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Cape Townian Catch Phrases

I can only imagine what my friends and family are going to say when I return to the states with countless new phrases integrated into my everyday vocabulary. So, I figured the least I could do is explain some of my favorite Cape Townian catch phrases now so that everyone has five weeks to study up. I’ve provided a full dictionary-like description, complete with phonetic spelling, context of use, definition, and example. No excuses if you don’t know what I’m saying when I come home!

1.) Howzit, bru? (howz-it bru), question

Howzit is an informal sort of greeting, similar to “what’s up” in the US. Bru, of course, is similar to “bro,” a greeting for a friend or friendly acquaintance. Hence, “howzit, bru” is one of our favorite sayings. Whenever I say this phrase, I sound ridiculously American, so I generally stick to busting this one out around friends.

Example: howzit, bru?

2.) Lekker! (le-kka), adjective

Lekker is a way of describing something cool or awesome. For those feeling especially South African, “lekker” can be followed with “bru.”

Example: Paragliding was so lekker, bru!

3.) Wanna braai? (Wan-na bry), question

Braai-ing is a South African barbeque. Braais are open grills and it’s a huge social event anytime someone braais. As we’ve learned, the national holiday Heritage Day has dotingly become known as “National Braai Day.” South Africans love to braai, and I definitely do not object anytime someone suggests a braai. Tons of food, friends, and music—who couldn’t love a braai?

Example: What are you doing on Friday? Do you wanna braai?

4.) Wynberg! (wine-burg), noun & exclamation

Wynberg is a southern suburb in Cape Town. While I’ve personally never been there, Wynberg has become a fond word among the international kids. While walking anywhere near UCT, you’re bound to be passed by at least 3 or 4 minibuses (vans which provide cheap transportation) with a man half outside of the car yelling “Wynberg!” Minibuses pick up passengers on main roads in between specific stations and we’re located in between the Cape Town station and Wynberg station, so depending on which side of the road you’re walking on you’ll either hear “Wynberg” or “Cape Town!”

Example: Wynberg! Wynberg! Anyone headed to Wynberg?!

5.) Varsity (var-sity), noun

South African students don’t refer to their universities as “college.” Rather, the students call college either “university” or “varsity”.

Example: Are you going to varsity today?

6.) Airtime (air-time), noun

In the States, we refer to our cell phone related functions as “texting” or “minutes.” In South Africa, though, they refer to texts as SMSs and minutes as airtime. We use a prepaid cell phone service here, so we buy our phone time as we go. However, we always seem to run out of airtime. It’s so easy to burn through minutes and then you can’t make any calls. I try to watch my usage and make frequent trips to buy airtime.

Example: I can’t call a cab, I have no airtime; can you call instead?

7.) Meet you at Jamie (Meet you at Jam-mie), statement

Jameson Hall is the central building of the UCT campus and is abbreviated as Jamie Hall, or even just Jamie. It’s the big, beautiful building with giant pillars and a ton of stairs leading up to it. Jamie is featured on most of the UCT photographs, postcards, website, etc. Devil’s Peak lines up perfectly behind Jamie, forming quite the scenic view. Anyways, the stairs leading up to this building are THE hang out place for UCT students during off hours, in between classes, and especially during meridian (lunch time). Generally speaking, when someone says “Meet you at Jamie”, they are offering to meet up with you on the Jamie steps. Every Thursday, on campus organizations or external marketers put on a presentation at Jamie steps, so everyone who has meridian off on Thursdays meets at Jamie to watch the show. We’ve seen tons of DJs and gotten free t-shirts. It’s a big social scene for the UCT campus, as you’ll always find circles of people sitting on the stairs, just hanging out.

Example: Meet at Jamie after class and we’ll grab some lunch.

8.) Club Libs (club libs), noun

Ok, so this one is not a South African saying. In fact, the origin of this one is my friend Jen. However, throughout our time at UCT we’re finding that this reference is catching on quite quickly. We’ve convinced our South African friends to start using this phrase, so who knows—before we leave maybe it will become a regular phrase…maybe. In an attempt to make every moment of our experience as fun as possible, we decided to start calling the library “Club Libs.” Some weeks it feels as though we live in the library, so we like to joke that we’re spending a long night at the club, and make our dreaded study time feel more lighthearted. The work load at UCT is very, very rigorous, so we often find that we shut the club down (leave at closing time). We are very prepared to market this reference, as we like to say—Club Libs: where the beats are bouncin’ and the books are bangin’!

Example: I can’t go out to dinner tonight; I’m going to shut down Club Libs. I have three papers due this week!

9.) Large Chicken Noodle (Large chic-ken noo-dle), noun. Also known as LCN.

Also not a particularly South African phrase, Large Chicken Noodle refers to one of our favorite on-campus restaurants. There is a little tent which serves the best Asian food. For about $2.50 (USD), you can get a heaping container of noodles or fried rice. My friends and I try to eat at LCN at least once a week. This name originates from the man who runs the restaurant, as he melodically shouts out everyone’s order, no matter how close or far away they are from the tent. I always order a small chicken noodle, but for some reason “LARGE chicken noodle” has caught on among my American and South African friends. The service at LCN is great, and everyone loves eating there. I’m definitely going to miss LCN upon my return.

Example: What do you want for lunch? I think I want Large Chicken Noodle. Let’s meet at LCN at meridian.

10.) Gotta go, pastries at the interstudy office! (just as it says…), statement/ exclamation

Every other Friday marks a special day in the lives of the UCT interstudy students. The interstudy staff orders a heaping array of pastries and lures us into the office. We love the interstudy staff, and the pastries just give us a great excuse to take a break and go catch up with them. The samoosas always seem to go fast, then the donuts, and finally the muffins. Since these pastries are in high demand, we’ve been known to speed away from our classes and rush past our friends, saying “gotta go, pastries in the interstudy office!” as we speed past.

Example: -Hey Katie, how was your class? –

-Can’t talk… Gotta go! Pastries in the interstudy office! I’ll call you later!

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