Thursday, July 4, 2013

“Whoopsie!” And Other South African Sayings



The hospitality of South Africans is beyond measure. They are warm, generous, and polite. They meet you at the door and walk you out too. Everything they do for you is "their pleasure."  How generous are they? While sipping coffee in Madham’s Cafe a stranger walked up and asked, “Is that your Landy? I think we passed you on the way into town.” When we told him we were in Hoedspruit for a month while Scott takes flying lessons Donovan said, “I have a small vacant house on my property. It’s a bit out of town but you are welcome to stay there.” Meanwhile at least three other people in town were looking for accommodation for us too. In the end, we rented a wing of a house in town, yet in the bush, in a place called Raptor’s View. I am writing you from the deck of Lisl’s house overlooking Africa, all the way to the Drakensberg Mountains.

Everyone in Hoedspruit seems to have two or three jobs. I think Lisl has six. She’s an environmental speaker and retired Air Force helicopter pilot who teaches Pilates, Tai Chi, and Zumba, writes, and coaches local women on empowerment and entrepreneurship. She is also the Goodness Guru at Madham’s. Best of all, she picked a pretty incredible spot to live. When Scott rides to the hanger for lessons (on the bicycle his instructor Bruce McDonald generously lent him) he often passes giraffe on the way.



When Scott isn't flying we practice our tracking skills and usually run into an interesting species or two. 

I love the way South Africans speak. I love their accents and intonations but I especially love their sayings. People the world over have words or phrases unique to their experience but I find the expressions in South Africa to be the most charming. The most charming of all, which I heard for the second time in one week, is “Lord, love a duck!” meaning, “You don’t say!” or “How in the world did you find that?” Or in the situation used the other day, “I can’t believe you still have the email I sent you three years ago!”

“Shame” It is usually delivered almost in a whisper. Shame can be used in place of “What a tragedy”, or “Oops” or “That really bites!” or “That is very kind of you.” Examples include, “I lost my job” – “Shame.” “I spilled my milk” – “Shame”, or “Here, why don’t you borrow my binoculars?” – “Shame.” We met a woman who never said just “Shame.” It was always, “Shame, Daddy” which I can’t explain at all.

“Whoopsie!” Like “Oops” or “Oopsie daisy!” as in, “Whoopsie, I spilled some Tequila."

“Oaks” It means, as far as we can tell, “folks” as in “Those Oaks are really nice people.” I forgot to ask what they say when they want to say oak as in oak tree, oak barrel...

“YE-EEES!” It’s “yes” but said with a lot more conviction, enthusiasm, and excitement. When South Africans say, “YE-EEES!” they sound like they’re… well, climaxing. Got me to wondering… never mind. Anyway, this is my favorite expression.

“Chilled” It means relaxed but it’s often used with animals as in, “That bull elephant in musth (which means he has super high levels of testosterone coursing through his veins) is really chilled!” We think this a very misused expression. Lions and elephants are nothing like teenagers collapsed on a couch listening to music or watching TV. If you annoy a chilled teenager they are unlikely to chomp or stomp you to death as a lion or ellie would. Whenever one of our guides says, “That leopard is chilled!” I feel like saying, “Are you serious? Go over and change his channel and see what happens.”
Here's one we encountered in Kruger who knocked this tree over in order to get at the tidbits at the top - or just because he could. 

“Shhyo!”  Delivered with a loud exhale and as far as I can tell it means “Wow!” or “OMG!” or “YE-EEES!” or “I’m speechless!” or “You said it Buster!”

“Have you seen the Southern Cross?”  Just about everyone we meet asks us this question. When we say, “Yes” they accuse us of fibbing. “Are you sure you’ve seen the Southern Cross? Do you know how to find south by using the Southern Cross?” When we say “YE-EES!” (because we were required to on our course) they still tell us anyway, “See those 4 stars? And the pointers below?...” Anyway, the Southern Cross is a pretty cool mass of stars in the Southern Hemisphere.

“You must” or “You mustn’t” This is used in place of “I suggest” or “You might consider” when giving advice. I get a little tired of people telling me what I must or mustn’t do. “I’m the boss of me!” as I used to tell my mother.  I know “must” is just an expression but it started to bug me. “You must speak louder” or “You must tint the windows on your Landy so that people can’t see what is inside.” (That one is actually pretty good advice and we probably should, must do that.) The only time I appreciated being told what I mustn’t do was when a woman in a small town tourist information office said while pointing to a squiggle on our map, “You mustn’t take that road. There are potholes. Also, service workers are on strike in that town and they will throw rocks at your vehicle.”
“Okay!” I said, “I mustn’t!” But after a pause she said, “I just remembered that today is Sunday and on Sundays they won’t throw rocks. They will throw rocks again tomorrow, on Monday. You must take this road.”

All in South Africa seem to have a Jack Russell as a pet. Whenever we meet families traveling in Kruger Park where pets are not allowed we ask, “Who is taking care of your Jack Russell?” and no one ever says, “Shhyo! We don’t have a Jack Russell!” If they did we would respond, “Shame” because they really are the most amazing pets - especially the Jack Russell named Fraser who we met at Jembjo’s Lodge in Knysna. Best dog ever.

South Africans love to braai – barbeque – though it is a process that takes hours and hours because they start with logs and keep adding logs until they burn down to coals so you are usually pretty hungry by the time the meal is ready to eat. While we wait for the logs to produce coals we drink. Man! Can South Africans drink! (This characteristic fits in nicely with my Irish heritage.) They mostly drink beer and wine, but also Rum and Coke, or Brandy and Coke, or Tequila and Tequila. They eat meat and lots of it. No one knows how to braai like a South African male. It makes my mouth water just to think of it.

“Ach!” means, “I miss-spoke. I meant to say I would like a Rum, not a Tequila.”

"Now", Just now" and "Now now" all mean something different as to time when something will happen but I always get them mixed up. I think "just now" means "sometime in the future," or "don't hold your breath."

We learned in our firearm handling classes that "immediately" is defined as "by the end of the next business day."

No one knows how to enjoy the weekend better than South Africans. At least here in Hoedspruit they do. Shops close earlier on Fridays and even earlier on Saturdays. Most of the town is closed on Sundays. People savor and enjoy their time off to spend time with family or attend sporting events. We could learn something  here.

We noticed that when South Africans camp in Kruger, they build mesh fences or barriers all around their site. They bring lots of stuff and 100 feet of extension cord because they like to have lots of lighting strung up around their sites. But they are very quiet and respectful of others and they go to bed when the meat is finished so this is another reason to like them.

I won’t talk about the politics because when it’s discussed, South Africans always say, “Ach! We could talk about this for days and no one would agree!” But everyone we have spoken with says that Nelson Mandela, 94 and in hospital, was a great leader and is wonderful man.

We hear side striped jackal at night and choruses of birds during the day. Five warthogs just walked by. I love it. Two properties away, Derek Solomon, renowned safari leader, birder, and wildlife sound recorder extraordinaire, generously gave three hours of his time to tutor us in the use of sound equipment that we use to record vocalizations of animals we meet in Kruger.

We don’t deserve any of this generosity! But we are grateful. I only hope we have a chance to pay it back. Or forward.
Scott and Tris
Hoedspruit South Africa







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