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
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 email@example.com