Thursday, March 02, 2006


I have come to realize that most of the time I’m speaking only ½ of the people get what I’m saying. This is partly because I have now lived in so many places and have so many random references to things other people don’t get. (The other part is that I'm just random) So here is a quick translation of some of my most common phrases and where they come from. Of course there are probably a lot more and I probably haven’t caught half of them, but here are the ones I know about.

Namibia/Southern Africa-isms: These are basically things you’ll only hear in Southern Africa or when speaking Namlish. Some of the references come from traveling.

What-What- This is anything, an item, but most often an event. EG We’re having a what-what after we get done with classes today.

Is It or Izit- This is another all-purpose phrase, it more or less translates to “really”. It can be used as a question or statement. –We are going out of town tomorrow. Is it? Today was a pretty crappy day. Izit.

Somehow- Also used at anytime, it’s generally response of ambiguity. –Did you have a good time at the party? Somehow.

Shitenge- A two meter piece of cloth that can be used as a skirt, towel, shirt, pillow, sheet, thrown over your head to block the sun, to tie children onto your back etc. Possibly the best thing a traveler can have. This word is Slozi as far as we found out in Zambia, more commonly known as a sarong in the west.

Piss Attendant- Anyone who has very little power in real life, but has been put in-charge of some minor but very important task, and feels the need to wield his/her power. While waiting for the last transport to take us from some town in South Africa to Swaziland, Kate and I went to the restroom. As there so often is there was an attendant taking the 1Rand it cost to use the toilet. He wanted Kate to leave her bag with him, which had her passport, plane tickets etc. Naturally she left her bag with me instead and when she came out I handed him my Rand to go in. He refused to take it and told me I couldn’t go in. I said why am I not permitted when it was Kate who offended him. I really had to go and it would be about 2 hours before we hit Swaziland, so I placed my Rand on his table and ran in. This guy followed me into the toilet forced his way into the stall and tried to forcibly remove me. By this point I was shouting my token “DON’T TOUCH ME,” Kate had come in and at least one other person. I ended up leaving with my bladder still full and really REALY angry. Kate tried to convince me just to urinate on the building in the back, but I held it all the way to Swaziland. At some point during that very long ride Kate turned to me and said. “Remember this you have a degree, just finished Peace Corps and will go to places and do things this guy has never even dreamed of. He’s just a Piss Attendant." Usage- Don't get to upset, she's just a piss attendant.

Oshiwambo-isms: I don’t use them much but sometimes when I’m sleepy . . . or trying to speak in Bengali
Ondasa onjala- I’m hungry
Owuna- Do you have?
Ondeya- I’m coming

Indian-isms: I don’t think I have much and will probably find out a lot more when I get home.

Take Rest- Said to anyone who is looking a bit sick or feels kinda tired.
Tike or Tik Ache- Literally It’s okay
I’ve also got the Indian head wobble that means okay or I understand.

British-isms: True I have never been to the UK but they were colonizers that left their mark on the countries they colonized. It’s kinda fun now that I’m actually in contact with more British people.
Flat- Apartment
Rubbish- Trash
Mate- Friend
Cheers- A benediction in the most literal sense. It can be said whenever you are in agreement or when leaving.
Sorry- Excuse me. (It’s true that we say it in the US too, but not in the same way. It’s said when you don’t understand someone, or if someone is blocking your way too.)

Other random things that will not be discused here are "Living life with Flare" "Being Ovambo" "Mr. Taxi Man" "Nandos and Channel O" "Punjabi beats" Work Ethics of culture.

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