Coloured People Be Twanging, yo.


So we were with friends on Saturday and having the age old discussion about how people talk, as in, how you sound to the hearer. Now Coloured people sound very different depending on where in the country you hail from. Us Durban folk would be horrified if you said we sounded like the Kaapies or the Joostes and vice versa. We are all distinctly different. Coloured people have also taken it upon themselves to create almost an entire dictionary of colloquial slang – again this slang is different for every region, although some words do overlap, and many of these words orginate from Afrikaans words.

But further than that, the running joke in our family is that I “twang”… this is the term used to describe the way a person speaks when they are talking to a specific group of people. Specifically, when a Coloured person converses with a White person. It’s ridiculous! It refers to taking the broadness out of your speak, rolling your R’s and for want of a better explanation… sounding more European than African! I laugh even as I write this because it truly is hilarious that one can have long debates and discussions over something as simple as the sound of your voice! But hey, that’s one of the reasons I LOVE South Africa! Ons is mos same-same but different.

Anyway, my argument has always been that I need to employ my professional telephone-voice when dealing with clients or speaking to large groups of people, or dealing with the parents of the children I care for at church, etc. I admit that the way I sound when hanging with my chommas is by far different to the way I sound when I am in my office space. People say this is fake, that you are fronting and that you are not being yourself if you feel you need to speak differently depending on the situation. I disagree. For one, my American boss would not even understand if I chooned with him, the way I choon with my bras by the posie. Translated: if I spoke with him the way I speak with my friends at home). Secondly, just as there is a certain way to dress for different situations, I  do believe there is a way to speak in different situations. And I don’t mean you need to be highfalutin and pompous when you speak to a certain group, I mean you need to make yourself adequately and eloquently understood, right? First rule of Toastmasters for goodness sake!

My friend’s hubby called her “ghetto” on Saturday, boy did we laugh! He holds a high position in the world of education and of course that in itself comes with some level of decorum, so I get what he is saying, but shame this friend is anything but ghetto! I enjoy throwing in a slang word here and there because it’s who I am. It by no means defines me, it most certainly does not mean I am uneducated or common, it sometimes just adds flavor to what I want to say! You know there are just some words in the Afrikaans language that are sooooo meaningful, like when you use that particularly word, there is NO mistaking your emotion… well slang is like that.. the English language with all its niceties sometimes just doesn’t have that ONE word or phrase which conveys the same meaning as it’s slang counterpart! “EK SMAAAAAK YOU STUKKEEENDDD LOVEEEY”  is just not the same as “yeh, you’re a lovely girl and I like you a lot.” Haaa!

I love words. I love language, I love how stringing a few simple words together can make or break a person. The power of words – is there anything greater? I have a friend who does “word of the day” with me. We take turns sending each other an unusual English word and its meaning. You’d be AMAZED at the number of words you’ve never even HEARD of! After 32 years speaking the same language, you’d think I’d covered all the words in the dictionary, but no! Isn’t that amazing!

So this one goes out to all those chameleons who switch it up when they need to! I’m just a stekkie from the Fields, but make no mistake that I can and will terminate you in a game of Scrabble. Cos I know my words. You make out?

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9 thoughts on “Coloured People Be Twanging, yo.”

  1. The “R” is really my problem! And what’s worse is that my own husband doesn’t even roll his R’s so I find myself not doing it either even though when I’m with my “own”, I do!! The joys 🙂

  2. I absolutely LOVE this post! It’s so true. Even in Cape Town, there’s Southern Suburbs coloureds and Northern Suburbs ones. And we’re so different, not just in the way we speak, but in our general behaviour and dress code, too! Thanks so much for writing this!

    1. Hey Marion, thanks for the comment. I’ll never forget the year “Duidelik” came out in Cape Town and were visiting Cape Town that year… I was probably in high school, can’t even remember. I brought that song back to Durban, I was like YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO THIS! Haha! Vannie Kaap, neh?!

  3. What a beautiful piece of writing. I am from PE and sometimes still do not know what half of the words in Cape town slang means. When I open my mouth, immediately they will say, oh where you from?

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