Archiver > SOUTH-AFRICA > 1999-06 > 0930740351

From: "D. Morris" <>
Subject: Dutch, Malay, Hindi, Zulu, /Xam, English...
Date: Wed, 30 Jun 1999 12:59:11 +0200

Hi listers,

A friend on this list will recognise the phrase - as applicable to Afrikaans
and South
African English as it is to American English (of which it was said in Tom
"Oxford Companion to the English Language"): a "gallimaufry of exotic and

The relevance to this list? Well, apart from the debate on use or non-use of
Afrikaans, we have had in the past some useful glossaries of South
Africanisms that
genealogists inevitably encounter, and indeed many of these words are common
South African English and Afrikaans. "Oke",
"ou", "outjie" have overlapping meanings. The Dictionary of South African
cites Athol Fugard's "Blood Knot" to illustrate "outjie" : "When I reached
the first
pondokkies and the thin dogs, the wind turned and brought the stink from the
and tears, and a clear memory of two little outjies in khaki broeks." Pondok
is a
Malay word for hut. Broeks is Afrikaans for trousers. Khaki is Hindi for
(but in the South African context has also been used to refer to British
soldiers [on
account of the uniform]. I have also come across "khakidraad", literally
khaki wire,
referring to the barbed wire that was strung out along [British] blockhouse
lines in the
later stages of the Anglo-Boer War).

Jean Bradford's "A dictionary of South African English" gives a vivid sense
of the
"exotic and native" mix.

Based as I am in Kimberley, one of my favourites is "cocopan" referring to
distinctive trucks used on rails to transport diamondiferous debris from the
mines... the derivation of this word is not entirely certain, but is
plausibly from the
Nguni (incl. Zulu) "nqukumbana", a term originally for Scotch carts, used
for the
purpose before rails and steam came on the scene.

As pointed out by others, there are words and features of Afrikaans (and
that come from Khoisan languages (eina, gogga, kudu/koedoe, quagga/kwagga -
numerous natural history and place names in particular). The reverse of
occurred, leading ultimately to the extinction of most Khoisan tongues. /Xam
is one
of the extinct languages of the Karoo (Khoisan name for the arid Cape
interior) -
texts of which are preserved in Bleek and Lloyd's "Specimens of Bushman
(1911). In the 1870s, when these stories were recorded, the speakers
resorted to
occasional exotic words when using /Xam: " Ssiten /ne /eta ttoronkga //nein
" "We
were in the gaol" [Du/Afr tronk = gaol]; " Ssiten /ne /kei tabacca au
Gau-au" "We got
tobacco from the Magistrate" (these are citations from //Kabbo's account of
capture and journey to Cape Town).

By all means, let's celebrate South Africa's linguistic heritage, surely
part of the
history, one way or another, of everyone pursuing SA genealogy. But for the
of kith and kin who don't have Afrikaans and/or other SA languages, we
should also
make an effort to share the meaning of what we say if using taal other than

Reflections and copious references and footnotes on languages and their
layered interaction in South Africa can be found in Rajend Mesthrie (ed).
"Language and social history: studies in South African sociolinguistics".
Cape Town:
David Philip. ISBN 0-86486-280-6

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