and is pre­served. This is some­thing pos­i­tive for the isiXhosa lan­guage.”

He cau­tioned that isiXhosa was a tricky lan­guage to master.

“One word can have the same spelling but mul­ti­ple mean­ings and ways of pro­nun­ci­a­tion. One can only hope that all the dif­fer­ent vari­a­tions will be pro­vided to avoid con­fu­sion to its users.

“Look at the word in­g­cibi, for ex­am­ple. It means builder, but it also means tra­di­tional sur­geon. Will both def­i­ni­tions be in­cluded?”

Ac­cord­ing to Salazar, fu­ture up­dates of the Ox­ford will in­clude even more colour­ful ad­di­tions from the rain­bow na­tion.


PROUDLY SA: A file pho­to­graph of chil­dren from Nt­shetu School per­form­ing their gumboot dance at the Guild The­atre.


TRUSTED IN­G­CIBI: A file pic­ture of re­spected Ngqe­leni-based vet­eran tra­di­tional sur­geon Mvubi Sbewu Sid­lay­isa with some of the ini­ti­ates he has cir­cum­cised.


CURRY IN A HURRY: Bunny chow, or bread filled with curry.

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