Thursday, April 30, 2015

Izzit Howzit Shame

The country of South Africa recognizes 11 official languages including English. When out and about we hear people speaking in other languages every day. The good news for Mr. Deep and me is that everyone that we have come into contact with so far has spoken English.

Even though English is spoken it has taken a while to be able to clearly understand people from South Africa when they speak. I think now I can understand 90% of what is said. Partially the challenge is the accents and partially the challenge is the unusual words and phrases used.

I want to share with you a few favourite (see what I did there) words and phrases heard regularly.

The letter z is called zed. Most people could probably live here for a year and not have to say zed. But I have a zed in my name so I have been trying to use it. When trying to set up bottled water service for our home over the phone I spelled my name. The woman on the phone said "why didn't you just say z?" I replied that I was new here and trying to speak appropriately. Now I am totally self conscious when saying zed.

Izzit is like saying “oh really.” It seems you can have a whole conversation with someone where you tell them things and they just reply izzit over and over. The funny thing about izzit is that it doesn’t always have to do with an it which Mr. Deep and I just couldn't get over for a while.

Statement: “it’s raining in Sunninghill.”
Reply: “Izzit?"

Statement: “I’m from New York”
Reply: “Izzit?”

Statement: “That woman is a doctor”
Reply: “Izzit?”

Statement: “My parents went to Australia last year”
Reply: “Izzit?”

One of the nicest phrases that I want to adopt and start saying is pleasure.  It’s pronounced “play sure” and it’s used instead of saying “you’re welcome or “no problem.” It sounds so classy.

Sometimes people will say "it's only a pleasure" which if possible sounds even kinder and more polite than pleasure. We went and had dinner at the home of one of Mr. Deep's co-workers last weekend. I sent an email to say thank you and the wife replied, "it's only a pleasure."

Howzit means what’s up or hi as in how is it? Mr. Deep can’t help but look at each other and smile when we hear howzit. Mr. Deep is now also greeting people with howzit. He and I also text (I mean SMS as they say here) each other during the day to ask "howzit?"

Mr. Deep told me about sorted and now I'm hearing it all the time. It is used in the case when an American might say "all set." Today I was in the hardware store and the clerk asked me if I was sorted. The t's are pronounced very strongly here so it sounds like, "ma'am are you sorTed?" A thing can also be sorted. If your dishwasher was broken and now it's been fixed it's been sorted.

And finally for today shame. It seems shame doesn't have to be referring to something that is a shame although it could be used if someone is commiserating with you. It's like the way southern people say "bless your heart." It means isn't that cute or you poor thing.

1 comment:

  1. Zed, pleasure, and sorted come from the British influence. You'll find the same in Australia. Izzit is essentially a shortened "is that so?" You'll also hear "kit" a lot which means uniform or clothing and sometimes they will use "gear" meaning much the same thing. Both are equally common in the UK.

    I'm surprised you did not mention tinkle, lekker, or kak.


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Hello and thank you for taking an interest in my blog. This blog tells the story of some big life changes. First, my husband and I have just moved to Geneva, Switzerland for a few months following a few years of living in Johannesburg, South Africa. The two places could not be more different. I'm excited to share our adventures, challenges and insights with you! My thoughts and opinions are my own.