These 20 South African words have just been added to the Oxford English Dictionary

Africa News Desk

Mon 8 Apr 2019:

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has published its latest update which includes a selection of words from South Africa.

South African English responds to the geographical, botanical, zoological, cultural, social or political landscapes around it.

Naming or describing things or concepts help South Africans make sense of their shared living spaces and history, and words included in this update are certainly indicative of this, said Dr Phillip Louw, dictionary content development manager at Oxford University Press South Africa.

“It is really exciting to be involved in the OED’s efforts to document South African English more comprehensively,” he said.

“As a historical dictionary, the OED not only captures the development of our unique variety of English, but also the history of our country as it’s reflected in the language that we use to define our reality.

“The picture is not always a simple one, though, and this latest update is no exception: the included words bear witness to a painful past and attempts at redress, while also casting light on the rich cultural diversity of our nation.”

How are words added?

To be considered for inclusion in the OED, a word must first be added to the dictionary’s ‘watch list’ database. 

The OED will then review these words.

If the words have not yet accumulated enough evidence for permanent record in the OED, it remains on the watch list however if the word passes, it is then assigned to an Editor.

The Editor researches the word and then writes up the dictionary entry.

New words

New additions to the dictionary include words such as MacGyvered and Maltipoo. Macgyvered is an adjective meaning ‘adapted or improvised in an ingenious or expedient way.’ A Maltipoo is a breed of dog. Ad

Further inclusions consist of the more PG-rated skunkedbawbag and titless.

The rise is of awareness around gender identity is reflected by the inclusion of several new words such as  Latin@ as well as words such as misgenderedmisgenderingmisgender and zir. 

The inclusion of  Cannabusiness and cannabutter reflect the shifting perceptions around the drug and the recent law changes mean that these words are considered worthy of permanent record in the OED.

Local lingo

A few boks may think it was quite dof that the OED has taken so long to include yebo in its updates.

Joburg and Jozi have been added to the list. These are both nicknames for the city of Johannesburg.

The words BEE, Black Economic Empowerment and Black Empowerment have also been included. These words relate to the government programme incentivizing the provision of employment and business opportunities for black people, with the aim of redressing their economic marginalization during apartheid.

Flip through to “I” in the dictioinary you will now find the Zulu wordimbizo and isicathamiya. The first word imbizo means a meeting or assembly. The second word isicathamiya is a style of singing amongst rural male choirs.

4 new words which describe living spaces have also been included. These words are hok, hokkie, lapa and lekgotla.

Here is a list of South African words.

  • Bantu Education
  • Black Economic Empowerment
  • Black Empowerment
  • BEE
  • Bok
  • Dof
  • Gramadoelas
  • Hok
  • Hokkie
  • Imbizo
  • Isicathamiya
  • Lapa
  • Lekgotla
  • Makgotla
  • Joburg
  • Jozi
  • Hensopper
  • Kanna
  • Koevoet
  • Yebo

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