Pardon Me? – translations

Here are the translations for the regionalisms shared in the last blog post.

Geezer” is not a term for an “old man.”  Rather “geezer” is a geyser; and NOT the kind you can see spouting from the earth at Yellowstone but a hot water heater!  We’ve gotten very familiar with our geyser as it is constantly causing everything to trip, called “earth leakage.”  Doesn’t that sound ominous?


Loo– as in “I need to go to the Loo!”  And this has got to be the funniest sign for a Loo I’ve ever encountered anywhere:


Dongle. This word was thrown around a number of times before we decided we just had to ask what it means.  A stick modem of course!


Kokis. Isn’t this a great word!?  We had fun discovering it on the school supply list.  (It means markers – NOT costume make-up for a bunny face!)


Tekkies – Another school requirement, “white tekkies” – which brought us to the South African equivalent of “Sneaker City”:

Fredheim Farm

Bakkie = a small pick-up truck

Hob is stove top.  As you can see ours has gas burners which is handy for cooking when the power is out.  It’s hooked up to a refillable gas tank in a cupboard.  (Photo credit- Thanks Elsa Ruth!)


Slogs – Like our own word- flip-flops, “slogs” sounds like the noise those shoes make, doesn’t it?

Braai = Barbecue; and just like in the U.S. it’s a verb, noun, and adjective.  It definitely deserves its own blog post so we’ll wait for more on this one until we’re more experienced.  Suffice it to say that at least two people have mentioned something along these lines: “South African braai is NOT like in your country…we do real meat.”

Robot.  About as robotic a machine as you can get:


And I have it straight from a police officer, “Do not turn (*left*) on a red light!”… even if you see everyone else doing it.

Boot. You knew this one, right?


(And if you’re wondering about the cooler boxes… you’re not alone.  This Mom is convinced that our old insulated lunch sacks would have worked fine and have been one less thing to pack in the boot everyday!  But the children insist, “We need something to SIT ON like all the other kids!”)

Packets = shopping bags.  Not such an odd word really but it takes a little getting used to in context here.  Most people in SA bring their packets to the store just as we were used to in ND.  What’s different about it is that if you need a bag you will pay for it.  The cost is minimal – about a nickel.  But I find it interesting how the shift from our familiar “bag discount/credit” model to a “bag charge” model ensures that I never forget to bring them shopping.  It’s a subtle difference that reinforces that all those plastic bags do have a cost.

Here’s some history on the issue.  The “plastic bag levy” took effect in South Africa in 2004.  The purpose was to curb the severe litter problem resulting from flimsy one-use plastic bags.  The policy requires that plastic bags be a specific thickness and that retailers charge a standard fee.  Not surprisingly, it’s controversial.  Critics and news articles highlight the government’s failure to use the money generated for environmental programs and recycling.  Supporters emphasize the resulting reduction in plastic bag use since the policy took effect.  While looking into the issue I was interested to learn that some countries and cities have banned plastic shopping bags entirely.  This compelling 3 min. video from a South African perspective has me convinced.

Or if you’re interested in something more in depth, see the TedTalk and “Rethinking the Bag” campaign here:

Civvies= non-uniform clothing, from the word “civilian” perhaps?


It’s cause for celebration around here and not one that comes around too often – about once a term we’re told.  I noticed there was definitely a little extra spunk in everyone’s stride on Civvie’s Day last week!  Here are some of Elsa Ruth’s classmates arriving in the morning:


I wish I had a picture to share from later in the day.  Imagine my surprise as children came out of the classrooms for “Big Break”, each one wearing a sunhat but about one-third barefoot!  What a delightful cultural difference- these South Africans are serious about their skin cancer prevention, but shoes… who needs them?


4 thoughts on “Pardon Me? – translations

  1. The kids think that bathroom/tooting (farting) picture is super funny! We have a plastic bag ban here and you get charged if you want a bag, not plastic as that is not an option but paper. Good thing it’s happening elsewhere around the world!


  2. Hello friends! Love the translations!!! Your fun loving attitude toward language and cultural differences is refreshing and admirable! Oh wow, just think how much needless suffering and angst would be gone if everyone on this great big planet would laugh at each other’s differences, like you all are doing, instead of judging and criticizing!!! Just yesterday paying for my gas at Cash Wise (the vehicle kind, not the loo kind :}) I encountered folks snickering and being outright disrespectful to an older man very confused and upset by the way his purchases were being rung up. He had a strong accent and looked very different than anyone else nearby. I intervened, showed a little respect and offered a dignified solution to this man and we walked out together. The experiences you are having and the relationships you are making will be such a gift to those around you now and in the future when you are back home! You will remind us all here at home how to treat those who appear as strangers…but really are children of God, just like the rest of us. Peace to your week Amy, Scott and Elsa!


  3. Pingback: More Language Fun | sevennorthdakotas

  4. Pingback: Trash | sevennorthdakotas

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