Even the Queen of Eng­land uses the word aiyoh

The English lan­guage in South Africa has been en­riched by our eth­nic and cul­tural di­ver­sity. The In­dian el­e­ment that weaved into daily con­ver­sa­tion is fas­ci­nat­ing. LO­CAL CHOONS by KIRU NAIDOO is a light-hearted take on this di­men­sion of South African life

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EVEN if you went to a Wool­worths store, you can­not deny hav­ing said “aiyoh” at some point.

Two years ago, the up­per-crust folks at a fa­mous old univer­sity ruled that the word made the grade for in­clu­sion in the new Ox­ford Dic­tionary of English.

Print copies have been fly­ing off the shelf ever since. Even those who barely opened the free dic­tionary at school are go­ing out to buy a copy.

In the days be­fore hu­man rights made its way into our class­rooms, those high­brow teach­ers used the painful side of a wooden ruler on the knuck­les of chil­dren who did not speak “proper” English.

The news now is that even the queen in Buck­ing­ham Palace can legally ex­claim “aiyoh!” if she spills hot tea on her lap.

The word can be used to ex­press pain, sur­prise, amaze­ment and even cyn­i­cism when said in a par­tic­u­lar ac­cent or in­to­na­tion.

Lo­cal ama­teur lin­guist, Nevlon Chin­samy, of Unit 3 in Chatsworth, is “quite de­lighted” (best to imag­ine him say­ing that in the queen’s ac­cent).

“War­rapend to all our other words?” he asks point­edly.

He makes a con­vinc­ing case that oyo, oy­oyo, ay­oyo and ay­oyama merit at­ten­tion in the dic­tionary.

“Warrabout when we was robbed by that cell­phone com­pany?”

It turns out that “ay­oba” was in com­mon us­age in the In­dian com­mu­nity gen­er­a­tions be­fore it ap­peared on big yel­low bill­boards. The of­fend­ing com­pany, which is yet to pay roy­al­ties, added in­sult to in­jury by giv­ing it wholly bizarre mean­ings.

Asked to use it in a proper way, Chin­samy pipes up: “Ay­oba, you a size 44 and you squeez­ing in a 38 pants?”

The cor­rect re­sponse to that would be, “Aiyoh, how you em­bar­rass­ing me in pub­lic like that!”

● If you know of words or phrases that you would like Naidoo to take a crack at ex­plain­ing, email your sug­ges­tions to post@inl.co.za


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