Can’t we resist this cultural appropriation?

Africa’s colonisation of the English language continues apace
Afua Hirsch

How very dare they after all.

35 thoughts on “Can’t we resist this cultural appropriation?”

  1. This month the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) added Nigeria’s first entries to already recognised gems like “howzit” from South Africa. Other Africans will recognise lots of the latest lingo to get the OED stamp – “chop”, to eat or to misappropriate funds; “next tomorrow”, the day after tomorrow; “sef”, a great Pidgin flourish for emphasis.

    I have literally never heard a single use of one of these words before (and I’ve been watching Top Boy so I’m down with the urban lingo, fam).

    Also, I’ve just come back from South Africa and never heard ‘howzit’ used while I was there, nor in previous visits.

    It’s a funny old place Guardian World…

  2. Have to say I do have a sneaking admiration at the way these people can turn their spectacular inferiority complexes into smug pseudo superiority.

    Can’t I’ve heard any of these “words” (slurred street slang presumably) before and – not living in the “vibrant” London bubble – don’t ever expect to.

  3. I do remember howzit? from the 70’s and also perhaps from the 80’s, teenagers and younger started a letter with that word as a general hello! how are you?

  4. “One of my favourite grievances with that colonial legacy, and the ongoing failure to give the descendants of empire equal status, came via the unlikely topic of weather systems. “Yo why storm Brendan?” wrote the doctor and TV presenter Dr Ronx earlier this month, “I’m out here waiting to be blown away by storm Oluwatunde! We need to decolonise storm names!” Why storms always have European names can be added to a growing list of questions…”

    …that no-one who matters is asking.

  5. MC: howzit has been around for decades as a white South Africanism, popularised by the satirist Pieter Dirk Uys by vapid young Joburg women as in, “Howzit! Who’s your gynaecologist?”

  6. My Mrs, whose English is sketchy and idiosyncratic to say the least, came up with ‘next tomorrow’ all by herself. Is there a grant?

  7. @Ljh – is it a Joburg thing? I ask because I’ve been to Cape Town and thereabouts about half a dozen times and have family there but I can’t recall hearing anyone use it.

  8. Ljh, the immortal Pieter Dirk Uys line is a dig at the urban Jewish woman aka kugels. “Hello, howzit? Who’s your gynae? Ever since Mavis left all I make for dinner is reservations.” I attended 3 of his shows at the Market Theatre and had the pleasure of meeting Evita Bezuidenhout.

    MC, not sure why you never heard it in Cape Town, “howzit” is common throughout the country.

  9. “Nigerian pre-eminence in the English language is nothing new. ”

    Certainly, no other creole has been as successful in persuading me that an unjustly imprisoned general should be in possession of my bank details.

  10. “The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.” — James D. Nicoll

  11. How splendid to whine about English as a colonial language more than half a century after the independence of all British colonies in Africa.

    the Yoruba, with a population of more than 40 million, were patronisingly described as “tribes”, when in fact they were substantial nations

    There may be 40 million Yoruba today but there was nowhere near that number at independence in 1960 and they are disbursed across Benin and beyond as well as Nigeria. So it follows that if Yoruba is to be a nation rather than an ethnicity (aka tribe), that nation crosses current political boundaries and current boundaries must give way – (Auf Wiedersehen, Nigeria).

    The OAU has a guiding principle that the political borders of the colonial period must be respected, precisely to avoid the kind of fragmentation and fighting that Hirsch’s position implies.

    English as the language of the colonial power and the language of the administration has had a cohesive effect on Nigeria which would otherwise be rather less governable than it is.

    The only interesting thing to learn from this article and the accompanying photo is that Nigerian Scrabble tiles are purple.

  12. As a child of the English (not-racist) “black country”, I’m amazed that the OED thinks that the expression “howzit” is of Nigerian origin… In my (near-pre-Cambrian) youth, the expression “Worro, ‘owzit goo-in?”* was common parlance.

    * – “Hello, how are things going?”

  13. ” Why storms always have European names can be added to a growing list of questions…”

    Indeed. Since storms bring disruption, disaster & often loss of lives they should all have African names.

  14. Why storms always have European names can be added to a growing list of questions…

    The answer to which is: “Storms don’t always have European names, you fucking ignorant, stupid race-baiting arsehole.”

    For example, storms which affected me last year include Wipha, Hagibis and Bailu. Not terribly European-sounding.

    @Henry C – me neither, maybe I just instinctively translated it into how do you do/hey up /wotcha etc…

  15. How disgusting, colonial and paternalistic it is that the white man interferes with centuries old cultural practices, eg prosecuting for FGM and arranged marriages.

    How fvcking dare we!

  16. ‘Why storms always have European names can be added to a growing list of questions…’

    If you go back where you came from, they will have familiar names. Except they won’t be familiar; you will have never heard them. Oluwatunde won’t be familiar, but you will be pleased to see your insurgency succeeding.

    As Southerners have been pointing out for 150 years, when the slaves were freed, they didn’t go back to Africa. They CHOSE to stay in this horrid place. Ms Hirsch is free to go anywhere she wants to.

    Hirsch/Guardian’s objective has nothing to do with colonialism. They use the word because it will bring a desired response from you. Their CM objective is the destruction of Western Civilization. She doesn’t want to improve England; she wants to destroy it.

  17. As phoenix_rising pointed out above with that lurid quote, English is probably the most culturally appropriative language, for which we need not apologise to anyone, least of all Afua Hirsch. And in a generous spirit it loans lots of words back to other languages all over the world, and increasingly so. That many of them originate in American English is a welcome irritation to SJWs!

  18. No MC: it’s mainly Joburg as being the epicentre of wealth and original heartland of “kugels”, a Yiddish word for a sweet bun. I’ve heard it among mothers waiting for their children at the schoolgate in Cape Town and use it, ironically I hope, with my children and fellow South Africans abroad who know and love the characters created by Pieter Dirk Uys for the stage and who introduced them to London in his one man shows in the 80s. Noelle fine was vacuous, completely lacking self awareness, and very materialistic but her heart was generally sound.

  19. Dennis, The African Explorer

    Just as nations like the Yoruba, with a population of more than 40 million, were patronisingly described as “tribes”, when in fact they were substantial nations, African languages were downgraded to “the vernacular”.

    That’s good old-fashioned bullshit, and Hirsch knows it. It’s bullshit used by Africans on Westerners in an attempt to bring a westernization to the distinctly African notion of tribe/clan.

    A huge part of Africa’s problem is centered around the fact that the vast majority of Africans neither fully understand nor accept the west’s concept of nationhood. They’ll say they’re Nigerian or Somali, but that’s for the consumption of westerners. Among themselves they identify by tribe/clan, which often trumps even family.

  20. Well I think I’ve found a cure for Insomnia should anyone be looking for it. You could just give them a printout of eveyr article ever produced by Hirsch and that’s do it. Just unutterably dull and tedious. I’d ask whether she ever gets tired but I think she might secretly be a blood-drinking lizard so don’t want to risk it….

  21. Japan avoids the cultural shadow of “western” storm names by just numbering them from the beginning of the season. The typhoon which nearly saved Scotland from being crushed by Japan in the RWC was “No.19”. 86 dead, but the game in Yokohama went ahead the following day. People who are confident in their own culture don’t give a shit about these issues (either how to name storms, or Greg Laidlaw’s record at No. 9). The Japan Met Office has no problem in adding in parenthesis that Hagibis is being used in English as the reference. It’s not “western” anyway – Tagalog word for passing by swiftly.

  22. Bloke in North Dorset

    I remember howzit from when I was in Bulawao in 1980 but I’m not sure if I remember it from Jo’burg when I was there in 1999, but given the way the human memory works it could well be the other way round.

    One set of phrases I distinctly remember from Bulawayo because they drove us Brits up the wall were in answer to a request to do something:

    I’ll do it now = Unlikely in the foreseeable future.

    I’ll do it nownow = there’s an outside chance it might happen in the foreseeable future.

    I’ll do it nownownow = OK, as you insist I’ll think about doing it in the foreseeable future.

  23. BiND, you forgot “just now” – which can mean anytime in the recent or distant past/future.

    Izzit = Oh really, I did not know that.
    Yussuss = blasphemous exclamation
    Mush or Mushy = Rhodesian for good or very good

  24. We can’t give storms Ghanaian names, because you’re named after the day of the week you were born, and all the days begin with K. Hence Kwame, Kofi etc.

  25. @dearieme : “What’s a useful Nigerian word meaning “I’m not interested, you daft bint, so just fuck off”?”

    Given the locale and tradition, wouldn’t this be a non-verbal? like a club to the head?

  26. Dennis, I believe their tribalism is instinctive. You can take them out of Africa, but you can’t get the tribalism out of them.

    I have a friend who used to supervise 30 people. Half were black. Day to day, they were just like everyone else. Just people. But whenever an issue arose, they instantly – instinctively – turned into a tribe. A mob.

    He got mad at me once for inviting a black man to play golf with us. He doesn’t want to have anything to do with blacks ever. This black man was a general, a medical doctor, and former head of a large federal agency. One of the most accomplished people I ever knew. And my friend wanted nothing to do with him.

    So my friend is ‘racist.’ But it is based on his personal experience, so I have no problem with it. I have supervised many people, too, and I can’t refute his belief.

  27. @MC

    Agree, me neither


    Ah, “How’s it” going – thanks. Still never seen/heard and I’m a 70s teen

    @Gamecock January 30, 2020 at 11:14 am

    +1 and why Trump was spot on telling the Ilhan Omar etc gang that


    Except France – no BK/McD Quarter Pounders there

    “Hi, A 113.4 grammer with cheese please”

    @Dennis January 30, 2020 at 1:54 pm

    +1 RoPs too

    Storms are not Hurricanes, they don’t need names

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