If we’re lucky, a word from our lexicon makes it into the Oxford English Dictionary every few years. So imagine our excitement when, after the latest update in June 2015, it emerged that a slew of South African words have been added to the language hall of fame.
Every quarter, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) updates the world’s understanding of English by adding new words that have become acceptable through use to its list.
If we’re lucky, a word from the South African lexicon makes it on to the list every few years. So imagine our excitement when, after the latest update in June 2015, it emerged that a slew of South African words have been added to the language hall of fame.
Expanding on the new listings in an article on the OED website, Katherine Connor Martin, the OED’s head of US dictionaries, said the update contains dozens of words that are not recorded before the 21st century, but which are now widely used in English, including jeggings (2009), photobomb (2008), crowdfund (2008), totes (2005), staycation (2005) and sext (2001).
She says others though “have a surprisingly long history”, such as twerk, which was first used in English as a noun in 1820, and mahala – one of the new South African additions – which dates back to 1941.
Other uniquely South African words are:
The term to describe the birthday on which your age matches the numeral of the day of your birth month (for example, I celebrated my crown birthday when I turned eight on 8 August).
Mahala (adv. and adj.)
Free of charge, gratis. The word comes from the Nguni and Sotho languages.
The inner foil container of a box in which wine is sold.
A conflation of “tender” and “entrepreneur”, tenderpreneur is a recent South African term referring to a person who uses political connections to secure government contracts and tenders for personal advantage.
A street drug that allegedly contains antiretroviral drugs.
A slang word meaning common or “trashy”, which is believed to have originated in the 1990s as an abbreviation of Zephyr, a model of Ford car, and today also describes a counterculture movement.
Now the entire world will know what you’re talking about when you say, “I want a papsak for mahala, so I can celebrate my crown birthday!” Just don’t be zef, and be sure to stay away from the whoonga.