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July 26th, 2016 by

South Africa remains home to such a unique culture, foreigners are often left baffled by some of the things we say. Whether we tell them we would like a spot of “normal tea” or bought the newspaper at the robots, we’re sure to confuse someone at some point in time.

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So what everyday SA expressions are simply mad to the rest of the world?

1. The Plaster Story



Like the name clearly states, “Band-aid”. Why South Africans still insist on using the word PLASTER is baffling to the rest of the world.

2. The “Now, Now” Expression


The word “now” generally has one meaning, but like everything in South Africa, we’ve changed it up completely. It could be “Now”, or “Now, Now”, or “Just now”, which all mean different things, that range from now to later, or anywhere in between.

EXAMPLE: Put on the kettle so long; we’re having tea with your grandparents now, now.


3. The Boot and Bonnet

Around the world, a boot means this:timberland-6-premium-waterproof-boots-mens.jpg

In South Africa, we put groceries and luggage in a boot:

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A bonnet around the world is this:


In South Africa, we use the second meaning in dictionary, which is this:



4. The Gherkin VS The Pickle



The rest of the world uses the word pickle for this tangy delight, South Africans use the word Gherkin.


5. Orange, Mango – Naartjie (Wait, what, huh?)

http: - 12 SA Expressions That Drive The World Crazy


These little babies are delicious and South Africans call them naartjies. The naartjie is not native to South Africa which means the rest of the world probably has a different name for it, for example;  tangerine, satsuma or tangelo. 


6. Let’s Dice!

No, not this.



Not this either.



Yes, this!

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7. Let’s Throw A Wrench In The Works

e8098 spannerthrow - 12 SA Expressions That Drive The World Crazy


How about throwing a spanner instead? When something happens to ruin a particular situation, you will most likely hear a South African say, “Oh, well that is a spanner in the works!”

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8. Robots Exist In South Africa


“I saw him at the robots.” – You what?! Robots are actually traffic lights in South Africa.




9. The Matter With Takkies

takkies (1)

This confuses the living daylights out of most people because the rest of the world refer to sportswear shoes as either trainers or sneakers.


10. Shame


“Awww shame, he is so cute!”

Many South Africans use, “shame” when something is impossibly cute, endearing or just all together wonderful.


11. Give That Baby A Dummy


Most people use the word ‘pacifier’ for a baby’s soothing aid. In South Africa, we call it a dummy.


12. I’m Going To Cut A Fringe

Not this?



Yes this:




  • SAHuisvrou

    Actually, it’s the Americans who call it a “pacifier”. There is quite a list of expressions between American and English too. Same goes for nappy and diaper.

    Yes, we South-Africans have our own lingo, and why not? We have so many mixes in our blood, we have to come up with something as unique as we are.

    Now now is pure SA English for the Afrikaans nou-nou. Have to add the double negative in Afrikaans too (nie….nie). Same goes for naartjie (and lekker biltong).

    This is what makes a country stand out from the next – each unique and special. Why on earth should we all speak one language (which one then?)

    I heard in Botswana: “I will be there at half six”…. now that confuses me, but they seem to understand (does it mean half past six as in English or half an hour to six as in Afrikaans?)

  • “Moruti” Lutz

    You seem to be quite happy citing “the rest of the world”. In most cases, if you had said “Americans” i would have been able to agree with you.

  • Simone Adrienne Carter

    I agree with the opinions below. What an arrogant article, saying we as South Africans drive the “world mad” with these words! Yes, we have uniquely South African words such as “now now”, “takkies” & “robots” for traffic lights. However, the words dummy, boot, fringe & bonnet have the same meaning in British English -it’s the Americans who have given them other names! That’s the choice Americans can make, but don’t say it’s the South Africans that drive the world crazy! Sticking plaster is a correct English word: Band-aid is a brand name! Gherkin is a specific type of pickle – other vegetables can also be pickled. This, gherkin is the correct English word for a pickled mini-cucumber! I have never heard of throwing a “wrench” in the world -is that also an Americanism? Lastly, we love the Afrikaans word “naartjie”, which is akin to the Arabic “naranj” & Spanish “naranja”. We also call it a tangerine – but it has nothing to do with a mango, & is not a “tangelo” either! Please make sure of your facts before running down another country’s language!

    • FergusReturns

      My grandfather sometimes called trainers “tackies”. He was Scottish and, as far as I know, never went to South Africa in his life. My great-great-great uncle did, but that was on the Jameson raid and probably doesn’t count.

  • Annalene Smit

    Glad I can drive the Americans crazy not that they so perfect either…. later boet!

  • Angela Van Eeden

    Well I think the best one is “bend it straight” I mean just wonderful – How does one bend something straight?

    • FergusReturns

      If it’s already bent, how else are you going to straighten it? đŸ™‚

    • MavusiKenpachi

      You bend it halfway into the opposite direction.

  • warren101

    Idiotic article. The word, “plaster”, i.e. adhesive bandage is in fact widely used and understood in the UK. Many of the other words in this article are used and understood in English speaking countries outside of SA. Sick and tired of everything becoming Americanised, (or should that be Americanized?) Already, words like “sidewalk” and “diaper” are creeping into South African English.

    • FergusReturns

      Yeah, exactly. There are a few times in the article where it says “The rest of the world” but means “In the USA”.

  • Delise Saunderson

    Hahaha! “Ja-nee!” (yes-no) dis “lekker” (tasty) here in sunny South Africa! If you get mad, well probably just buy a couple of beers and “braai” (BBQ) and “skiet” (shoot) with a couple of extra jokes! The only thing I don’t get is the world’s miss interpretation of us living amongst wild animals… lol

  • Quishandre

    Ja no, definitely. These are so confusing.

    • Frances Bailey


  • FergusReturns

    “The rest of the world uses the word pickle for this tangy delight”


  • RĂ¼diger Thiede

    Completely unresearched listicle clickbait.

  • Francois Engelbrecht

    I am South African. I will speak like one as well and with an South African accent. There is enough people here that speak “American English” (and some believe they can rap as well). Viva South Africa!!

  • Stealth_Za

    A trainer is someone that trains others. A sneaker is someone that sneaks. A tekkie/takkie is, a tekkie/takkie.

  • Hof

    the word bakkie

  • Dominique Ogilvie

    Simone Adrienne Carter you said it perfectly. I am also sick of seeing Americans picking on South-African English when THEY are the ones who speak badly. To add, to dice is perfectly English meaning to play with dice or cut food into squares. In South-Africa, apart from some local expressions which EVERY country has, we speak proper English like in England, Australia, New Zealand and other English places. It’s the AMERICANS who speak BAD ENGLISH – and the Canadians as well – with their double negatives: I don’t know nothing, I don’t see nobody, I don’t go nowhere….etc which mean in fact the opposite of what they are trying to say and the English expressions THEY changed into their own AMERICAN expressions like: Band Aid (trade name), trunk, hood, pickle, throwing a wrench in the works, sneakers, bangs, pacifier, elevator and many more. Also, with their idea of dropping the ‘u’ in many words like honour, colour, neighbour….. When YOU are the one speaking badly, don’t go pointing the finger at others. America might be big but the rest of the world is bigger, and the rest of the world speaks proper English as from English dictionaries not Americanised versions.

  • Arno Fouche

    Have a laugh and go on with your life, now now it will be over and then the spanner would be in the works for your life, people will say shame and remember to stop at the robot, thinking about the adrenaline for a dice but rather chose to go home and put on their takkies for a run, come home have a naartjie or two and a gherkin in the salad. Life is to short to really care about a dummy or who changed bonnet… Laugh at it and continue your life

  • Lisa-marie Pretorius

    Wow people are getting waaaay to sensitive over this article! LIGHTEN UP!!

    • karen neuteboom

      I agree with you Lisa-Marie.

  • karen neuteboom

    It’s “fluffy piece” that pokes some light hearted fun at us South Africans and it’s totally unnecessary to get so offended.

    My hat ! Have people lost their sense of humour ???????????????????????

    Get a life for pete’s sake.

    • Andy K

      Its true, just have a light moment. Oh guys, you forgot others calling any chewing gum a chappies, lol

  • karen neuteboom

    hahaha. well said