Afrikaans is a funny old language with many of its expressions taking on a very literal meaning.
Note: This is a rerun of an article originally published in January 2017.
A Facebook friend recently posted about actor / rapper / writer Lin-Manuel Miranda Tweeting about the word “spookasem” this week. Miranda was chuffed to find out that the direct translation for this was “ghost breath”.
That direct translation – and the subsequent thread on said friend’s wall – got me thinking about some other words that just translate so wonderfully hilariously. Afrikaans sayings are often so very literal.
Some of the words that popped up on the thread was murg pampoentjie (baby marrow or directly translated as marrow pumpkin) and vloermoer (tantrum or floor beating)…but here are a few more.
Note: not all of these words are official translations and not all of them are commonly used. Many are slang words. Chances are if you mention them to your parents or grandparents, they’d have heard of them.
Direct translation: fiddlebox
Actual meaning: cubbyhole
Direct translation: teasing little man
Actual meaning: a sort of lizard, usually an agama
Direct translation: step softly
Actual meaning: chameleon
Direction translation: shoulder fly
Actual meaning: backseat driver
Direction translation: balls failure
Actual meaning: balls up
Direct translation: look around tobacco
Actual meaning: weed
Brakkie sakkie / woefkardoes
Direct translation: doggie bag
Actual meaning: Same
Direction translation: falling hat
Actual meaning: helmet
Direction translation: rhyme speaker
Actual meaning: rapper
Direction translation: paper vampire
Actual meaning: stapler
Direct translation: We’re not sure there is one!
Actual meaning: to completely destroy something
Direct translation: Jumping corn
Actual meaning: popcorn
Direct translation: flat pants
Actual meaning: coward
Direct translation: kitten anger
Actual meaning: getting up to no good
We’re sure there are loads more we’ve missed. Send us your favourite Afrikaans words to email@example.com and we’ll add them to the list. Or check out the list of more Afrikaans words that just don’t translate well to see what our readers have sent in.
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