It’s kif, bruh: Oxford Dictionary says howzit to Mzansi
The authority on the English language has added more SA words to its long list of local lingo
“Howzit bruh, a bunny chow or sarmie from the local spaza would be kif, hey.”
While the purists may scoff at them, words like “kif”, “skedonk” and “spaza” have been recently added to the Oxford English Dictionary in it’s bid to reflect the vibrant lexicon of SA English.
Widely regarded as the accepted authority on the English language, the dictionary updated its list of SA words, with more than 20 new ones, some borrowed from Zulu, Afrikaans and Xhosa.
The dictionary, prior to the update last month, had already documented more than a “thousand words and senses of South African origin”.
In a blog post about the SA additions, Oxford said: “South Africa is known as the Rainbow Nation, a name that celebrates the modern country’s acceptance of and pride in its multi-ethnic and multicultural identity.
“This diversity of cultures, traditions and languages is reflected in the varied and vibrant lexicon of South African English, and throughout the years the Oxford English Dictionary has documented over a thousand words and senses of South African origin,” it said.
Several new words have been added to this long list in the dictionary’s latest update.
Many of the new additions “have been borrowed into English from some of the most widely spoken languages in the country”.
“Afrikaans is a particularly rich source for such loanwords, lending two of the oldest words in this batch.
“Deurmekaar, first attested in 1871, is an adjective applied to something that is confused, muddled or mixed up.
“The adverb voetstoots was first used in English in 1883 as a legal term describing the buying or selling of items in their existing condition, but nearly 100 years later it also began to be used more generally to describe actions carried out unconditionally, without reservation or qualification.”
Other words in this update have their roots in Xhosa and Zulu.
These loanwords date to the late 19th century: amakhosi (1857), a collective term of Xhosa and Zulu origin for tribal leaders or chiefs in traditional Nguni societies, and ubuntu (1860), a word signifying the fundamental values of humanity or of Africanness, also borrowed partly from Xhosa and partly from Zulu.
“Ingcibi, first used in English in 1937, is a Xhosa word for a person who performs circumcisions on young men as part of a traditional rite of passage, while the more contemporary borrowing Mzansi, dating from 1999, is from the Xhosa name for South Africa, also meaning South Africans as a people,” the blog post said.
Oxford also unpacked what a bunny-chow is.
“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, it explained, is a small, unlicensed shop in a township, usually one run from a person’s house.
“South Africans call an old, dilapidated car a skedonk, probably in imitation of the bangs and splutters such a car makes; and they describe anything that they consider cool as kif, a word that can be traced back to kaif, an Arabic word meaning ‘enjoyment’ or ‘pleasure’ ... ”
In a tongue-in-cheek post on its website, SA band The Kiffness acknowledged the OED’s new additions.
“Ya no look here charna, The Kiffness has been sending messages to the Oxford Dictionary society for lank years now telling them they better flippen’ recognise the word ‘kiff’ brah, but they always tuned ‘nort brah, that word is miff’.
“But luckily there was a South African who moved to England because he heard his mate got mugged & he was like ‘nort bru, I’m moving to England’.
“He so happened to be a surfer and somehow he found himself mingling with the larnies in Oxford & he kept tuning the okes, ‘bru how kiff is this scone?’ and By George!
“The okes even decided to add 23 other kiff South African words to the dictionary.”
New words that have made the Oxford English Dictionary
bunny chow, n.
district surgeon, n.
eina, int. and n.
gumboot dance, n.
ja well no fine, phr.
kasi, n. and adj.
sakkie-sakkie, adj. and n.
tickey box, n.
traditional healer, n.
voetstoots, adv. and adj.
Wine of Origin, n.