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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa

Sat, 29 March 2008

South African surfers talk funny – mostly because they’re surfers, but also because they’re South African. Our local slang is a strange mixture of words and phrases from the languages of settlers from Europe and Asia, as well as indigenous peoples, notably Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho and Khoi-San. This glossary includes words used by surfers, but also more general words. Some might be vaguely offensive, so sorry for that.

Most of the pronunciation is obvious, but where it isn’t we’ve spelled it out for you in brackets. We haven’t used formal phonetic symbols, but what will be easiest. Also – sometimes we’ve used Surfrikan words to explain other Surfrikan words, in which case they’re marked with *, so you can look them up. Language is dynamic and slang changes particularly fast. Check out ballie* slang here if you are an old toppie*.


gh   guttural sound in the back of the throat like the ‘ch’ in the Scottish ‘loch’, or the German ‘ach’.
ô     like the vowel sound in fork or walk, but shorter and sharper, not common in English.
oe   the short vowel sound in book, cook and bull.
u     the short sound in cup or mud, which is not as obvious as it looks.
r-r   rolling the ‘r’.
uh   that peculiarly English sound, as in the second syllable of ‘batter’.

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