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15 Slang Phrases You'll Need to Know in South Africa

South Africa Student Work Languages
by Caroline Richards Nov 18, 2014

1. Shame!

This is an endearing term that is used by South Africans in just about every social situation. Seriously, when in doubt, just say “Ag shame” and your sentiment will be greatly appreciated.

A: “I just got a new puppy.”
B: “Shame.”
A: “Her sister is seriously ill and was admitted to hospital.”
B: “Shame.”
A: “My brother won a million bucks yesterday.”
B: “Shame!”

2. Ag | Oh man

Ag — pronounced “Ach” — is a filler word. We South Africans love our filler words. If you ever feel like you have said “shame” too often — very unlikely — just throw in a filler to change it up a bit.

Ag, I had a great time last night.”

3. Izit? or Sho? | Is that so?

Best used when you have absolutely no clue what somebody is talking about but don’t want to sound like a dofkop (stupid head).

A: “I’m currently analysing the two different types of software, SAP and ORACLE.”
B: “Izit?”

4. Ja, Nee | Yes, no

These two words are often used in succession to express agreement or confirmation.

Ja, nee I’m fine thanks.”

5. Jawelnofine | Yes-well-no-fine

This is an expression of resignation.

A: “The school fees have increased by over 20% this year?”
B: “Jawelnofine.”

6. Just now | An unknown amount of time

You may be thinking that you know exactly what this means. But, no, even South Africans don’t always know if “just now” refers to a few minutes, tomorrow, or never.

So, if a South African ever says to you “I’ll do it just now” or “I’ll be there just now,” don’t expect it to happen anytime soon.

7. Just sommer | Just because

Have you ever done anything just because? We do it so much we have a special word for it.

A: “Why are you laughing?”
B: “Just sommer.”

8. Loskop | Loose head

This is just a humorous excuse, used to explain away forgetful or odd behaviour.

“I am such a loskop today. I forgot your jacket at home.”

9. Lekker | Good

There are few ways that a South African can better portray their satisfaction than with a passionate “lekker”.

“That was a lekker braai bru!”

10. Babelaas | hangover

11. Jol | A party

Any party, get-together or fun activity is a jol.

“Sounds like they are having a real jol next door.”

12. Jislaaik, Jussie, Jo, Haibo, and Haw | Used to express surprise or confusion

Jislaaik bru, that was a big wave!” or “Haibo, you’re not 21.”

13. Klap | To give someone a smack

This is an Afrikaan term. It can also get more serious. A snotklap is a snot smack, taken from the mental image of smacking somebody so hard that mucus starts to spray from their nose.

Then there is also geklap, which basically means getting so drunk that somebody may as well have smacked you in the face.

14. Muti | medication

15. Robot | Traffic light

Did you think there are actual robots controlling the flow of traffic on South African roads? That’s ridiculous.

Let’s see what you’ve learned. Translate the following:

Juslaaik bru, you don’t look too lekker?
Ag ja I got a bit geklap at last night’s jol.
Shame man, don’t you want to take some muti for that babelaas?

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