We went out for a pizza last night – a little celebration of sorts! As always, I had my accent radar on and tuned and was pleased that I got it right again: our waiter was a Zimbo!
We had a lovely conversation with this warm and friendly young man (as all Zimbabweans are), and he concluded that he had been following us around the world! He’d left Zimbabwe to live in South Africa before coming over to London last year.
I don’t mean to boast, but I can generally spot a Zimbabwean accent at 100 metres! Countless times we have been somewhere, I have heard a few words and I know that the person is Zimbabwean. Not that the accent is that different from Saffa, and I don’t know that I could describe the difference for you, but I can recognise it. My niece, who is Zimbabwean and lives in London, has a fridge magnet that states, “No, I am not from South Africa.” Rather like the one I’d like to have that says, “No, I am not Australian. Or Kiwi. Or from anywhere in Europe either, pinhead.”
We went out for breakfast with friends in Cape Town some time ago, and, as it was a cool and drizzly morning, we didn’t want to sit at a table on the balcony. We told our waiter we’d prefer to sit inside and asked if there was a free table for us. He glanced indoors and said to us, “I doubt.” That was it – I knew he was Zimbabwean, and he was!
Zim forrin is something else all together. I grew up with some of these words, and I know – having been away for so many years – there will be plenty of words to add or amend, so please feel free to give me your contributions, if you have any!
- Mush/mushi/mushi sterek (pronounced moosh): this means great, nice, wonderful, excellent, wicked. The sterek part adds extra emphasis. I used to use this word as a teenager, until I had it guffawed out of me by my cool Cape Town cousins who quickly replaced it with the much more street-cred-worthy “brilliant”.
- Penga: this means mad, crazy. When we heard about my husband’s job, we went penga.
- Neos/magic markers: growing up, it was a treat to have a set of these, instead of just pencil crayons. These are felt-tip pens. South Africans call them kokis.
- Kaylite: if you buy an electrical or electronic item, kaylite is the stuff that clads it inside the cardboard box. White, squeaky stuff that the rest of the world calls polystyrene.
- A few weeks ago I was chatting to my sister (who lives in Zim) and we were talking about Zimbabwean forrin. She said, “What about boppa it up with rekken?” Exactly, what about it? I said, “WTF?” (which means what’s that forrin?) She said, “You know if your hosepipe gets a hole in it, you use a piece of rekken (rubber inner tube from a bicycle or car tyre) to boppa (tie) it up and stop the leak.” Precisely.
- Sometimes Zimbabweans can’t cope up with things, when others might not be able to cope.
- There is a word that is not appropriate in print, that a lot of Zimbabweans use, which means very. I’ll illustrate. I was in Bulawayo with my sister some years ago and we bumped into a young friend of hers. After the usual exchange of pleasantries, she asked him how the recent youth meeting had gone. He said, “Eish! It was b….yf…ing difficult.” I asked her, afterwards, if he had just said what I thought he had just said. She said, “Yes. It means very.”
My elder son tore a ligament in his ankle, playing rugby, during his last year of school. He had to see an orthopaedic surgeon, and my husband took him to his first appointment. When they got back, I asked about the surgeon, what he was like, and my husband said, “He seemed fine.”
I took my son to his second appointment. Firstly, I nearly fell off my chair when I saw how fine he was (my husband didn’t tell me he was gorgeous! Well, I guess he wouldn’t…) Secondly, after listening to him chat to my son for about a minute, I realised he wasn’t a Saffa. After a while, I asked if he was Zimbabwean, and he was. Fortunately, he’d finished examining my son because we then chatted for about half an hour about Zimbabwe and everything we had in common through growing up there. My poor son shifted from moonboot to foot, shuffled on his crutches and quietly sighed. When we eventually left the rooms, he said to me, “I knew as soon as you asked him if he was Zimbabwean and he said yes, that we were in for a marathon.” Or words to that effect.
I was happy, mostly, when the ankle was healed and he had his last visit to the orthopaedic surgeon. Sigh.
Sunshine signing off for today!