Which part do you hold for luck?

If you were heading off to a job interview and I said, “I’m holding thumbs for you!” how would you respond? If you were a Saffa, like me, you’d say, “Thanks. I need it.” If you were from anywhere else you’d look at me and frown. And if you were British, it’s likely you’d frown and you might say, “WTF?” (Why The Fums?)

Well, where I come from, holding thumbs means the same as the British “fingers crossed”. It means good luck, I’m wishing you well and every success. I used the expression when I was communicating with a work associate earlier this year, and she asked me what I was on about! I was quite surprised, as I thought it was a universal expression, but thinking about it, it must just be a literal translation from the Afrikaans expression. I’d be interested to know who else is familiar with holding thumbs?

So with all my job hunting, I’ve had Saffa friends holding thumbs for me, British friends crossing their fingers for me, and even a dear friend who said he’d cross everything he had in pairs for me!

There are a number of expressions and words that I use that make no sense here, and vice versa. I thought I’d run through a bunch of them:

  • In SA, we wear pants, and underneath them, we wear underpants. In Britain, people wear pants under their trousers.
  • I wear takkies, which are known around here as trainers or sneakers.
  • A fabulous sunny SA leisure pastime is a braai, known here as a barbecue, or BBQ. Our Ozzie friends talk about barbies, but that’s the subject of another blog!
  • What I call a geyser, is known locally as a boiler or a hot water system. If I asked someone here to come in and check out the geyser, they’d send over a doctor to look at my husband!
  • Our flat overlooks a small dock, filled with yachts and boats. Most of the boats have people living in them. They have a communal ablution block, which I understand is known locally as a shower unit.
  • I communicate via sms on my cellphone. Here, you send texts or you message from your mobiles.
  • We have to be careful inviting people for tea here. It could mean afternoon tea or it could mean supper.
  • Don’t get me started on flapjacks, pancakes, scones, crumpets – who knows what any of them mean! I don’t have a clue!
  • If I do someone a favour, they could respond by saying any of the following: ta, cheers, brilliant, wicked.
  • Are you stopping means are you staying.
  • Where I might harp on about something – like job hunting! – others here might bang on about it.
  • When I started my temp job earlier this year, a colleague asked me if I wanted a drink. I thought gosh, I know it’s important to fit in, but drinking at 11 o’clock in the morning? And at work? As I felt all my possible responses flash before my eyes, he said, “What’d you like, tea or coffee?” Where I come from, if I offered someone a drink it would usually refer to an alcoholic one, otherwise I’d offer to make you a cup of tea or coffee!
  • There are a number of words here that mean very:
    • dead:  I was part of a small market research group a few weeks ago, and the wonderful market researcher, shy as a button, introduced the process to us by saying, “Right, it’s going to be dead informal.”
    • well: you could describe a good-looking person as well fit, or a bright person as well clever. My favourite explanation of this comes from one of my nephews. He believes that Jesus was definitely from London, given that God said of Him, “This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
    • bear: I don’t know this one too well, but my lovely sons tell me that it’s used a lot by their young adult contemporaries. It’s bear cold out there, bruv.  I could write a whole blog about language of that generation – watch this space!

There is a delightful commercial on television in SA for a fast-food chain. It features a young, Afrikaans couple sitting on a bench together on the porch of their home in a small, rural town. To impress her, he’s memorized the menu of the coffee offering of the chain, and he recites them one by one: “Macchiato. Cappuccino. Mocha. Americano.” With each word, his girlfriend gets more excited and amorous. Eventually she lumbers her heavy arms around him, snuggles into his neck and says, “Ooh, I love it when you talk forrin.”

I had a telephone call this morning from a telecommunications service provider. We had a brief and disastrous encounter with them when we arrived in London, and would never go with them again. The caller said, “I believe you were a former customer of ….?” To which I said, “Yes.” He said, “Oh, you were for years?” And I said, “No. Not for years. I said yes.” So he said, “Oh. Are you still a customer then?” It reminded me of the paper plane conversation I blogged about a few weeks ago, but made me realize once again, that in these parts, I sure talk forrin!

Sunshine signing off for today!


10 thoughts on “Which part do you hold for luck?

  1. This is a fun post…for the record, we “cross our fingers” in Canada too!

    One weird word for “very” seems peculiar to this area (and drives me nuts when I hear it!): “right” as in: “right cold” or “right bitchy” or “right drunk.”

    A word the Brits use for “sweater” always confused me: in North America, a “jumper” is a dress worn over a top or a blouse.


  2. I loved this post! I am a nut (or is that a nutter?) for “forrin” expressions. By the way, here in America, we also wear underpants beneath our pants. I’d never heard of holding thumbs, but I love it. I work for a small local chain of grocerie stores (there are 10 located only in Portland, Oregon) and I’m quite sure that the store I work in is the only store that uses the word “tizzie” for a ten minute break. Where I come from, a tizzie is a fit! I love words, sayings and origins of all things communication oriented.

  3. Ok, since you asked for it, here are some sayings I hear a lot from Debra at work:
    How are things, Deb? ” Oh, fine as frogs hair!”
    “Pat, you’re a good old stick!” That means she really likes me.
    When someting is messed up, she’ll exclaim ” Oh, for crying in the sink!”
    My ex-husband used to say “Well, that went over like a fart in church!” when, of course, something bombed.

    I’ll be back with more.

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