A World of Wacky Words


Every book I’ve read throughout my life has been about American characters who live in America, and who live American lives. When I first started writing, I thought the location for all my stories had to be based in the US. It was a challenge trying to replicate that since I’ve never been there myself. In any case, any American would spot my sorry attempt a mile away.

Don’t get me wrong, I love anything to do with America and my greatest desire is to visit that beautiful country one day. But I didn’t think it would be fair to the majority of my readers to fabricate something I couldn’t relate to firsthand. I wondered whether a change in setting could work. Wouldn’t my stories be richer if filled with personal experiences and authentic touches? Where I could truly and honestly convey the sights, sounds, and smells of towns and cities I’ve grown up in? Hey, maybe there’re a few people who’d actually LIKE to be transported to places they’ve never visited. Those settings may seem laboriously familiar to me, but perhaps to somebody else it would actually be interesting. (‘Aha’ moment.)

When I adopted that viewpoint, putting my characters in familiar settings became easier, and actually more fun!

Now, clearly some words we use are a little different and, of course, we spell things differently, too. That posed another challenge. If I was going to set my stories in SA, would I go with US or UK spelling and grammar? Or US spelling and grammar, but UK (SA uses UK) terminology? (My conclusion is that it all depends on the publisher and my target market.) Finding the right balance has been challenging at times, but loads of fun.

If I were to use primarily SA terminology in my books, half the world wouldn’t know what I was talking about. So, I’ve had to train myself to “think like an American” when I write – e.g. “elevator” instead of “lift” and “hood” instead of “bonnet.” Oodles of South Africanisms wouldn’t work in a book that’s aimed at a worldwide audience…so for today’s blog I’ve decided to share some fun words and phrases we use. Hope you enjoy…


AG: An exclamation of irritation

BABBELAS: Hangover

BAKKIE: Pick-up truck

BALLIE: Old man

BILTONG: Dried meat, similar to jerky

BLIKSEM: Punch / beat up

BOET: Term of affection / brother

BOEREWORS: Traditional sausage, esp. used on a braai

BRAAI: Barbeque

BUNDU: Wild remote country

COZZY: Swimming / bathing costume

EINA! Ouch!

EISH: Oh no / goodness me / gosh (I use this all the time.)

DONNER: Punch / beat up

DORP: A small town

GATVOL: Fed up / had enough

HOOTER: Horn (car)

HOWZIT: Hello / how are you?

JA: Yes

JISLAAIK: An expression of outrage or surprise

JUST NOW: A little later on

KOKI: Felt-tip pen / marker / sharpie

KOMBI: Minivan


LEKKER: Nice / great / pleasant

LIFT: Elevator

MEALIE: Corn on the cob

MUTI: Medicine

NAPPY: Baby’s diaper

NOW NOW: Fairly soon

PADKOS: Food for the journey

PAP: Mealie meal / ground maize

PAVEMENT: Sidewalk

ROBOT: Traffic light

ROCK UP: Arrive somewhere unannounced

RUBBISH BIN: Garbage can

SHAME/AG SHAME: Means “oh cute’ or “you poor thing” or “I feel sorry for you”. (I use this all the time, too!)

STOEP: Veranda

TAKKIES: Sneakers

TORCH: Flashlight

VELD: South African countryside

VOETSEK: Go away / buzz off


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