Ag in Africa

6 December, 2006

What, you’ve never slaughtered a chicken?

Filed under: johannesburg — Ag @ 8:12 pm

These are some of the things I’m enjoying thinking about right now:

  • I have begun to pick up a few words of zulu. My favourite is namhlange, which means ‘today’.  The ‘hl’ bit is lose in the mouth like, um, like no word we have in English; actually, yes, it’s like that sound they use in Welsh, as in the Ll bit in Lleyn peninsular.  So ‘ouso inate namhlange’ means ‘it’s going to rain today’. That’s spelt completely wrong, but I haven’t seen anyone writing zulu yet.
  • That I’m so fortunate not to be a single colour. It gives me such free reign. This is true in the UK, but it’s massively useful here.
  • I like all the respectful pre-goblins (don’t-know-don’t-care what the proper term is for a prefix in front of people’s names) that are used in the ‘black’ languages. They speak 9 languages in my office, not including English and Afrikaans, so when I do pick up words I have no idea what language they are apart from the zulu words above. So the respectful  pre-wots include Sis, for example Sis Sarah which is said by women of similar age ; ma/mom/mam for a lady of a certain age, eg mom Bongi; tatti, for a gentleman of a certain age, eg tatti Simon (he drives our combi); daaa da, you can just refer to an older gentleman with this term; wooti, no idea how this is supposed to be used but it seems you can chuck it in almost anywhere and it vaguely refers to someone; ma’m, as in short for madam. This is what I get called all the time by the men I work with. To begin with it disturbed me cos I thought it had apartheid overtones but they assure me it’s just respectful, so I sometimes call them sir in response. And the ma’m thing doesn’t sound like it does in John Lewis. It’s somehow silky and warm and intimate… and… and… well, ladies, use your imagination.
  • I’ve never slaughtered a chicken. It seems that at weddings, anniversaries, payment of labola (dowry) and countless other events the slaughtering of an animal is compulsory. And it’s not done by a particular religious weirdo or anything, it’s done by the remarkably lovable people that I spend my days with. In the combi the other day (all the best bits happen in the combi), they (the actors, all of whom are black) asked Fiona, who’s an Afrikaaner, what animals she’s slaughtered. None. None! I mean, what’s wrong with the woman? Not even a chicken? No, not even that. Much clicking of teeth erupted. Of course, they didn’t ask me or even flick a glance in my direction.
  • That for the second year in a row, I’m avoiding Christmas in the UK.  I’m spending Christmas by the pool with loads of unbelievably nice and likeable people in the HOT SUN. Oh yes.


  1. lovely lovely lovely brilliant post.
    that’s all I have to say. thank you.
    I’m going to practice ouso inate namhlange for when I next speak to you (you got any broadband yet?) see if can get it right. xxx

    Comment by lucy — 10 December, 2006 @ 1:08 am

  2. Got broadband, yes, and wireless broadband at that. (Bear in mind that I live with people of German descent so vorsprung durch technic and stuff.) But the microphone hole on my laptop is buggered so i can’t skype. A way around this may be to get a usb microphone thing but can’t find these so far and PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME GO TO THE MALL TO LOOK FOR ONE. However, when Jon gets here I may well get laptop fixed so will let you know. In the meantime any idea how to break the will of Itunes which insists that I speak Chinese? I’ve tried changing the language, but Chinese it remains.

    Comment by aggy — 10 December, 2006 @ 2:53 pm

  3. Ooooh! I’d kill for a spine tingling Ma’m! All I get is Miiiiiiiiiiiisssssss… Or if I’m really lucky Miiiiiiissssss Jeeeeeeeeeeenkiiiiiiiiiins… Gawd love ’em!

    Tis clearly the season for buggered laptops… the gremlins in mine have decided enough is enough!

    If it would make you Skypeable, I’d send you a mike for Xmas (that’ll be a Mike-raphone and not some strange and confused Michael!)… It could be delivered by Jon-post! Reckon he’d be happy to bring that out to ya seeing as I’d originally threatened to make him carry over War n Peace or something equally weighty (in mass, that is, not reading content!)

    You would then be the ONLY recipient of a Jenks-Crimble-Present… being that I’m officially the Grinch and also avoiding all-things-Christmas. Although, I may treat myself to a Yak!

    Wish me sanity as we approach the school play season (some things Christmassy just can’t be avoided)… Would be so much better (for me anyhows!) if you were here to join me for some marbles-retaining-cocktails!


    Comment by vic — 11 December, 2006 @ 11:16 pm

  4. Oooh. Nice cocktails. I was never into cocktails til you got me addicted. But they’re much cheaper over here. A Cosmopolitan is about R23 which is about £1.70 ish. Joy!

    Comment by aggy — 13 December, 2006 @ 5:59 pm

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